Childhood & Early Years
George Miller was born on March 3, 1945, in Queensland, Australia into a Greek immigrant family. There is dispute about the exact place of his birth. While some say that he was born in Brisbane, others mention Chinchilla, where he spent his early childhood, as his birth place.
His father, Dimitri Castrisios Miliotis, was from the Greek island of Kythira, where the family operated a mill. On migrating to Australia, he changed his surname to Miller, eventually setting up a general store and a café in Chinchilla.
His mother, Angela nee Balloyoulo, worked with her husband at the store. Her family, originally from Anatolia, was displaced by the 1923 population exchange. On migrating to Australia, they anglicized their surname to Balson.
The couple had four children; all boys. Among them, George and his fraternal (un-identical) twin John, were born first. He has two younger brothers named Chris and Bill. Incidentally, Bill grew up to be an award-winning film producer.
He had a very happy childhood, playing all day long with friends, roaming around the bush at his own will, his parents never knowing where he was. He also loved to listen to the radios and watch movies at Star Theatre, trying to incorporate what he saw into their games.
He had his first experience of death at the age of seven. One day while on a riding expedition with three friends, they decided to take a dip in the nearby river. As he swam across the river he saw one of his friends disappearing into the water.
He rushed back to help him, only to drown with him. Although they were saved just in time by a passing cowboy the experience of near death continued to haunt him for days and had great impact on his film making.
As a child, he also loved going out for drives. Sitting at the back of their family car, he loved to stare out the window, looking at the horizon that stretched far beyond his gaze or at the long flat roads with their white lines that rolled on and on. .
It is not known where, but it is evident that George began his formal education at Chinchilla. Later, at the age of eleven, George and John were sent as boarders to Ipswich Grammar School, located in Ipswich near Brisbane. George did not enjoy his experience there, having nightmare every night.
Almost every night, in a recurring dream, he saw a man riding across a desert landscape, which began to move, eventually swallowing him up. It used to terrorize him so much that he could never recover from it.
Shortly after the twins were sent to Ipswich, the Millers sold their store and moved to Vaucluse in Sydney. Subsequently, at the age of twelve, the boys were enrolled at Sydney Boys High School.
After graduating from high school in late 60s, George and John entered University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine for their MBBS degree. Here, George took special interest in the physiology of the human body.
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In 1971, while studying in their final year, George and John directed and produced a one-minute film. It earned them the first prize in a local competition, enabling George to enroll in a summer film school workshop under the University of Melbourne free of cost.
At the film workshop in Melbourne, George met Byron Kennedy, forming a lifelong friendship with him. Also in 1971, George wrote and directed his first film, ‘Violence in Cinema Part I’. Produced by Byron, it entered the 1972 Sydney Film Festival in the documentary category and won critical acclaim.
On receiving his MBBS degree in 1971, Miller served as the resident medical officer at St. Vincent's Hospital for year. Thereafter, he joined a city hospital, serving there for two and half years, and remained registered with medical board until 1981. Concurrently, he continued to work on short experimental films.
In 1978, George Miller cofounded ‘Kennedy Miller Production’ with Byron Kennedy, producing their debut film, ‘Mad Max’ in 1979, meeting the postproduction cost with Miller’s medical income. The film, directed and co-written by Miller, was an instant hit, grossing Australian $5,355,490 at home and over US$100 million worldwide.
In 1980, he produced ‘The Chain Reaction’, a disaster/science fiction thriller, directed and written by Ian Barry. In it, Miller directed the car chase sequence (un-credited). Meanwhile, he received number of offers from Hollywood; but chose to work on a rock and roll movie called ‘Roxanne’.
For some reason, he never made ’Roxanne’, shelving the project for good. Instead, he decided to make a sequel to ‘Mad Max’. With better budget at hand, he hoped to make a better movie. Finally in 1981, it was released as ‘Mad Max 2’ in Australia and ‘The Road Warrior’ in the USA.
