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Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller is suing Warner Bros. over claims of lost earnings. The long-anticipated sequel famously went through several delays before even starting production, ultimately becoming a global all-around success with near-universal critical acclaim, $378 million worldwide, and six Academy awards. It’s no surprise that Miller still hopes to make more sequels , including a solo movie for Charlize Theron’s Furiosa.
But despite its solid box office total, Fury Road still cost about $200 million between production, marketing, and distribution. It officially cost $150 million just to produce, but apparently went over $157 million – because Warner Bros. would have given Miller’s production company Kennedy Miller Mitchell a bonus if it stayed under that number. Miller is blaming WB for his company going over-budget in the first place, which has led the director to bring the distributor to court.
Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald first reported the news of Miller’s lawsuit against Warner Bros. Kennedy Miller Mitchell first brought their case to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in September, alleging that WB “made a series of decisions” that caused Fury Road’s production budget to exceed the agreed-upon limit of $157 million. Miller is arguing that if WB’s productions decisions were subtracted from the rest of the budget, Kennedy Miller Mitchell would be under the limit and thus entitled to a $7 million bonus, as per their agreement with the distributor.
Kennedy Miller Mitchell is also arguing that WB breached the agreement that they would first approach them with added budgetary needs. Miller alleges that they wrongly agreed to a deal with RatPac Entertainment for 12.5 percent of the budget before making the first offer. WB issued a brief statement saying they “disagree and will vigorously defend” against the suit, which will move forward in Australia despite the defendants’ claims that New South Wales was “clearly an inappropriate forum” for the case.
The case is the unfortunate aftermath of a movie that went on a thrilling run of critical and commercial accolades two years ago. Fury Road’s long-troubled production process, which even included the re-casting of Max himself, will always be part of the movie’s legend. The fact that the final product turned out to be so spectacular makes it one of modern cinema’s greatest triumphs and most memorably unique action movies. It’s hard to deny that, artistically speaking, Miller’s bonus was well-earned.
Still, the director’s case is no sure thing. Kennedy Miller Mitchell has to prove that WB directly caused enough added production costs to bring Mad Max: Fury Road over budget, which could be a challenge. Justice David Hammerschlag sided with the production company in the decision to try the case in Australia, but it remains to be seen how the court will rule as far as the specific costs that caused Miller to file this lawsuit in the first place.