As a record number of Australians head to the Oscars, George Miller is enjoying an unexpected ride through Hollywood's awards season.
"It's been a marathon," said the director of Mad Max: Fury Road from Los Angeles. "Even though we haven't been here all the time, it's ballooned out way more than I remember in the past."
Miller has been at the Academy Awards before – winning best animated feature for Happy Feet and nominated for Babe and Lorenzo's Oil – but never expected to be there again for a movie that proved almost impossibly difficult to get to the screen.
He was 58 when he went close to shooting the movie at Broken Hill with Mel Gibson playing Max in 2003.
After three long delays and a switch to Namibia when the rain-soaked Australian desert proved too green, Miller was 70 when Fury Road finally opened to international acclaim last year, with Tom Hardy taking over as a resourceful survivor who helps a one-armed warrior (Charlize Theron) rescue the five young wives of a post-apocalyptic warlord.
While action movie sequels are usually more about ticket sales than accolades, this one has won eight Australian and four British Academy awards as well as almost 150 critics awards.
Now Fury Road is up for 10 Oscars including best picture and director on Monday Australian time.
"It's not your typical Academy Award movie," Miller said. "We didn't expect to be here so that just makes it a lot of fun.
"Everyone is using it as an excuse to basically celebrate the fact that our work is being acknowledged."
On his way to a party with the other Australian nominees at the iconic restaurant Spago, Miller said one of the highlights of the awards season has been meeting Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and his team after Fury Road was named movie of the year by the American Film Institute.
"Of all the people in Hollywood, that group of people I admire tremendously," he said. "They invited me over and I spent a good part of the evening just talking about their process and swapping notes and felt very, very simpatico."
Fourteen Australians are nominated for Fury Road, with Miller up for both producing and directing. With Cate Blanchett also nominated for best actress for Carol, there have never been more Australians competing for Oscars.
Miller was feeling no nerves ahead of the big night.
"Having been to the Oscars before, you've really got temper your expectations," he said. "If you listen to all the noise of people saying 'You're going to win this' or 'You're going to win that', it's not a good way to go into the Oscars because there is a degree of unpredictability.
"There have been very good films in the past that have been nominated for many, many Oscars and not won one – films like The Color Purple come to mind. I think we've got a reasonable chance for two or three of them but you can't predict it."
Miller said his team would be grateful if any Oscar came their way.
"If it doesn't, we'll have been happy to be invited to the party."
For the former doctor who broke through as a filmmaker with the first Mad Max in 1979, it has been especially gratifying to be nominated this year alongside his wife, Margaret Sixel, who is favourite to win best editing.
"That's just the nicest feeling that Margaret's up there with a good chance," he said. "But again, you've got to be very, very careful not to set your expectations too high because you're only heading for disappointment."
He considered the competition, led by The Revenant, Spotlight and The Big Short, to be particularly strong this year.
"It's been an extraordinary year for films worldwide. There are so many films that missed out that could have easily been there."
On the subject that fans always want to know – when he will be making two more planned Mad Max movies – Miller said he was still having discussions with the studio but they would not be happening "immediately".
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD'S 10 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
* Australians are in bold
Producers George Miller and Doug Mitchell
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
BEST HAIR AND MAKE-UP
Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, Damian Martin
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson
BEST SOUND EDITING
Mark A. Mangini, David White
BEST SOUND MIXING
Ben Osmo, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Dan Oliver, Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Andy Williams
Also nominated is Cate Blanchett as best actress for Carol.