Three Thousand Years of Longing Director George Miller Talks New Movie – The Hollywood Reporter

George Miller felt like he was dreaming.

The Australian filmmaker arrived in Cannes on Thursday, 24 hours after leaving his home on the other side of the world. With only a few hours to exhale and refresh, he stood under the lights of the Grand Théâtre Lumière with 2,200 guests and showered his film, Three thousand years of longingwith a six-minute standing ovation.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the film with an audience and it’s very moving,” Miller said during his post-screening comments, something of a new tradition this year. “I am very, very grateful.”

It was the first time an audience had seen a new Miller film since 2015 Mad Max: Fury Road, the high-octane blockbuster that brought the author a new generation of fans, some of whom might think they’re daydreaming watching his latest film. The MGM and FilmNation release, starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, tells the story of a respected narrator who uncorks a genie or jinn after buying a damaged bottle at an Istanbul market.

He offers to grant three wishes in exchange for his freedom, just to spark a debate about wishes, while the genie tells three tales of past entanglements. Miller adapted the story with Augusta Gore The Djinn in the Eye of the Nightingalea collection of short stories published by author AS Byatt, text he first encountered in the 1990s, a fact that may have contributed to his fantasy state.

“I’m not sure if I woke up and found myself in the middle of the night at the cinema to see the film,” Miller said The Hollywood Reporter Days after premiered in a suite at the Majestic Hotel in Cannes in regards to his jet lag condition last week. Completely refreshed, Miller shared how the project came about, his close collaboration with his stars and the latest furiosawhich begins filming shortly after his return to Down Under.

At the film’s after-party, I heard you referred to the independently funded project as a “little big film.” Have you tried setting it up in a studio first?

It wasn’t a studio film. It’s a film that had to be independently funded. The first person to see the script after we got the cast was Mike De Luca. He had just come to MGM and he immediately said, “Let’s do this.” FilmNation Entertainment sold the rest of the world and they got good response quickly, so it was definitely the best way to do it. It’s not on the scale of something a studio would necessarily do. It’s a film that a studio with so many hands involved probably couldn’t have made.

Speaking of Mike De Luca, what do you think of his exit and acquisition of Amazon? Does this affect the release?

First off, he’ll be there until the film’s release. And as for Amazon, it won’t go straight to streaming. It’s in the contract and the agreement with MGM says there has to be a full theatrical release. There are good people at Amazon and they basically said there will be. The beauty of Mike De Luca is that he’s a filmmaker himself. He has written screenplays and is a talented producer. I know the stories of [when he was at New Line] manufacturing Lord of the rings, and he’s always been more on the side of the filmmakers than the studio. When we were making the film, he proved to be that kind of leader and he was always very, very impressive. The other thing I want to say about MGM is that all the people around Mike, the team doing the trailers and marketing are all very impressive too.

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Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in “Three Thousand Years of Our Lives”
Courtesy of Cannes

You first read the story in the 90s. At what point did you know this could or should be made into a movie?

When we had a mature script draft. It wasn’t something where I said, “We have to make it” and immediately bought the rights. It’s something that has evolved over a long period of time, and during those years we’ve been writing it and doing other projects. Then there came a time when we had a script to show the cast.

I remember it very well because I met Tilda here in Cannes exactly five years ago. It was a wonderful moment, but at that point we hadn’t finished the script. But when I met Tilda, I thought, my god, she’s wonderful. About a year later we sent her the script. Once she said yes, the question arose as to who could play the Djinn. There was only one person – [Idris]. I still can’t think of anyone who could play it other than Idris, who we also met around the same time.

I love that it started right here in Cannes and ended with you working with two beloved actors. Since this is your first film since Mad Max: Fury Roadwhat was it like to walk away from this experience – a production full of tremendous challenges, drama and publicly known clashes between Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy Three thousand years of longing? Have you had PTSD?

There’s always a subtle PTSD to every film you make. There’s always scar tissue to deal with no matter what you do next. Every film has its own problems. To use an analogy, every movie is like an NBA basketball game. You must be prepared for any surprise. You don’t know where the ball will bounce or when the defense will attack. You must avoid injury and constantly adapt and stay agile to win the game. But I have to say it was a very, very nice experience to see them together. They are filmmakers-actors in the sense that they really want to make the best film. From the start you could see they were helping – not just each other but us as a crew by strategizing with us.

