In the 2015 blockbuster film Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy starred as reluctant comrades against an insane, post-apocalyptic cult leader. On screen, the actors were thick as thieves, but their behind-the-scenes relationship was actually rife with tension so uncomfortable that it affected the entire cast and crew.
Reports of the beef between Theron and Hardy were confirmed by co-star Zoë Kravitz during a 2017 appearance on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live. According to Kravitz, the stars “just weren’t vibing.”
“Yeah, they didn’t get along,” she told host Andy Cohen. “"It's like summer camp, you know? At some point everyone has some kind of issue with somebody, because it's just the way people are."
Both Theron and Hardy copped to being at each other’s necks during filming, but they were quick to downplay the extent of their clash and share that they had nothing but respect for each other despite the bad vibes. Five years later, the actors are looking back at their time on Mad Max for a New York Times oral history of the prolific film, and they're being more candid about their stormy relationship.
The NYT article features anecdotes from Mad Max's stellar cast and crew, with each person who worked on the movie describing how incredible (and gruelling) the production process was. The oral history also includes candid discussions about Theron and Hardy's terse connection as co-stars.
"In retrospect, I didn’t have enough empathy to really, truly understand what [Tom] must have felt like to step into Mel Gibson’s shoes," Theron mused. "That is frightening!"
"And I think because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, This is scary for you, and it’s scary for me, too. Let’s be nice to each other," she continued. "In a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: Everything was about survival."
Hardy agreed, revealing that he felt like he had been too inexperienced to bring the right energy to the set.
"I was in over my head in many ways," Mad Max's leading man shared. The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced, partner in me. That’s something that can’t be faked. I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion."
Even with all of the drama and misunderstandings on set, Mad Max was an undeniable success; the film was named one of the best films of the decade, and it also nabbed wins in six out of the the 10 different categories it was nominated for at the 2016 Academy Awards. If you ask Theron, she might say that the real-life friction between herself and Hardy played a part in that success.
"Maybe the movie is what it is because we struggled so much with each other, and those characters had to struggle so much with each other," she joked with WSJ Magazine. "If we were chum-chum, maybe the movie would have been 10 times worse."