2015 – The Burning Questions: Who was the guitarist who stole Mad Max?

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Meet the man behind the most memorable big-screen character of the year – flame-throwing and all.

How did a musician and actor from Sydney end up strapped to the front of a truck, wearing a gimp mask, shooting fire from a guitar?

It just came across the desk at my agency. The brief was they were looking for a guitarist somewhere in between Keith Richards and a scarecrow. I grabbed my guitar and amplifier, jumped into a cab and headed to the test.

Was it uncomfortable being strapped on top of a truck in the desert sun for hours on end?

It was really enjoyable, actually. I was up and away from all the dust. I had a mask on and I was covered up, so it’s not like I was worried about sunburn.

Did you ever burn yourself with the guitar?

No, we had a few test runs. There were some dangerous elements – big explosions near the truck – but I wasn’t used for that, there was a stunt double.

The man behind the mask: iOTA.

The man behind the mask: iOTA.

Was that a real guitar you were playing?

Yes, it was the real deal. With real flames and an amplifier that you can’t actually see in the film.

You were born Sean Hape, and you grew up gay, with a Maori father, in small-town Western Australia. Was that a struggle? And does that help explain why you became a performer?

Absolutely. It was really difficult. I grew up surrounded by homophobia and racism. And now I live in Sydney, one of the gayest places around. I think a big part of me that gets up with my big sparkly outfits and my make-up on is saying: “Fuck you! Here I am! I’m a big fag! Go and get fucked! Ha!”

You began your music career in a hard rock band called Loose Goose, right?

Oh, God! That was a rock covers band. After that I started to play solo gigs. Some friends of mine were in a band and they wanted someone to open for them. That’s how iOTA was born.

You’ve also written and starred in stage musicals, and recorded several rock albums. The latest, Wolf Number Nine, is due out in early 2016. How do you balance all your creative interests?

I get bored really quickly, which is why I do a few different things, so I can always change and swap to stay interested. I like them all as well. I don’t want to have to choose.

There will inevitably be Mad Max sequels. Are you keen to reprise your role?

I’d do anything to be in another of those films – if the Doof Warrior was still alive, but who knows? It was left open-ended. There is a lot of call for him to be in the next movie.

Classic Rock 218: Features