It’s still kind of a bummer that Charlize Theron won’t be returning as Furiosa in the Mad Max: Fury Road role she played so indelibly that it earned the character a prequel. But since the Furiosa movie takes place in the Imperator’s past, you can’t do much better than rising star Anya Taylor-Joy of The Witch and The Queen’s Gambit fame. But it took a 45-year-old film and a film so new it hasn’t even been released yet to get her the part.
The latter movie is Edgar Wright’s extremely (and a little annoyingly at this point) mysterious Last Night in Solo, which the director showed an early cut of to Mad Max director George Miller. According to an interview with Empire, Miller was looking for his new Furiosa, and told Wright he was impressed with Taylor-Joy’s performance. Wright apparently had nothing but praise for the actor, which earned her an audition.
Because of the pandemic, obviously, Miller and Taylor-Joy couldn’t meet in person (according to the interview, they still haven’t). So Miller had her audition on tape using a very specific monologue: Peter Finch’s iconic, Oscar-winning speech from the 1976 movie Network. It’s a monologue so well-written and wonderfully performed it earned Finch and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky Oscars for Best Actor and Screenplay, respectively, and made Network one of the greatest American films of all time.
All you need to know about the speech is that Finch plays Howard Beale, a failed newscaster who regains his career by, essentially, calling out society on its bullshit with increasing anger. It culminates in this amazing on-air rant:
If you watch the scene, you can see why it could be a good gauge for Furiosa — it’s certainly furious, but there’s a pathos and sense of betrayal underneath it that would serve someone noble at heart trying to survive in the Mad Max hellscape. To put it another way, Furiosa needs to have more depth than just fury, and if Taylor-Joy could perform the Network scene, she’d be a perfect lead. And that’s exactly what happened, according to Miller:
“Apart from the brilliance of the writing, [the speech] is a piece that can be done to camera. It doesn’t need an acting partner. Anya did one version, which was really good. Then I gave her just a couple of simple notes about intention and she just absolutely nailed [it]. I think it was done on an iPhone. I sent it to the studio. I explained why I thought she was right for the role. I said I was really happy to talk about it but it was so persuasive that we didn’t need to talk.”
I don’t think Anya Taylor-Joy is particularly indebted to Edgar Wright, George Miller, the makers of Network, or whoever sold her an iPhone; clearly, her talent is what got her the role. But everyone who’s looking forward to Furiosa might want to send all those folks a thank-you note or two.