For The Splendid Angharad, the ad-hoc leader of the wives, they cast model-turned- actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, with Riley Keogh playing her second-in-command, Capable. Zoë Kravitz is the tough and brainy Toast the Knowing; Courtney Eaton plays the sheltered Cheedo the Fragile; and Abbey Lee became The Dag.
All five traveled to Sydney for three weeks of rehearsals, costume fittings, movement work with Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard, and exploring their characters in workshops with Nico Lathouris. As part of their research, they also spent time with feminist playwright Eve Ensler, who has worked in the Congo with women struggling with issues of rape.
That was particularly illuminating for Huntington-Whiteley, the only one of the Wives whose rape has resulted in conception. “Eve Ensler was brilliant and made everything very real for us,” she notes. “Splendid is the leader and an extremely strong character. She takes a
maternal approach over all her sisters, but has conflicted emotions about her pregnancy. I did a lot of research on my own and had many conversations with Eve and George about how truly conflicted she would be about the child she’s carrying. She shows a lot of courage, but is often reckless, and I see that as an expression of the pain over what Immortan did to her and the possibility that she could still love the child.”
Keogh’s Capable also has a tender and compassionate side that emerges when she finds Nux stowed away in the War Rig in the wake of a failed attempt to die stopping it. Keogh says, “Because the Wives have seen the Immortan when he’s vulnerable, Capable knows he’s not this god-like thing that Nux believes he is. She feels empathy and finds a new purpose when she meets Nux. They really come to care for each other.”
Hoult adds, “Nux has grown up in a rough world, so to have Capable listen to him and care for him is something that he almost doesn’t understand. He’s a bit like a puppy. From that moment on, he’s just all in for her. She is the one person who sees the possibility that he can change this life and opens his mind to something outside of what he’s always known.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Toast, who aspires to be a warrior like Furiosa. Kravitz comments, “These girls have never had to do anything for themselves, and now they’re in this race for their lives. Suddenly they have to protect themselves and load weapons for Furiosa, and Toast is the one who is ready to step up to the plate and fight. There’s no time to think too hard or second-guess anything; there’s always someone coming for you.”
Lee, a model making her film debut, caught Miller’s attention for The Dag during the casting process. In an effort to get a sense of the actors, he asked prospective Wives to read a scene from a film or television property rather than lines from the script. “If someone wanted to take on a very rhythmic piece of writing from ‘Network’ or something as comedic as the parrot scene from Monty Python…which one they chose told me a lot about who they might be as actors,” Miller reveals.
Lee was the only one who picked Monty Python, and fittingly became the “class clown” of the group. “The Dag is a bit of comic relief,” says Lee, who, as an Australian, grew up steeped in “Mad Max” culture. “There’s a darkness to her, and that’s where the comedy comes from; it’s her coping mechanism. Her name is derived from the term ‘daggy,’ which is an endearing term for someone who is a little bit left of center, someone awkward. She has a flightiness about her that can be mistaken for nervousness, but really it comes from having a heightened sense of awareness of what’s going on around her.”
Life imitated art on set as Lee had something of a panic attack upon seeing Keays-Byrne rumble towards the War Rig in his full Immortan Joe regalia. Miller recalls, “She said that
seeing Hugh in character for the first time brought up the most terrible feelings. And that’s Hugh; he’s a very sweet guy, but he can really stare you down with those eyes behind a mask that looks pretty wild.”