The movie world is buzzing over George Miller’s long-awaited Mad Max: Fury Road. And while Miller, the mastermind behind the relentless actioner, and leads Tom Hardy (as the new Max) and Charlize Theron (as Furiosa) are drawing accolades to the max, the film also has someone destined to become a fan favorite.
The character is called Coma-Doof Warrior — but he’d be more accurately described as the guy in the mask furiously shredding a flame-throwing electric guitar while dangling above a mobile wall of speakers (actual name: The Doof Wagon) that roars through the desert. He’s essentially “the post-apocalyptic drummer boy, or the trumpeter before they go out to battle,” iOTA, the man who plays Coma-Doof Warrior, explains to Yahoo Movies. “He’s the guy who riles up the troops.”
The Australian musician-actor-writer (né Sean Hape) made his film debut in his countryman Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 Fitzgerald-in-3D spectacle, The Great Gatsby, playing the bit part of Trimalchio the orchestra leader. He has been described as a “gender-bending glam-rock god,” has five albums under his belt, was nominated for an ARIA Music Award (think Aussie Grammys), and once beat out Hugh Jackman for Best Actor in a Musical at the Helpmann Awards (think Aussie Tonys). He is currently rehearsing the play B-Girl, which he wrote and stars in and will debut at Australia’s famed Sydney Opera House in June.
Like many Aussies of his generation, iOTA grew up with immense fondness for George Miller’s original trilogy starring Mel Gibson, having first seen Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) at age 11. So iOTA was determined to land the role of Doof Warrior when his management agency sent him to audition for a part described as “a mix between Keith Richards and a scarecrow.”
He went in costume as a Mad Max 2 character, wearing tethers and leather, black eye makeup, and dirt applied to his teeth. “I just wanted it so bad, so I was going to go all the way,” iOTA recounts. “I got in the cab and the guy gave me a funny look.” But it was worth it. He got the gig.
Fast forward nearly five years and he’s poised for a breakout. And if there’s ever a Coma-Doof Warrior prequel, iOTA says that the origin story already exists. Before filming, the performer and Miller created a grim backstory for the character: He was a child music prodigy who watched as his mother, also a musician, was beheaded. The boy was then found by Fury Road’s chief villain, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), mom’s severed head still in hand. Joe adopted the boy, who continued playing and grew up to be Joe’s troop-rallying rocker.
And it’s a good thing we never get too much of a close-up on the character in Fury Road: iOTA says the mask he’s wearing in the film, according to his and Miller’s backstory, is the face of his late mother, which he sliced from her skull. Told you it was dark.
Though iOTA isn’t sure where the “Coma” part of his character’s name came from, he can explain the genesis of “Doof.” It’s a play on what Australians refer to as “doof parties” — electronic music events where house or techno beats go “doof doof doof.” Thus, the Doof Warrior.
As for the music he played during his six months on set: “I just sort of got up there and jammed,” he said. “Whatever I could come up with. It’s a double-neck guitar, so it’s a bass and six-string electric, but there’s a base that I’m standing on and below that is a partial amplifier, so it’s blaring, and it’s totally squealing all the time. You’re just thrashing on it, and making noise. I’m playing Zeppelin or Soundgarden or AC/DC or whatever I was feeling inspired to do.” (The music you hear in the film was added in post-production.) Speaking of AC/DC, iOTA also revealed that his character’s look was partly inspired by the metal band’s frontman, Angus Young, particularly the short pants and sneakers.
“I was screaming my head off, ” says iOTA of the high-voltage experience of filming Max. “The whole thing was just mind-boggling. I was just walking around set with my jaw open the whole time. It was incredible. And just tearing through the desert on that truck was really something else. You’ve gotta try it.”
Mad Max: Fury Road is now in theaters. Watch George Miller spill secrets from four incredible Mad Max stunts: