When you're first introduced to Adrian Bennett, creator of Silverton's Mad Max Museum, it will most likely be accompanied with the explanation that he is “the world’s biggest Mad Max fan”. But a squint underneath the hood reveals that Adrian is so much more than just an over-eager film buff.
In Adrian's words, the museum exists to “pay homage” to Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior, and to “educate people” about how original and clever the movie was.
“It was all filmed in the Silverton region, so there’s everything from memorabilia and photographs to props and vehicles”, Adrian said.
Whilst some of the museum exhibits are replicas painstakingly recreated either by Adrian or like-minded fans, there are many genuine pieces that were used in the original film - not least of which is the yellow bus that dominates the action throughout.
“I got a phone call one day from someone who had heard about the museum. He had the original bus at his home in Port Lincoln, South Australia and it had been sitting doing nothing for over 25 years. He originally bought it to convert into a motor home, but he never got around to it.”
Other vehicles from the film, however, met with far less noble ends.
“Nobody knew how big the film was going to be,” says Adrian, “and so nobody was really interested in keeping any of the cars – they just ended up going through the crusher. The buggies survived though, because people wanted to use them for bush bashing.”
The first Mad Max movie was filmed mostly around Melbourne and Geelong and was initially only a modest success overseas - although over time it became the highest profit-to-cost ratio for any film ever made, and held the accolade for two decades. However, it wasn’t until the arrival of Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior that Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky sped into the global imagination, and, more particularly, won the heart and mind of an 18-year-old Adrian.
“I've been a passionate fan of Mad Max 2 now for 22 years,” he says, placing a particular inflection on the number two (whatever you do, don’t get Adrian started on Thunderdome). “The only way that I can describe the effect it had on me was that from the opening credits to the closing credits my jaw was on the floor. I had to go home and have a think about what I'd seen on screen - it completely reshaped my life.”
Working as a panel beater in the English city of Bradford, Adrian’s love of the film rapidly grew. From a Falcon Coupe, he created a replica of Max' Interceptor, the only one of its kind in Europe at the time. Such was the success of the project that he “couldn't pull up for fuel without drawing a crowd”. Life was good, he notes, “but I always knew something was missing.” That something was Australia. A two-week holiday, covering the locations of the film, convinced him to make a permanent move.
He’s quick to tell you that while Mad Max is an obsession, “it’s not an unhealthy obsession that makes me do silly things. Sometime people think that I might be this obsessive nut that sits in a car dressed as Mel Gibson and pretends that I'm driving, but its not like that at all”. Although his obsession might not stretch as far as cosplay, there is perhaps one person who may not agree with his definition of “silly things” – his wife, Linda. After all, swapping a comfortable life in England for one in the outback town of Silverton isn’t necessarily on the top of the sensible list – but it now rates as one of life's great experiences.
“It wasn't hard to convince Linda to move to Australia as such,” he notes, and they settled initially in a more densely populated area of South Australia. “But I was constantly looking for property in Broken Hill or Silverton because it was my dream to live in the places that Mad Max was filmed.
“I was pushing Linda all the time and it got to the point where she said ‘you've brought me halfway around the world, now you want to me to live here?’ She's settled now and actually gets very defensive if visitors or tourists don't say anything nice about the place!”
The rugged and outlandish locations are shown to incredible effect throughout the entirety of Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior, and also feature in other seminal Australian films such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, Razorback and Wake In Fright.
“The fact is, when you're in Silverton, you’re on a movie set,” says Adrian, “and you can clearly see why filmmakers want to come here. It doesn’t matter what direction you look in, it's stunningly beautiful. There's something magnetic about the place - a uniqueness that makes it stand out from any other outback town.”
The Mad Max Museum is most certainly a “must do” highlight of a trip to Broken Hill and its surrounds and you can rest assured that it’s going to be there for a very long time.
“A million dollars wouldn't get me out of Silverton”, says Adrian, “My view from the front of the house is over the Barrier Ranges - how many people are lucky enough to look out and have a view like that? I actually want my ashes scattered out over the Mundi Mundi lookout when I'm done. I absolutely love it here. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. For me, this is the real Australia.”