Mad Max: Fury Road’s path to Oscars glory was a famously long and tortured one, and things aren’t looking any easier for the (as-yet-hypothetical) fifth and sixth films in the franchise. In fact, as The Sydney Morning Herald reports, there may never be another Mad Max movie, thanks to a “bitter court battle” currently playing out between creator George Miller’s production company and Warner Bros.
A document filed with the Supreme Court of New South Wales by Miller’s production company Kennedy Miller Mitchell says the studio has acted in a “high-handed, insulting or reprehensible” manner by allegedly refusing to pay a bonus promised to Miller if he brought the movie in under budget. At issue is a fundamental disagreement between director and studio over how much Mad Max: Fury Road actually cost; Miller says the budget topped out at $154.6 million, just under the $157 million budget goal agreed upon at the outset of shooting. Warner Bros., meanwhile, says that the movie’s budget ballooned to $185.1 million amid reshoots and delays.
Miller’s company doesn’t dispute that number, exactly, but says the additional $31 million was approved by Warner Bros. after the studio insisted on “substantial changes” to the film, resulting in the delays the studio complains about it its counter-claim. Specifically, Kennedy Miller Mitchell says Warner Bros. didn’t want to shoot scenes around Immortan Joe’s desert stronghold The Citadel, and insisted that the ending of the movie be changed. Again, Warner Bros. doesn’t dispute that it wanted changes made to the film: It argues that the requested changes were all in the service of getting the movie done on time, and that it simply “requested an alternative ending rather than insisting on it.”
Kennedy Miller Mitchell also claims that Warner Bros. failed to tell them that Ratpac and Dune Entertainment were being brought on as co-financiers until they were instructed to add future treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin to the credits as an executive producer, breaching a co-financing agreement. (Warner Bros., presumably equally reluctant to claim Mnuchin, isn’t arguing that one.) Warner Bros. is currently trying to get the case moved to California, and Miller, who reportedly has had scripts for the fifth and sixth Mad Max movies ready to go for a while now, is doing his best not to appear bothered by the whole thing, and is moving on to other projects while this seemingly intractable legal battle rages on. What’s a decade or three in between action-movie masterpieces, after all?