Waterworld, Freakwave & Brendan McCarthy’s Road to Mad Max 4
Waterworld, the 1995 post-apocalyptic adventure from Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds, is perhaps best remembered for its notoriously difficult production that rocketed its budget from $100 million to $175 million, earning it the dubious title of the most expensive film ever made at the time. While the movie bombed at the North American box office (but performed reasonably well overseas) and earned Costner his first Razzie Award nomination, Waterworld accomplished at least one other thing: It put celebrated British comic artist Brendan McCarthy on a path to co-write and design the upcoming Mad Max 4: Fury Road.
Although based on a 1986 screenplay by Peter Rader, many see glaring, even blatant, similarities between Waterworld and “Freakwave,” the 1983 serial that marked the first U.S. comics work from McCarthy and writer Peter Milligan. Set in a future where the Earth is largely submerged by water after the apocalyptic “long night of doom,” the comic follows a surf-nomad who sails the drowned world, picking over trash while fighting off disease-ridden mutants and psychopathic scavengers in between glimmers of civilization in the form of artificial atolls.
Sound a lot like Waterworld? McCarthy and Milligan thought so, too.
“Back then, Pete Milligan and I got approached by some Hollywood lawyers looking to launch a lawsuit to sue the makers of Waterworld, due to an article by some journalist that pointed out the blatant similarities in our comic and the later movie,” McCarthy told contributing writer Karl Keily in an interview that will soon appear on Comic Book Resources. “But the amount of legal work and hassle to get that going was a bit daunting, so we couldn’t be arsed. But then again, it all somehow led to [Mad Max director] George Miller calling me and asking if I would like to talk over a possible Mad Max movie, which became Fury Road. So it all works out in the end. Oddly, he was even aware of ‘Freakwave’ from all those years ago, which astonished me.”
McCarthy, who drew inspiration for “Freakwave” from Miller’s Mad Max 2, co-wrote the script for the long-gestating Fury Road — a fourth Mad Max movie that has been in development hell for about 25 years — also designing many of its new characters and vehicles.
In a new interview with Australian Financial Review Magazine, Miller revealed that Fury Road, which has grown well beyond its initial $100 million budget, will likely launch a new trilogy. “We started with [Fury Road], but we then started to do a second story and a third,” he says. “We’ve written the script for the second and almost finished the third. We never intended to; they were part of the exploration of the characters.” The film, which finally begins shooting in April in the Namibian desert, presumably still stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and Adelaide Clemens.
But back to McCarthy, who also sees elements of his work in another, more recent film, one far more successful than Waterworld.
“The film Inception had a lot of similarities to a comic series/movie pitch that I had the shown to the film’s producer over 10 years previously,” the artist told CBR News. “He had flipped out and really loved my Z-Men pitch, as it was then called. A sort of ‘X-Men in dreams’ — lots of dinner jackets and Bond-esque surrealist espionage. Even DC Comics offered to buy it off me as big new project for them about 13 years ago. Sometimes, you watch a film and can pretty much smell if your work has been seen or not. I found Inception really tame, too much swiping of The Matrix and those Kubrick sequences.
“They should hire me to create a sequel and really go for something new,” McCarthy added. “And while I’m at it, Marvel should hire me on a Doctor Strange movie. Or at least hire Ditko!”