First up Jenny Beavan, the film’s British costume designer who used scrap metal, tattered cloth and other refuse to dress the movie’s cast of hundreds, caused an upset with a win.
A few minutes later the Academy’s trophy storage cabinet broke open and Oscar statuettes began flowing to Mad Max: Fury Road’s Australian crew members.
At the end of the ceremony the film, shot at Sydney’s Fox Studios and the west African nation of Namibia, had claimed six categories and showered a record eight Australians with Oscars.
“You can pop the corks at home,” one of the Australians, Lesley Vanderwalt, a make-up and hair designer whose history with Miller stretched back to 1981’s Mad Max 2: Road Warrior, said on the stage inside Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
“We’re bringing home gold.”
Vanderwalt won the make-up and hairstyling Oscar with Australian Mad Max: Fury Road colleagues Elka Wardega and Damian Martin.
The film’s other Australian winners were production designers Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson, sound editor David White, sound mixer Ben Osmo and Miller’s wife, film editor Margaret Sixel,
In an ironic twist, Miller, the iconic Australian filmmaker whose creative mind came up with the frenzied post-apocalyptic wasteland chase film, left the ceremony empty-handed.
Miller missed out on the directing Oscar and, as the film’s producer with Doug Mitchell, best picture. Miller won the animated feature Oscar in 2007 for Happy Feet.
The Revenant’s Alejandro Inarritu took the Oscar for best direction.
In the biggest upset of the night – and just hours after Cardinal George Pell testified about rumours he heard about paedophile priests in Australia – Spotlight, the drama about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse by Roman Catholic priests, won best picture.
“This film gave a voice to survivors and this Oscar amplifies that voice which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican,” Spotlight producer Michael Sugar said.
“Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”
Brie Larson, as expected, won best actress for Room, ahead of Cate Blanchett’s performance in Carol.
The Revenant‘s star, Leonardo DiCaprio, received a standing ovation when he finally broke through after five snubs since 1994 to win best actor.
Mad Max: Fury Road‘s success is expected to result in two more Mad Max films, although Sixel, who had to cut 480 hours of footage from a 130-day shoot into a two-hour film, is not in a major rush.
Sixel was alongside Miller as global insecurity after the September 11 attacks, unseasonable rains in the Australian outback, a fluctuating Australian dollar and other factors kept delaying the project.
She’d like their next film to be a simple drama.
“Can we just do something we can shoot in six weeks and cut in three months? Yeah, that would be good,” Sixel told reporters backstage.
“I would actually encourage him to do a really boring relationship drama set around a kitchen table that he can shoot in about two weeks, and we can do the sound posts in about three days,” White laughed.
Australia’s previous best year was in 1996 with six Oscar wins in four categories when Miller’s Babe and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart cleaned up.
Mad Max’s Oscar winners
Editor: Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Production Design: Colin Gibson and Lisa Thompson (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Sound Mixing: Ben Osmo (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Sound Editing: David White (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Make-up and Hairstyling: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Costume Design: Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road)