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He’s Max and he’s still Mad

Monday, 16th June, 2014

Max Aspin at the Mad Max II Museum in Silverton. Max Aspin at the Mad Max II Museum in Silverton.

By Michael Murphy

The man who put the stunt grunt into Mad Max II has returned to the city to relive the glory days of the iconic film, and ended up in hospital.

But this time round Max Aspin wasn’t blowing up compounds near the Pinnacles, or rolling cars and smashing up trucks on Silverton Road.

It was a serious chest infection that took hold of the master of disaster, who’s not as spritely as he was when he doubled for Mel Gibson 33 years ago.

He was feeling crook after making his way up from Melbourne, and checked into the intensive care unit at the local hospital.

So for a man who has frequented many hospitals around the world during his stellar career, how did he rate the local service?

“It was really, really good,” said Max, adding that he was impressed he didn’t have to pay for free TV.

“They ask you to fill in a form when you leave asking for feedback, I gave them the big tick of approval.”

It was the second time that Max had the pleasure of booking into the local hospital.

He broke his ankle when filming Mad Max II, and just as he did in 1981, he bounced back and made his way back out to Silverton.

He was special guest of the museum there dedicated to his greatest work. Max is writing a book of his life “The Real Mad Max”, due to hit the shelves in three months.

You could tell Max was still a bit crook, but he gladly sat in the museum signing photos for fans, telling tales of the Road Warrior.

“I’m looking forward to the book coming out,” Max said. “This French guy is going to put it together for me for nothing because he’s so rapt in the film.

“He wants a little bit more writing, so I’m putting some of the hairier stuff into it - accidents, stunt people getting killed as well as personal stuff.”

As a stunt coordinator, Max has a long list of movie credits to his name, including Australian classics such as Crocodile Dundee and Razorback.

He was riding so high after Mad Max II, he almost snared a James Bond film.

Sean Connery’s “people” summoned him to Hollywood. He was issued with a special pass to enter a private estate where all the stars lived, and he banged on Connery’s front door.

The burly Scotsman opened it.

“How are you going, Max?” asked Connery, ushering the Aussie inside, toward a man playing with a machine. “This is a friend of mine, Mr Lucas.”

“Hello, Mr Lucas,” Max said, suddenly realising it was director, screenwriter, and producer George Lucas. Max was starting to get a little nervous about being in the company of Hollywood royalty.

“Would you like a drink, Max?” Connery asked.

“I’ll have a double bourbon,” Max shot back.

“It’s only ten o’clock in the morning, Max.”

“In Australia, we tend to drink a bit early, Mr Connery.”

“No, no, Max, you’ll have a coffee.”

So the three of them sat down and started talking about the biz. Connery and Lucas were sold on the idea of hiring Max, but they had one more hurdle to jump before making the next Bond film. They had to get the rights off Roger Moore.

Max went back to Australia, where he had a long list of offers lining up after the success of Mad Max, but he kept putting them off waiting for the call up from Connery and Co.

“So I rang them up and said what’s happening and they said they were still having legal problems with Roger Moore.

“I said, ‘Well look, this is my bread and butter, if it isn’t going to happen in a couple of weeks, I won’t be able to do it because I’ve got to sign other contracts’.

“So I tell people that I actually turned down a Bond film - and they go ‘Awwww yeah, sure’.

“I could have seen myself in the Bahamas with all the Bond girls under my arm, but that’s OK, I have never looked back since.”

Director George Miller enlisted Max for the film after witnessing him coordinating stunts on the film Chain Reaction.

A lot of local people also worked on the film, though sometimes they were a little “too enthusiastic”.

“I couldn’t get 50 to 60 stunt people so we hired local boys to drive the cars,” Max said.

“We wanted some rough looking characters, so they just turned up as themselves, we didn’t even have to put makeup on them,” Max said tongue-in-cheek.

“They were nice people, very enthusiastic, sometimes too enthusiastic.

“I had to quiet them down a bit and say, ‘Listen, you’re not doing a stunt, you’re just driving the car, no chucking wheelies or doing anything.’”

Max said the crew on Mad Max II were like “one big happy family”.

One day on site, Miller approached Max. He wanted something extra. 

Max came up with an idea that involved a hook, a truck and a buggy on Silverton Road.

Max got to drive the buggy.

In the scene, the buggy was supposed to roll over and slide on its roof, causing sparks to fly out everywhere.

“What happened is that it started to throw itself around and go sideways, like a jam tin behind a wedding car.

“The motor was coming out which was behind my head, it was a VW engine, and it started hitting me in the head.

“Then they lost contact with the stunt driver driving the truck, to tell him that they had cut cameras and to stop the truck.

“He kept on going, so they turned the cameras back on and kept filming.”

Eventually, he stopped. Max had a dummy in the seat next to him, and its arms were flailing around everywhere during the stunt. Everyone thought the dummy was him.

“George Miller being an ex-doctor was absolutely terrified that I was killed,” Max said.

“So they came over to the wreck, and I just called out ‘How was that, sir, was that good?’”

“And they said: ‘Oh my God, Max, you’re mad.’”


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