MAD MAX to ROAD King
David Eggby interviewed
MAG member Richie Finney is a sound man for the movie industry. On a recent shoot in Hungry he found himself working with David Eggby, the man who filmed MAD Max.
Born in Battersea, London in 1950 David Egby emigrated with his family to Australia in 1959. When he was 27 David was asked to handle the filming on a radical biker movie starring an unknown Australian actor called Mel Gibson.
RF When you were working on Mad Max did you think it would turn out to be a movie icon?
DE No-one felt at that time that it was going to be the iconic film it turned out to be. I'm proud to have been involved with it though as it changed the way action movies were done to a certain extent. We started filming inn October 1977 with a fairly rough, pioneering but dynamic script.
By Jan 1978 we had a fairly disjointed production, we weren't really sure what we were doing from day to day. Yamaha had supplied the bikes for the bike gang which were all 1000cc fours. When the bikers arrived they'd been together for a month already and had adopted the personalities that survived into the film. The toe cutter was clearly the boss and then there was the Cundalini and the Bubba Zanetti , Mudguts and the lieutenants and one who had been appointed the master of arms. They could all ride and had really formed their own ready made gang.
RF Were there many problems with the making of the film?
DE There were a lot of injuries on the shoot and a major bike accident on the first day of filming. Our leading lady and Grant page the stunt co-ordinator had an accident in low sun on a shiny road when a truck did a U-turn and they slid underneath it, both of them braking legs. The lady was out of the porduction but Grant came back with a leg in plaster and finished the movie.
RF It was Mel Gibbon's first film wasn't it?
DE Yes he'd just finished at the NIDA acting school in Sydney and as soon as you put a camera on him you could tell he was going to be a star even at just 21 years of age.
RF Didn't they re-voice it as they didn't think an Australian accent would work in the USA?
DE That's right and the first MAD MAX film was not a huge success in America. It did well in Europe and Japan so they re-voiced it for the US market which wrecked it in my view. It's since been re mastered and is much better.
RF Where you into bikes yourself in those days?
DE I was and we did quite a bit of bike to bike shooting I've got pics of me hanging off a motorbike where Goose is on his police bike. We wanted to get a point of view looking over the windshield and I wanted to keep the horizon horizontal and the only way to do that was to have someone ride it and I had to hang off the back which was fun as the bike was hitting 180kmh (112mph). It was smoother then than when you were going slower mind you.
RF And Mel Gibson, did he ride bikes?
DE No he didn't ride anything at that time and as far as I know he's not a biker.
RF When did you develop an interest in bikes?
DE My uncle Sid Rice was into bikes and I have fond memories of going to dirt bike meets and the smell of the ether that they put in the fuel and the mud on the pipes of the bikes. I remember the Royal Enfields and getting spattered with mud. The First bike I rode was a Bultaco when we were living in Port Purri in South Australia. My first big bike was an R90S BMW which I loved though it was a bit tippie toe for me.
RF Did you screw a bike out of the MAD MAX film?
DE No we didn't manage that, all the Yamahas went back to Yamaha though it has to be said that they weren't in perfect condition by then.
RF You're a Harley man today I understand, what's the attraction for you?
DE I like being able to reach the ground and I like the culture. I can be anywhere in the world and I meet a guy like you who rides a Harley and we've got something in common. You don't find exactly the same kind of thing with other makes. I like the way you can put your own stamp on them too, I like cruisers.
RF What film have you most enjoyed working on?
DE Working on films is not necessarily enjoyable. I'm passionate about making films - maybe it's best to say which ones I am most proud of. Of course Mad Max. I'd be silly to say I wasn't proud of being involved in such a pioneering iconic film. Then there was Pitch Black a successful science fiction film and Quiggly Down Under, a western with Tom Sellick in the vein of the old John Ford westerns. Then there was Dragon - a Bruce Lee story which is about the life of Bruce Lee, that's another iconic film.
This film we're working on together right now 'Secret of Moonacre?' I think it will stand well. It's a period film and I haven't done a lot of those - it offers me a bit of poetic license.
RF You also worked on Harley Davidson and the Marlborough man did you not?
DE Yeah that was funny. It was meant to be a buddy movie though Don Johnson and Micky Rourke weren't exactly buddies but it was an interesting film. I don't condone smoking but the names Marlborough and Harley-Davidson acquired a certain iconic relationship because of that movie. We shot that in Tucson Arizona and LA.
When we were in Las Vegas I took the raked chopped out bike out on the freeway, no helmet of course. It had straight drag bars and forward footpegs and it just took off and I hung on for dear life. I got back and my knuckles were white from sheer terror.