From my very first conversation with Idris, he said, “I’d love to do the film, and is it possible for us to do all the back stories or the flashbacks first?” He wanted to be able to tell the stories [Tilda’s character] after he experienced it so he could have that under his belt. He also said, “I don’t want to do the voice-overs in a recording studio.”

He wanted to tell the stories face to face. That was a really smart thing. I mean, it hadn’t even crossed my mind, but it shows how he was always thinking about the whole movie, not just himself. Tilda is like that. Coming out of the film, I realized why all these directors she works with want more and more from Tilda. She really is something. She is an artist and a person and one of the wisest people I have ever known. Every time Wes Anderson or David Fincher has a new project, it’s no wonder they want as much Tilda as possible.

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Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton and George Miller at the photocall in Cannes on May 21, 2022.
Mike Marsland/WireImage

Want more Tilda? Is there a role for her in furiosa?

To be completely honest, it was the first thing that came to my mind. As you know im suspiracyshe’s played three roles, one of which is an old man, so I thought, well, she could play one of the men [in Furiosa]. But unfortunately there was no role that she would fit into. I said to her, “I really, really tried, especially for me, but there was nothing.” Usually, when you force a character into a movie, they’re the first to land on the cutting room floor. I would never do that to her, but I really wanted to do it. I’ve been thinking of all the other films I have and the ideas I have in mind to see what she can play. The same goes for Idris. I have to say he is wonderful. Watching you work together was a great pleasure for me. Having the characters on the page and in your head is one thing, but seeing the actors manifest the characters is another.

How was the reunion with your employees in the crew? And how do you get used to the next job? furiosa – any new rules you catch up on rage street?

On this film we worked with so many people who worked on it rage streetand it will be the same for furiosa. I think the only person missing is [cinematographer] Johnny Seale, who finally retired at 80. Yes. He came out of retirement for rage street, and then, 10 years later, he came out of retirement again. He said, “Just one more thing.” He was very happy about it because it’s mostly set in Sydney, where he lives. He’s a seaman and he just wanted to go and sail with his family, with his grandchildren.

And look whatever was malfunctioning rage street, the vast majority of the work was done by exemplary professionals. It was excellent. I think the biggest disruption, aside from what was going on between Charlize and Tom, was the studio. The studio was in transition and everyone was nervous about trying to compete for jobs or not to lose their jobs. It made for a pretty chaotic mix. But the preparation and the rigor of everyone else was very strong. It wasn’t all chaos.

There was some upheaval at Warner Bros. again, with a new parent company in Discovery and layoffs looming. What was it like working with the studio? furiosa and how far are you?

We’ve been working on this with Warner Bros. for a while. We’re pretty strong in production. The cast is assembled at Broken Hill in the Australian outback. They all train on motorcycles and cars, rehearse scenes and get stuff together. Guy Norris was shooting. We have been working together for 41 years since we worked together for the first time crazy max. He was 21, a young stuntman, and we’ve been working together ever since. He has taken over the management of the second unit and the stunt coordination. He was shooting and crafting one of the key action sequences that led to it [my trip] to Cannes. As soon as I get back to Sydney we’ll be shooting. But my impression is that from what I’m hearing, Warner Bros. is on the verge of stabilizing. [David] Zaslav and his people are great and it feels like a calm is coming.

Do you know Zaslav?

not me yet

Back to Cannes. I was at the theater for the premiere of Three thousand years of longing and saw you take over the microphone at the end of the screening. What do you think of this new tradition?

It is very good. I didn’t know we did, to be perfectly honest. To get here from Australia it is literally 24 hours from your departure to your arrival. It was 3 a.m. for me [Australia time] when that happened. I’ve often called the process of watching movies public dreaming, so it felt like a dream to me. I’m not sure if I woke up and found myself in the cinema in the middle of the night to watch the film. Aside from the response, I wasn’t expecting to attend.

It all felt like a dream – even the fact that the film being shown at Cannes seemed very thin. We were just lucky that the film got made. We should shoot in Istanbul and in London [but because of COVID] We could not. We had to shoot in Australia because it was in the middle of COVID at the time of the Delta variant. It was great to make it to Cannes from there. The whole experience was very nice.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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