x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Mad for Max

Adrian Bennet's love of the Australian film Mad Max has taken him from the north of England to the outback, where he has set up a museum.

Adrian Bennet has had help from Broken Hill residents with his Mad Max museum. With a fourth film on the way, he hopes to be a part of it.
Adrian Bennet has had help from Broken Hill residents with his Mad Max museum. With a fourth film on the way, he hopes to be a part of it.

About 1,300 kilometres west of Sydney is an old mining outpost so remote just 51 people live there. Yet the isolated outback town of Silverton has now become home to an Englishman in the grips of an obsession so all consuming it has caused him to move his entire family across the globe to this dusty, north-western corner of New South Wales.

This remote bush town is best known for being the backdrop against which the Mad Max films - among many others - were made. It's a suitably post-apocalyptic wasteland in which Mel Gibson's character of a revengeful drifter wandered in his police Interceptor car and his devoted dog.

Nearly three decades ago, as a teenager living in Bradford, Yorkshire, Adrian Bennett was dragged along by friends to watch a double bill showing of the iconic Australian film Mad Max and its sequel, The Road Warrior. The effect the movie had on Bennett was so great that, from that moment on, his life has been dominated by the film.

"To begin with, I wasn't even that bothered about seeing it," he recalls, with a wry smile. "But from the moment of the opening credits right until the very end my jaw was on the floor. Something grabbed hold of me during that movie and I left the cinema a different person."

His fascination fuelled, Bennett set out to unearth as much as he could about the Mad Max world of alienated nomads and heart-pounding car chases through desolate desert. He even created two reproductions of the Ford XBGT Interceptor (an Aussie-built car loosely based on the Ford Mustang Mach 1), and acquired a handful of dune buggies and bikes used in the three films.

It was the beginning of a passion that culminated, four years ago, with 45-year old Bennett moving his wife, Linda, and two of their sons to Australia to fulfill his dream of living in the same town where the first two movies of the series were made.

And, to the delight of thousands of Mad Max fans who flock to Silverton, near Broken Hill, each year, Bennett has now opened a museum to house the many pieces of memorabilia he has amassed over the years, including vehicles from the film and a vast collection of photographs.

"I never imagined I'd end up here, in the Australian outback, but after a 30-year obsession with Mad Max films this seemed the natural, next step in my life," he explains.

"When I look back, I think my obsession grew because, living in England at the time Mad Max came out, there was no internet or information available. And when you've got an interest in something you're desperate to find out more. There's something special about Australian cinema, and I think it was because the concept was so original. The vehicles, the costume, the story, it was all new to me. I'd never seen anything like it before."

It wasn't just his family he shipped Down Under. A panel beater and auto body repairer by trade, Bennett took with him the cars he spent more than £15,000 (Dh87,000) customising in the UK. They are now parked, pride of place in his museum.

"Like Mad Max, the main cars in Mad Max 2 are the Interceptors.

"The one with the sloping front I made in England before moving here. It took 18 months to make, and it's based on a Ford XA from 1973. I got the car from an Australian car nut in Texas but got all the right bits from Australia. Detail is everything: the twin fuel tanks in the back, the supercharger, etc. The car has a 351 Cleveland engine and an auto transmission but the supercharger is for looks only - it does not work.

"Only two Interceptors were used for that film - the car from the first movie was used again. That one is in a museum in the UK, ironically not far from where I grew up. My other Interceptor is based on the stunt double car, which was destroyed in the filming.

"The third Ford I have is the Ford Landau, the bad guy's car. To my mind it ended up looking the meanest of the cars: the fins, the gothic look, the twin turbos, the twin wheels on the back and the mismatched Chevy bumpers. I love the skulls, too.

"The Landau was made in Sydney by a guy called George Kritty. He is a huge Mad Max fan, too, and brought it to Broken Hill to drive it on the roads used in the movie. We met and he asked if I'd like the car for the museum. He figured it would look much better here - I could hardly say no."

Bennett admits he's often asked if his wife is as enthusiastic about their move from Bradford to Broken Hill.

"Well, I didn't have to drag her kicking and screaming," he replies. "We've been together a very long time and she's always known my obsession was heading somewhere. I don't believe someone can have a passion like mine and for it to not develop into something big. The whole family has been very supportive, all the way through. My two sons have even been named after people whom were involved in the films [Byron, after the producer Byron Kennedy, and Grant, after Grant Page the stunt co-ordinator]."

And it seems the locals - many of who were extras or stuntmen in the Mad Max movies - have welcomed their new British neighbours with true Australian openness.

"All the photographs on display have been donated by people who were involved in the film," Bennett says proudly. "They heard what I was doing here, dug them out and wanted them in the museum. I'm very proud of that fact."

The timing of Bennett's museum could not have been better. A fourth Mad Max film - Fury Road - is in pre-production. Unfortunately (for filmmakers) the Broken Hill region has received unusually heavy rains of late, creating undesirably lush and green vistas. Not very Mad Max.

Filming is not expected to resume until next year. By then, the producer's hope, the region will once again be arid and unforgiving. In the meantime, cast and crew have been stood down.

Bennett cannot wait for filming to start. Not because he wants to just watch the action - Bennett wants a more active role in what could be the last Mad Max film ever made.

"I'd love a part in the new movie," he hints. "That would be the icing on the cake for me. To end up, one day, even in the background of a scene, would be absolutely fantastic."

And with that thought, Bennett whistles for his blue heeler cattle hound, aptly named Dog. If the idea of a Yorkshire Mad Max fanatic behind the wheel of a menacing car in the fourth movie sounds far-fetched, stranger things have happened here in the outback.

But it would be a wise decision: after all, Bennett already has his own costumes and vehicles.