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Motorcycles n Rock Riders

Movie: Mad Max Fury Road:

maddix park mx

www.motorcycle-usa.com By Bryan Harley    Thursday, May 28, 2015

Within two minutes, Mad Max Fury Road cracks like thunder, shakes your senses, grabs you by the seat of your pants and for the next two hours takes you on a pedal to the metal ride into an ugly but plausible future. By the time the War Boys are chasing down Max Rockatansky in the opening scene, director George Miller already has you on his hook and scene after scene keeps reeling you in until the final credits roll across the screen.

“I think of action movies as a kind of visual music, and ‘Fury Road’ is somewhere between a wild rock concert and an opera,” George Miller said in the movie’s production notes. “I want to sweep the audience out of their seats and into an intense, rambunctious ride, and along the way you get to know who these characters are and the events that led up to this story.” 


While Max, Imperator Furiosa, Nux, and Immortan Joe are the stars of the show, the 150 or so cars, trucks, and motorcycles also play primary characters, from Furiosa’s War Rig to Immortan Joe’s V16-powered Gigahorse. And much like the original Mad Max movie, motorcycles once again play a vital role, from the high-flying dirt bikes of the Rock Riders to the sand-shredders of the Vulvalini tribe. Motorcycles are utilitarian, serviceable, and require much less fuel to keep operational, traits that make them a viable mode of transportation in a dystopian environment. Motorcycles in Mad Max Fury Road are a reflection of the bands of the tribes that ride them, to the stripped-down off-roaders of the Rock Riders to the rug-draped, feather-adorned rides of the desert matriarchs known as the Vulvalini. This is not coincidence, the movie’s production notes stating “It was also critical to honor the human instinct for invention and art.” 

“Just because it’s a Wasteland doesn’t mean that people don’t make beautiful things,” Miller said. “I’ve been all over the world and even impoverished cultures have a powerful aesthetic. So, everything in our film had to have a function, but fashioned with great care and personalization. These found objects have survived where human bodies fail, and they can take on a nearly religious significance because of that.” 

“The Vuvalini have patched-together their own swarm of motor bikes, which are as tough, versatile and resilient as they are. Modified heavy touring bikes, the Vuvalini’s rides of choice hearken back to the golden age of motorcycles, with leather seats customized with feminine detail and nomadic styling,” confirmed Production Designer Colin Gibson in the movie notes. 

The role of the motorized menagerie used in Mad Max Fury Road was even more important because Miller relied on live-action sequences over computer generated graphics. These machines had to function, and function well to deal with the demands of the Namibian Desert, where clogged aspirators, overheating engines, and shot suspension were common enemies to movie production. Shooting death-defying live sequences also bumped up the danger factor to the Nth degree. When the Rock Riders are flying over the War Rig dropping makeshift bombs, dirt bikes are literally jumping over a moving semi. 

The maneuvers required a team of skilled riders. To pull this off, stunt coordinator Guy Norris enlisted the services of five-time Australian Motocross Champion and freestyle coach Stephen Gall, who in turn used his rolodex of top-tier riders to assemble a team who were up to the task. 

“We wanted to create action that’s never been seen before, and Stephen has his fingers on the pulse of all the best Motocross racers and freestylers out there. And what his guys did on this film was just above and beyond. It was amazing,” said Norris. 

Among the talented group of Rock Riders was Showtime FMX Team freestyler Robbie Marshall, Tom Hardy’s (Max Rockatansky) motorcycle stunt double Cody Mackie, and motocrossers Michael Addison and Shaun Ford. Namibia’s Swakop River Valley was where Norris and his team were able to pull off the incredible riding sequences where Rock Riders assault the War Rig passing through a rugged canyon. While viewers are only privy to the final polished product, it took a group effort to make it happen. Marshall and Mackie tromped through the desert looking for the best spots for jumping their modified Gas Gas trials bikes and Yamaha off-roaders. Gibson and the art department did their part by building ramps in certain sections, while second unit stunt coordinator Keir Beck helped ensure rider’s safety by rigging nets. Andrew Jackson and his visual effects department did their part by making the canyon walls “even more imposing.”




The action was real. And so was the danger. It’s what makes the scenes so palpable, why you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Live action is a big contributor to the movie’s success as Miller takes viewers on a cinematic roller coaster ride.

We couldn’t think of a better way to understand that roller coaster ride than by talking to someone who lived it, one of the leading Rock Riders, Robbie Marshall. Marshall was kind enough to break from his busy schedule to answer a handful of questions we had about his role and the role of motorcycles in Mad Max Fury Road. 

MotoUSA: First, would like to hear about your motorcycling background. 

Robbie Marshall: I have raced motocross and supercross from the age of 8 in Australia and ridden for a couple of factory teams. I also do Freestyle Motocross for the Showtime FMX Team here in Australia and try to venture overseas for shows and races as much as possible. 

MotoUSA: How’d you get involved with the movie – were you recruited by Stephen Gall? 

Robbie Marshall: Yes, I have known Stephen throughout my whole career and he phoned me straight away when it all came about. I also did an audition/practice day when they came to QLD in the early stages. 

MotoUSA: What motorcycles were used in the movie – I see Yamaha dirt bikes, trials bikes, an old Gold Wing, something with a BMW boxer engine. 

