Veteran SA actress shares fascinating stories from the set of Mad Max: Fury Road

Cape Town – Here I am. Sitting in the office. With acting legend Antoinette Kellerman across from me at the table. Just a few days ago I saw her blowing up War Boys in Mad Max: Fury Road alongside Charlize Theron. Now she’s sitting in front of me sharing stories from the set of the epic action film that’s got the whole world talking.

Antoinette, 63, a goddess of Afrikaans theatre and well-respected local actress, added another proudly South African element to the Hollywood blockbuster as one of the powerful Vuvalini women.

The New Yorker describes the Vuvalini as a "small and leathery tribe of matriarchs", or as they were known by the film’s production designer - a bunch of "lovely old bikie chicks".

Critics and moviegoers alike are raving over George Miller’s masterpiece with the Los Angeles Times saying; "Mad Max: Fury Road will leave you speechless, which couldn’t be more appropriate." On film review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, the movie received an unprecedented 98% rating.

According to Antoinette the whole experience left her speechless as well. "I was like a ‘plaaskind’ in New York City," she describes the magic and awe that was the Namibian set of Mad Max. "It was such an unbelievable experience. Even yesterday, after watching the film, I still couldn’t believe that I was part of it."

It was a long and lengthy process from the very first audition to the final product currently in cinemas worldwide.

"For the final callback I had a Skype call with director George Miller and writer Brendan McCarthy. I was lucky that I had the physical attributes they were looking for in the character with my long grey hair," Antoinette humbly deflects the praise I send her way for landing a role alongside the A-list elite.

Working with Charlize Theron

"The day I met Charlize on the set there was a sandstorm in the desert. We were busy with the first scene when she came over to introduce herself. She was sick with the stomach flu but nevertheless came to meet us.

"She held out her hand and I instinctively introduced myself in Afrikaans; ‘Ek is Antoinette Kellerman’. She replied; ‘Ek weet wie jy is’. I was blown away," Antoinette says.

"We spoke Afrikaans with each other on set. In the one scene I’m hanging from the side of the truck with a harness holding a gun while we’re moving at 40km/h. Every now and again Charlize would look to her left and shout at me; ‘Hey! Is jy nog okay?’. She is such a down to earth real person who still knows how to swear in Afrikaans," Antoinette explains with a smile.

"The Vuvalini women travel on motorbikes. The first day on set we each got to select our own motorbike. In the one scene you see all of us on the motorbikes in the desert. It’s actually not us on the motorbikes but stunt doubles. Except for Charlize. She was actually on her motorbike. Not even Tom (Hardy) was driving his own motorbike. Charlize is tall, skinny and absolutely beautiful. It really was an amazing experience working with her."

Being on the set of a Hollywood film

According to Antoinette the film set of Mad Max was like any actor’s dream come true.

"Unlike local productions with limited budgets this film had time and money on its side. We were actually on location two weeks in advance to work on character development, table readings and to get firearm training.

"I felt like a kid sitting in front of a plate stuffed with food not knowing where to begin eating. My character had six costumes and I had people on standby to assist me in-between takes when I had to exchange the dummy firearm for the real, much heavier, thing.

"Everything was amazingly put together and the attention to detail and safety was insane. I mean here I am…a stage actress standing in the middle of a Hollywood set…I still can’t believe it really happened."

(Images supplied by Warner Brothers)

About the film

"I’ve always been a huge fan of the Mad Max franchise so it was a huge honour for me to land a role in George’s latest film. After I got the part I walked into a rehearsal where my director friend, Marthinus Basson, was busy working and I screamed; ‘I got it! I got the role!’.

"There’s a lot of pre-story regarding the Vuvalini women that you don’t get to see in the final product as well as a back story on Charlize’s character. But that would be a whole different movie," Antoinette says.

Mad Max: Fury Road is an epic cinematic experience that simply can’t be missed. Viewers will be hooked from the first second when a two-headed lizard pops out from behind a rock as Max (Tom Hardy) looks out over the endless nothingness that would play host to the film’s chaos that is about to kick off.

What follows is an eruption of exploding car crashes that will catapult you into a 3D experience that will literally leave you feeling breathless while dodging flying bits of possible head crushing scrap metal.

It’s great to know that both South Africa and Namibia play a big role in the final product that we see on screen with most of the crew also from these two countries. 

Watch the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road:

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