Revisiting George Miller’s awards races in honor of ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’

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“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is now playing in theaters, and it appears like director George Miller has delivered another winner in the long-running action franchise. Did you know he’s received six Oscar nominations in his career and has even won a trophy? And that his noms represent a wide variety of genres? Let’s look back at his many awards races.

After directing many successful films in the 1980s like “The Road Warrior” and “The Witches of Eastwick,” Miller’s first Oscar nomination arrived in 1993 in the Best Original Screenplay category for “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992), the drama he also directed starring Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon. “Lorenzo’s Oil” was a well-reviewed movie that also received a Best Actress nomination for Sarandon, but in Best Original Screenplay, Miller was likely in fourth or fifth place in a competitive category that included that year’s Best Picture winner, “Unforgiven,” and John Sayles’ acclaimed script for “Passion Fish.” The winner was Neil Jordan for “The Crying Game,” one of the most talked-about films of 1992.

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Miller’s next two Academy Award nominations came in 1996 for his hit family drama “Babe” (1995), starring James Cromwell. This beloved movie managed seven Oscar noms including Supporting Actor for Cromwell and Director for Chris Noonan, and it won Best Visual Effects. Miller was recognized in both Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. He had little chance of winning in Adapted Screenplay, given that celebrated films from 1995 like “Apollo 13” and “Leaving Las Vegas” were also in the category, and with Emma Thompson always the frontrunner to win for her dazzling screenplay to “Sense and Sensibility.” With her victory in this category, Thompson became the only person in history to have won an Oscar for acting (“Howard’s End” in 1993) and writing.

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Miller had a better shot to win in Best Picture that year given the immense love for “Babe,” its Best Director nomination for Noonan, and with Ron Howard, that year’s DGA Award winner, shockingly missing a director nom for “Apollo 13.” However, despite “Braveheart” underperforming that season, overlooked completely at the SAG Awards, not winning Best Picture at Golden Globes and not even nominated for Picture at BAFTA, the academy in the end went with Mel Gibson’s violent period epic for its director and picture prizes.

The next Oscar nomination for Miller turned out to be still to date his only win — Best Animated Feature for “Happy Feet” (2006), a film he co-wrote, co-produced and co-directed. That marked a rare year in the 2000s where a Pixar movie didn’t claim the Animated Feature Oscar — the poorly reviewed “Cars” didn’t have as glorious a reception as “Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E” and “Up” — and the entertaining but slight “Monster House” was just happy to be there. So it was “Happy Feet,” a hit with critics and audiences in 2006, that became the easy choice for the win that year. In his speech, Miller said, “My real good luck was to work with hundreds and hundreds of amazing people […] and on their behalf, I thank the academy for this.”

Miller’s most recent two nominations arrived in 2016 for one of the best action films of the 21st century — “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy. This propulsive genre masterpiece exploded onto the scene in May 2015 with rave reviews and behemoth box office numbers, and the following awards season, it managed a whopping 10 Oscar nominations, winning six: costume design, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, production design, sound editing and sound mixing. The movie sadly didn’t receive any acting nominations — pundits believed Theron deserved to get into Best Actress for her remarkable performance as Furiosa — but Miller was recognized in both Best Director and Best Picture.

SEE‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ is ‘a jaw-dropping achievement,’ ‘spectacular’ and ‘utterly deranged’ [Review Round-Up]

If Miller was ever going to win Best Director in his long career, he came closest to a victory for “Mad Max: Fury Road” given that the frontrunner — Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant” — had just won Best Director the previous year for “Birdman.” If academy voters had wanted to vote for someone else who’d never won in the category, Miller appeared to be in a strong second place. However, it’s very difficult to win Best Director for an action movie no matter how original and breathtaking it is, and so Iñárritu took the prize for the second year in a row.

Best Picture went not to “The Revenant” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” but instead the acclaimed ensemble drama “Spotlight.” Momentum seemed to be on “Mad Max: Fury Road” potentially surprising after it kept winning one technical prize after another throughout the night, and “Spotlight” only took Best Original Screenplay before the announcement of Best Picture. Was the academy really going to give “Spotlight” the top prize with having only rewarded it in one other category? “Mad Max: Fury Road” would’ve made an inspired choice, a movie that has continued to endure as a modern action masterpiece for close to a decade.

However, “Mad Max: Fury Road” wasn’t even nominated for its screenplay, and with its potential lack of support from actors, too (the biggest branch in the academy), the film fell short in both director and picture. Ultimately Miller has had a phenomenal run at the Oscars throughout the decades, including one well-deserved victory. Will he back at the 97th Academy Awards for “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” in early 2025? Only time will tell.

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