Mad Max creator George Miller to head 2016 Cannes film festival jury

Populist director behind hit films Happy Feet, Babe, and The Witches of Eastwick, as well as dystopian road movies that made his name, hailed as a cinematic pioneer by festival organisers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 1:02pm

Mad Max creator George Miller will head the jury at this year’s Cannes film festival, its organisers said on Tuesday. He'll be the first Australian to preside over the world’s top film event.

Miller, 70, who also directed The Witches of Eastwick, and launched the career of Hollywood star Mel Gibson and a whole genre of “outback gothic” films with the Mad Max series in 1979, reacted to the news in typically flamboyant fashion.

“What an unmitigated delight,” he said. “Such an honour. I’ll be there with bells on!”

Choosing the unapologetically populist Miller, who also wrote and directed Babe, the world’s first blockbuster about a talking pig, may ruffle the sensibilities of Cannes’ arthouse diehards. He returned to the animal kingdom with the animated 2006 hit about tap-dancing penguins, Happy Feet.

But the organisers were at pains to point to his credentials as a cinematic pioneer.

“Throughout his career, George Miller has constantly experimented with a variety of genres, brilliantly reconciling mass audience expectations and the highest artistic standards,” the organisers said. Mad Max broke the mould, they said, as “an ultra-violent, futuristic film that brought the action film genre a touch of class with its masterly combination of road movie, western and science fiction elements”.

The fourth in the series, Mad Max: Fury Road, opened last year’s Cannes festival and is in the running for 10 Oscars later this month.

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It scooped nine prizes at last week’s Critics’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles, including best director.

Miller’s heart-breaking drama Lorenzo’s Oil, starring Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte, was nominated for two Oscars in 1992. Happy Feet won the director the best animated feature award in 2006.

Miller was one of a quartet of talented and commercially successful Australian filmmakers to emerge in the 1980s, led by Peter Weir (Picnic At Hanging Rock, The Truman Show), Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) and Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games).

The 69th Cannes festival will run from May 11 to 22. Miller’s jury, which will decide who gets its top prize, the Palme d’Or, will be announced later.