Robbie Marshall: Mainly all of the bikes were Yamahas, but yes there was the Boxer and Gold Wing. No matter what bike it was though, it was far from standard with lots of props and weapons and stuff hanging off them everywhere haha! Just riding some of the bikes was an experience with all of the added extras! The funnest I think would have to be the
Showtime FMX freestyler Robbie Marshall was one of the leading Rock Riders in Mad Max Fury Road who painted a great behind-the-scenes picture of what it took to shoot the motorcycle stunts in the movie.
Showtime FMX freestyler Robbie Marshall was one of the leading Rock Riders in Mad Max Fury Road who painted a great behind-the-scenes picture of what it took to shoot the motorcycle stunts in the movie.
A peek at the faces behind the masks of the Fury Roads Rock Riders  L to R - Robbie Marshall  Cody Mackie  Michael Addison  Stephen Gall and Shaun Ford.
?A peek at the faces behind the masks of the Fury Road's Rock Riders (L to R)- Robbie Marshall, Cody Mackie, Michael Addison, Stephen Gall and Shaun Ford.
R1’s with the extended swingarms. They were so predictable for big power slides and drifts on the flat dirt roads, or even in the sand! 

MotoUSA: What motorcycles did you ride in the movie? 

Robbie Marshall: I rode nearly all of the bikes for the movie, or at least tested on them all to make sure we were familiar with all of the bikes. We mainly rode the YZF 450’s for all of the Rock Rider scenes with the major stunts and jumps. Some of the other scenes we rode bigger bikes like the R1’s with extended swingarms. Also Yamaha Tenere, WR 450, a Trials bike. 

MotoUSA: Who customized the motorcycles – was there any outside help from custom bike builders? 

Robbie Marshall: Matt Bromley was our main bike mechanic, but there was a big crew who worked in the vehicles department and modified the bikes to what they were. As far as I know there were no outside custom bike builders involved. 

MotoUSA: What wear the major scenes you were involved in? 

Robbie Marshall: All of the Rock Rider scenes and all of the Armada and Gas Town scenes. Pretty much where ever you see a bike in the movie, all of us bike guys were on one of them, whether it was just riding along in the desert or jumping the War Rig, etc. 

MotoUSA: Did you have to do your stuntwork with the Rock Rider costume on? How was that considering you were shooting in a desert? 

Robbie Marshall: Yes, it was surprisingly cold most of the time in the desert, so for comfort with weather it was the best costume we got to wear. It was definitely weird wearing an open faced helmet for the Rock Rider sections, or no helmet at all for all of the other riding scenes. As far as comfort goes for actually jumping etc in the Rock Rider costume, it took a bit of getting used to. The helmets we did have were very heavy with lots of dreadlocks hanging off them. Also the armours with weapons and bombs hanging off them from the weapons department, were sometimes restricting to ride with. The main things like vision and boots were obviously cared for so we could ride to our full ability and not have any mishaps.

MotoUSA: What was the most challenging stunt you had to perform? 

Robbie Marshall: I think for all of us it would have been the timing of jumping the War Rig and being in the exact position over the front of the truck at the exact right time. The size of the jumps we are obviously used to, but the sand run ups made things more challenging. They (directors) also didn’t want us too high otherwise we would be out of shot. It was to come across as more of a buzz over the front of the War Rig. So this also made it interesting, because if we were a split second late on our timing, the exhaust on the truck stuck up about a foot higher than the height we were actually jumping. 

MotoUSA: Did they tell you beforehand that the movie would be filmed using primarily real life sequences instead of CGI?

Robbie Marshall: Yeah for sure, we knew all along that the jumps and stunts were primarily real. Obviously we didn’t have to actually do any crashes as they had experienced stunt workers who could do a slide off a bike for the end of the shot if it was a crash, etc. I’ve done enough crashing in my time racing not to do it on purpose haha! 

MotoUSA: Did you have knowledge of the importance motorcycles played in the original Mad Max? 

Robbie Marshall: Yeah for sure, most Australians have watched all of the original Mad Max films. 

MotoUSA: Who orchestrated your sequences, Colin Gibson, George Miller, both? 

Robbie Marshall: George Miller is obviously the master mind director behind it all. Our main stunt coordinator though was Guy Norris who worked with us most of the time on set. Everyone worked hard together though to try and create the look they were after. I remember the first couple of days out on set, myself and Cody Mackie’s (another rider) job was to walk the long stretch of road in the desert and look for the best spots that would suit each scene for the Rock Rider sections/jumps. Other names that pop into my head though who gave us direction and spent a lot of time with the bike guys would of been Lawrence Woodward and Glenn Suter. 

MotoUSA: What’s next for you? 

Robbie Marshall: Since coming back home I have done a season of racing in 2013. Then I joined back forces with the Showtime FMX team, so my main riding has been FMX since the end of 2013 until now. I still get to the motocross track as much as I can though and try to race all of the local QLD races when dates don’t clash with our shows. 

Hopefully Mad Max happens all over again for another movie and we get to be on set again featuring in the film. I think myself, Cody Mackie, Michael Addison, Stephen Gall, Shaun Ford and Rob Jones all can’t wait for it to happen again. 
 
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