It’s safe to say that no film has made the same impact on us this year as George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and in a film full of colourful supporting characters, one stood out in particular: The Doof Warrior. How many films do you see where a lunatic plays a flame-spurting guitar?
We were lucky enough to talk to the man behind Coma-Doof Warrior, musician, actor and writer iOTA, about his experiences shooting, his Mad Max memories, playing a flaming guitar, and why he’s thrilled to be a part of pop culture history.
How did your part in Fury Road come about?
It was the beginning of 2012. They contacted me to do a screen test for the part, and I just jumped at it. I knew that there was a Mad Max film in production and I’m a big fan of all the films. I got briefed, I just had to basically play guitar, and they were looking for somebody that was in between a scarecrow and Keith Richards, so I just dressed up in my best Mad Max outfit. I put some brown on my teeth and some black around my eyes, put some leather and some chains on and I just jumped in a cab and took my guitar and played. And that was it.
So you were a fan of the movies?
Yeah my dad took me to see Mad Max 2, we went to the drive in and saw it and I just fell in love with it. It became a part of my imagination and how I would play; I would pretend that I was on the truck and bashing bad guys. It’s just something I always wanted to be a part of.
It must have been pretty incredible seeing it happen around you from your vantage point!
Absolutely, with cars and trucks just tearing around me, and dust and noise, just going “How the fuck did I end up here, this is amazing!” I just felt so lucky!
What was the process of getting the make-up and costume ready like?
It was a really early pick up at 4, and then there was a couple of hour drive out to the desert, get ready, have breakfast, put on all the gear that you would need to put on, the harness, outfit, make up, it was a pretty long process. And always getting your head shaved. Just all that basic sort of stuff. Getting hooked up into the truck.
Did you have any idea of what you were going to look like?
No! It wasn’t until I got the gig and I went into George Miller’s headquarters just to meet him, and they showed me a model of the truck, and there was a little guy hanging from rubber bands above the cab of the truck. And that was me! I just went “Wow, this is amazing!” I just thought “This is going to be the best character in a Mad Max film ever.” I was so excited about it.
And the guitar actually worked?
Yeah, it was playing. I had an amplifier underneath me through a grille, it was all plugged in and the gas was on, it was really really loud. It wasn’t a great guitar, it was pretty hard to play. It was very heavy, it weighed about 50 kilos, but it just felt like it was a noisy, messy machine, and it felt like it was exactly the sort of instrument that Coma would be playing.
Did you have any instructions for what to play or were you told to just go for it?
Just go for it, yeah, basically. George asked me if I could jam when I first met him and I just said “Yeah, I’ll just play and play,” so that’s all I did really. I just got up and played whatever I felt like playing. So I got lots of practice in, six to eight hours at day!
Did you feel pretty separate from everything else that was going on when you were up there?
It was very separated. I wasn’t acting with anybody. It was just me up there on my own. There was always somebody that would come and help you up there and then buckle you in, but basically once the truck started rolling, you were there just doing it on your own. But you know I was surrounded by cars and trucks and, hey, I had my guitar and I was happy to be up there playing, and the wind’s in your face and the sun’s burning you, it’s a pretty wild experience.
Did you ever get used to the experience, or fed up, or did it just keep being exciting that you were in a Mad Max movie?
It stayed pretty exciting. Towards the end of a day it was like “God, get me out of here,” but there’s a scene in the film where I’m sleeping, and you could actually sleep in that thing, just put your feet on the guitar and sleep, so it was OK.
Did you always have the sense that George Miller knew what he wanted?
Yeah, he’s very calm. He kind of reminds me, I guess he’s like your favourite uncle. He’s just a really cool guy, very nurturing sort of dude.
After all that it must be amazing to finally see how great the film was, and to see the reaction to it.
Yeah, absolutely. I just saw the film probably a month before it was released and just so thrilled to see it, to see how amazing it was. And I got some good time on screen. It’s a pretty amazing reaction that everyone’s had to it. I think it’s really reset the bar for action films. Which is really exciting.
The character really made an impact in pop culture too, did you see the Conan O’Brien sketch where he was in the Doof Warrior outfit?
Ah yeah, I did, that was awesome! That was really great! I love all that shit, I just think “That’s my character they’re taking off!” I just think it’s such an honour, it’s great!
Finally, do you have a favourite moment from the film?
[long pause] Yeah, I don’t know, that’s a hard one without saying “Yeah, the bit where I first show up!” [laughs]
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