RF How many miles had you done?
DE Oooh about five, it was set up all wrong for me, the ergonomics were a disaster but the acceleration was terrific.
RF Which bike film would you most like to have worked on?
DE Easy answer - The Fastest Indian. That was a movie dedicated to a man on his bike. Most movies are about gangs or whatever and this was just about a man coming through against all odds. I would love to have worked on that movie. I've never ridden an indian.
RF When you're in England you can ride mine, if you fancy a stick shift and a suicide clutch.
What talents do you need to be a great cameraman?
DE Obviously you need to be creative and have an eye and understand the technique. You have to know how to delegate too. You're as good as your team.
I'm passionate about lighting and even in my free time I look at lighting. The hardest thing is create reality and the critical part of that is to sustain the continuity of an appearance throughout a production.
There's a big difference between movie making and stills photography. With stills you can use a 500th of a second exposure or half an hour exposure for a still nightime shot. In my world I am locked into a fiftieth of a second, that's why we have huge trucks with huge lights.
RF This is one of Mr Mutch's sillier questions. Have you ever tried getting bikes into movies?
DE I did a movie called The Marine which I got my bike into with me on it.
RF So not such a silly question then really?
DE No, when I go to film in America I often ask if they've got any bikes in the movie cos I want to get my hands on one.
RF Tell me about your new bike?
DE I've had a Dyna Wide Glide and a Fat Boy for the last 13 years. I loved that bike, actually I regret selling it but I discovered Road Kings. I was doing a movie in America and the stunt co ordinator, a guy called Bobby Brown and I rented some bikes out of Cape Cod and we took off for a long weekend. He had Heritage and I had a Roadking twin cam 88ci with a windshield. I'd always been against wind shields but I do a lot of distance. On the Fatboy after four or five hours with pretty noisy shotgun pipes it gets tiring. The Roadking didn't quite sound like I wanted it to but I could do 7 - 800 kms in a day and get off without a headache, feeling quite comfortable. The new engine with the six speed box is a big improvement. On my Fatboy I would sometimes check when I was in 5th to make sure I was in top - not now.
RF Have you got your ultimate bike?
DE At the moment - I bought a new seat as it wasn't quite as comfy as the Fatboy and changed the bars so the bike suits me down to the ground. I don't want to go any faster. I've got internal wiring in the bars and a bit of chrome here and there, no gold eagles for me though. The Oval performance mufflers give a nice deep sound, not too loud, just nice.
RF Does the big bad ass biker image that gets portrayed in movies piss you off?
DE Not really cos some of us warrant it, certainly we did in the past - lots of people suffer from stereotyping I don't think its peculiar to bikers.
RF What's your attitude to the whole road safety movement to emasculate bikes with power limits and other regulations on the basis that biking is too dangerous?
DE My first thoughts are, yes biking is dangerous. What annoys me though is that most of these decisions are made by people who don't ride bikes.
RF Do you have to wear helmets in Australia?
DE Yes they're very strong on that and you can't get away with these little dicky helmets, you got to wear approved helmets. I actually prefer to wear a helmet though when I was in the USA in Maine and S Carolina I didn't wear one. I never wear a full face though, I don't like the loss of peripheral vision.
When I got the Fat Boy I was determined to not have my headlight on all the time, I was determined to be the hard edged kind of guy. I thought it was sissy or whatever to ride with a headlight on though with the new bike I'm not that bothered anymore.
RF Do you like to think of yourself as a rebel?
DE No, people might see me as one as I have tattoos and a beard and ride a motorcycle but if you're a rebel you're a non conformist. I'm not a non conformist I conform to society, I've never been convicted of any crime, I pay my taxes, I love my work and family and I respect the privacy of others.
RF And last week you became a grandfather?
DE Yes I did my daughter Sarah had a baby boy, Mitchel, back in Alice Springs. So if I'm a rebel I'm a grandad rebel.
RF Are you going on a trip when you get home
DE I certainly am. I'll be taking the three day ride to Alice Springs to see my daughter. I'll spend a week there and ride back. I'll ride with my psychologist mate with his Blackbird and full leathers . I guess we're chalk and cheese when it comes to bikes really. I can only ride with people who know how to ride with people, otherwise I'd sooner ride alone.
RF What's your favourite bit of of riding kit?
DE A pair of chaps (laughs). I wouldn't be seen alive in Aussie wearing them, they're not considered manly.
RF And your No 1 road?
DE The ride to Alice springs which is 2200km from me, that's great but you need a jerry can. Have a good ride.