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Mad Max: The True Story Behind Mel Gibson's Audition

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Mel Gibson may have gained fame from his iconic role as Mad Max in the first three films of the sci-fi franchise, but the story behind his audition is almost as legendary itself. Released in 1979 and filmed when Gibson was a mere 21 years old, director George Miller's sparse, brutal revenge thriller Mad Max was a surprise hit worldwide thanks to its stellar action and memorable cast of characters. American audiences largely missed out on the menace of Mad Max’s terrifying villain Toecutter thanks to ill-advised re-dubbing efforts, but the movie’s lead Mel Gibson rocketed to Hollywood stardom thanks to his tough, brooding performance.

Gibson went on to become both a star and a successful director in his own right, helming the likes of Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ in the decades to come thanks to his Mad Max break. However, one legendary story of how Gibson bagged the eponymous part in Mad Max may not be as true as fans might have hoped.

The legend goes that a young Mel Gibson attended an audition for the movie with a friend. According to a prevalent Hollywood legend, Gibson was offered a chance to play the original Mad Max on the spot when his beat-up appearance - from losing a brawl the night before - caught the eye of the casting director. If the story sounds too fortuitous to be true, that’s because it has been called into question.


This claim about Gibson’s Mad Max audition has been disputed by some industry insiders who say it may merely be the work of a publicist. However, while debunking site Snopes notes that the story’s veracity has been questioned, they don't go so far as claiming that Gibson didn’t appear at his Mad Max audition looking worse for wear. The actor himself has brought up the tale in several interviews, though to his mind the casting people had him in mind for a more villainous role. The actor states the production took some stills of his swollen face from a fight, but when he later came back to read for Miller, he had healed up and the director thought he'd be a great choice for the lead instead.

At the very least, it seems Gibson was involved in a brawl that put him on the production's radar, but it didn't lead to him being instantly cast as Mad Max either. The brawl tale went even further into legend in the Snopes article, which debunked a ludicrous myth the fight resulted in Gibson being so badly disfigured it had left him without a face until he had reconstructive surgery - leading to his eventual directorial debut The Man Without A Face. Needless to say, that's a total fable.

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