In the late 90s, Universal MCA had charted a private jet to fly some of its VIPs to Whistler, Canada. One of the passengers was Brian Fargo, founder of Interplay Studios and one of the creators of Wasteland and Fallout. Another was George Miller, creator of Mad Max.
By the end of the flight they'd worked out a deal for Interplay to make a game of Miller's next film Mad Max: Fury Road.
Nearly 20 years later, Miller has finally managed to release Fury Road. But what happened to the game?
"I got to fly with him to Whistler, Canada, on the Universal private jet–because Universal used to own half of Interplay–and spend three hours with him," Fargo told me over Skype. "The Road Warrior was my favourite movie for a decade. I’d watch it over and over again so I was a huge fan of Miller's. [He] was familiar with Wasteland and Fallout and loved the work we’d done. So half of the ride was us fanboying and half was 'OK, let’s do something'."
Fargo flew out to Australia and visited Miller at his studio. "He'd taken over an old abandoned movie theatre," Fargo recalls. "He kept the huge middle area where the theatre was open and turned all the other parts into offices." Miller let Fargo read the script for Fury Road and the two hashed out a deal for Interplay to work on a Mad Max game.
It was only ever in the early stages of development, but Fargo says the Fury Road game would have been a party-based RPG in the style of Wasteland and Fallout. A big addition on those older Interplay games was to be ramshackle muscle cars. "We’d have had to have worked vehicles in," Fargo says, "they’re such a critical part of his world."
Then word started to get out.
Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety ran stories on the proposed deal and EA got in touch with Miller. Fargo says they offered Miller $20 million for the game rights.
"[Miller] said ‘Ah, Brian, I like you but I don’t like you that much’," Fargo says. Miller signed the rights to EA and, well, nothing happened. EA never made a Mad Max game and Miller never saw the $20 million that would have come with such a game.
The problem was the pitted history of Fury Road's production. "The movie had lots of fits and starts," Fargo explains. "The movie was at Fox for some of the time, it got announced and then it got canned. Then Warner Brothers ended up getting the rights, they had a relationship with Miller that goes way back." It was with Warner for years before it went into production.
Then, rather than EA, Warner had the rights to the Mad Max game and then licensed the project out to Avalanche, the makers of Just Cause.
I'm all kinds of hopeful for Avalanche's version of Mad Max, but it's a damn shame we'll never see Interplay's take on Miller's wasteland.