His next film was ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’, a remake of the 1959 - 1964 television series, ‘The Twilight Zone’. Released on June 24, 1983, the film became controversial because of a stunt helicopter crash which killed three actors, two among whom were children hired in violation of Californian laws.
In 1983, Miller made a miniseries called ‘Dismissal’ for the Australian television, writing, directing and producing it. It was followed by two more miniseries called ‘Last Bastion’ (director) and ‘Bodyline’ (writer and producer), both of which were telecast in 1984. In 1989, he would make another miniseries called ‘Bangkok Hilton’.
In 1985, George Miller had another Mad Max sequel released. Called ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome', it was directed and co-written by him. Despite higher budget, its box office return was comparatively moderate, grossing Australian $4,272,802 at home. Although it received generally positive review many fans criticized it for being ‘Hollywoodized’.
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After ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (also known as ‘Mad Max 3’), Miller took a break from action film, directing a comedy-fantasy film called ‘The Witches of Eastwick’, based on John Updike's novel of the same name. Released on June 12, 1987, it was both a critical and commercial success.
From 1987 to 1991, he took break from direction and produced a number of films, such as ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ in 1987, ‘Dead Calm’ in 1989 and ‘Flirting’ in 1991.
From September 1991, he started working on, ’Lorenzo’s Oil’, a drama film, which he co-wrote with Nick Enright, directed and produced. On its release on December 30, 1992, ’Lorenzo’s Oil’ received great acclamation. Based on Augusto and Michaela Odone’s relentless search for the cure of their son’s adrenoleukodystrophy, the film earned him his first Academy nomination for script writing.
In 1993, George Miller was hired to direct ‘Contact’ by Warner Brothers. He worked on it for around year; mutually agreeing to part ways for unknown reasons thereafter.
He next co-wrote the script for ‘Babe’, a sheep that wanted to become a sheepdog. He also produced the film, which was released in the USA in August 4, 1995. In the following year, he produced a documentary film ‘Video Fool for Love’.
In 1997, he wrote the script of an hour-long documentary film, ‘40,000 Years of Dreaming (White Fellas Dreaming: A Century of Australian Cinema)’, also directing and starring in it. He took scenes from different Australian cinemas, including his own Mad Max series and made a collage of it.
In 1998, he co-wrote, directed and produced a sequel to his 1995 production, ‘Babe’. Entitled, ‘Babe: Pig in the City’.
He took a break after ‘Babe: Pig in the City’. His next film, ‘Happy Feet’ was released on 17 November 2006 in North America and 26 December 2006 in Australia. Like most other films, Miller directed, co-wrote and co-produced this film, winning his only Academy Award for it.
Although ‘Happy Feet’ was mainly a computer generated animated musical film on the life of a Penguin in Antarctica it also incorporated live human action in some scenes. Interestingly, he was first inspired to make such a film on meeting explorer Frank Harley’s son while shooting Mad Max 2.
In 2007, Miller was hired to direct ‘Justice League Mortal’; but unfortunately the production was shelved. In the same year, his company, Kennedy Miller, founded a digital animation studio called D. D. Studio in partnership with Omnilab Media in Sydney. Next in 2009, Kennedy Miller was renamed Kennedy Miller Michel.
With the success of ‘Happy Feet’ behind him, Miller next started working on its sequel. Called ‘Happy Feet Two’ and made with a budget of $135 million, the film was released in late 2011 in the USA and Australia. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to the expectation.
In 2015, he returned to action films with ‘Mad Max Fury Road’. He had tried to make the film earlier, with pre-production starting as early as in 1997, but for various reasons, it fell into a ‘development limbo’. Finally, he started filming it in July 2012.
'Mad Max Fury Road' was released in May 2015, winning numerous nominations and awards. Thereafter, he started working on its sequel, ‘Mad Max Wasteland’. But unfortunately, a lawsuit filed against Warner Brothers over a disputed $7 million bonus delayed the production and it is yet to be released.