Interview: Steve Bisley

The Australian Film Festival starts on 24th February with a special screening of the iconic Australian film, Mad Max, followed by a Q&A session with its actors and stunt performers. Included in this Popcorn Taxi event is Steve Bisley, who played platinum-blond Jim Goose in George Miller’s (Mad Max series, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet) 1979 record-breaking film. A popular Australian TV and film actor, Steve Bisley starred in Frontline, Water Rats and Sea Patrol. His latest film, Red Hill is set to revise the Australian Western.

Steve Bisley kindly took some time-out to answer some questions about making the cult film Mad Max and his character – ‘The Goose’…

The augural Australian Film Festival starts on 24th February- why do you think Mad Max has been chosen to open the festival?

Because Max was such a groundbreaking film and possibly it took and still manages to take an audience to a place that for a change is not “uniquely Australian”.

A recent documentary, Not Quite Hollywood, which celebrates Australian genre films of the 70s and 80s, looked at elements of making Mad Max and by today’s standards of safety and insurance it looked amazingly lax, what was the experience like shooting the film?

When the Stunt Co-ordinator breaks his leg and the leading ladies leg in a motorcycle crash on the way to set on day 1 of filming, then Houston, we have a problem.

Your character in Mad Max, Jim Goose famously rides a Kawasaki motorbike, how much of the action was you, and how much was a stunt double?

I guess I was lucky to not only have been an immensely gifted and talented Actor, but I had also ridden motorbikes all my life. I did all my own riding for The Goose character, apart from the stunt sequences of course. I also doubled for a couple of “The Bikie” characters in some of the fast open road sequences. I still ride too fast on motorcycles.

Mad Max was made for a very small, privately funded budget, and went on to capture both the Australian and International box office, a formula many Australian films have tried unsuccessfully to replicate – why do you think Mad Max struck a chord with audiences around the world?

I think there is a naivety, born out of a combination of youthful energy and inexperience that shines through this film and the combination of these two things set against the backdrop of this violent, desolate landscape really endears it to an audience.

There were some people who rallied against Mad Max, notably Phillip Adams. In an article for the Sydney Bulletin he wrote that Mad Max had “all the emotional uplift of Mein Kampf”, stating that it would be “a special favourite of rapists, sadists, child murderers and incipient Mansons”. This description seems amusingly alarmist reading it now, but at the time how did you feel about this sort of moral criticism?

Thank God for Criticism, at least it means you’re being noticed.

Mad Max has a real cult following even 30-years plus after its release, there are Japanese Jim Goose websites and Facebook pages- what do you think it is about your character that still resonates with audiences?

Jim Goose Action Figure

I was painfully aware that “The Goose” would not be there in the 2nd half of the film, and I wanted audiences to miss him when he died and by all accounts they did. I had in my mind when we were shooting the film that I was Mercutio to Mel’s Romeo and that “The Goose” like Mercutio is such a hedonist and lover of life, that their passing leaves a regret and emptiness.

The ‘Golden Age’ of Australian cinema is considered to be the 70s and 80s when films like Mad Max, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Crocodile Dundee were released. There has been a lot of debate over the last year about why Australian audiences are not going to see Australian films – as an actor how do you view the current state of Australia’s film industry?

I think that for a number of reasons we have “disappointed” audiences too many times and for too long. We have chosen the wrong films to make.

Red Hill, in which you play Old Bill, premieres at the Berlin Film Festival this week (screened on 14th Feb). The trailer had been causing quite a lot of buzz, can you tell us a bit about the film?

Love to, but at this stage I don’t think I’m allowed.

Patrick Hughes, the director/producer/writer of Red Hill, credits George Miller (director/writer of Mad Max series) as a major influence- do you see similarities in the two films (Mad Max and Red Hill)?

Yep, they’ve both got me in them.

There have been rumours for years about Mad Max 4: The Fury, with filming supposedly starting later this year and a cast named. ‘The Goose’ doesn’t actually die in Mad Max, when we last see him he is severely burnt but alive (surprisingly), could he not be resurrected for the 4th instalment?

Ask George. (Miller, the director of the Mad Max Series – Beth)

To find out more about the Mad Max event and to purchase tickets Click Here

For more information about The Australian Film Festival and its program Click Here

Image credit: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

About Beth Wilson

A Brit based in Sydney, Beth is constantly fighting for an organised queuing system and the right to call chips, crisps. She can often be found working at film festivals around NSW, and has become accustomed to surviving on very little sleep. You can follow her on twitter at @bflwilson