Why Mad Max's Doof Warrior is a heavy metal hero

If you happened to see this year’s stand out movie Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller’s stunning reimagining of the early ‘80s classics, then there are a hell of a lot of images that will be imprinted into your psyche. In such a gloriously technicolour, OTT thrill of a movie you could say that it would be hard to pick one stand-out moment… unless you were a metal fan. For then, the thrill of seeing the arrival of The Doof Warrior stood atop a huge, amp-filled truck playing a guitar/flamethrower hybrid was hard to top. And it didn’t just capture rock fans imaginations, only days into its release the internet had lit up with love for Doof. So much so that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that its main stars, A-listers Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, were even in the thing.

“It was amazing, especially because we filmed it three years ago and you move on and do other projects and kind of forget about it. It was a real thrill,” says iOTA, aka Sean Hape, aka The Doof Warrior himself. The New Zealand native is a man that has done many things over the years – from solo albums to theatre to movies – for a hugely impressive body of work. Speaking with Hammer today he recollects how the biggest role of his career so far came about…

“It was sold to me by my agent as Keith Richards crossed with a scarecrow,” he tells us. “I turned up for the audition in all this gear, you know, leather trousers and make up and looking like a real badass. And they just got me to shred on a guitar for a bit. And then I got the gig, it really was a simple as that.”

And for a man that describes his three main influences as “Mad Max, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Kiss,” you can imagine just how much it meant to him to be on set remaking such an iconic film.

“I knew people were going to love that character,” he says. “I just thought about the 12 year old me that saw Mad Max 2 in the cinema and I knew that he’d dig it, so I knew that people were going to love it, because it’s so cool. I just wanted to be in it, I’d have taken any part just to have been in the new Mad Max film. It was such a big deal for me when I saw it at the cinema when I was a kid.”

In a world filled with green screen and CG effects, iOTA is quick to point out that what you see onscreen is what actually happened.

“It’s all real,” is his immediate reply when asked what went into the filming of the scene. “It’s astounding really, because the planes were there and I really was stood up on the top of that truck with speakers all over it, the other cars, the desert… Being on the truck and it shaking around, the movement was a little tricky, but it was like being on a ride at an amusement park – for adults.”

iOTA is, as we’ve mentioned, a man with many strings to his bow – an award-winning actor and accomplished guitarist with five albums under his name. But, when asked, even he struggles to sum up his career and what he does succinctly.

“I’m a performer I guess,” he says. “If I was to try and put myself in a nutshell it would be performing… but loud and aggressive. Even the theatre stuff I’ve done, it is musical but I hate ‘musicals’. I mean I love being on stage and I love rock and I love metal, and that’s a big influence for me, but just performer is fine… I don’t know. I paint as well and even my paintings are big and loud. So… I dunno, ha ha!”

And love metal he truly does.

“There’s a big element of glam rock in what I do,” he tells us, “but I just love the sound of heavy music. It’s been there for me for a long time. I always loved Pantera when they were the shit during the ‘90s, I’m a big Rob Zombie fan, I love big voices like in Iron Maiden and I guess the current one would be Mastodon. If I went to a desert island I’d have to take Roots by Sepultura with me. So good! I just love guitar music!”

This isn’t something you’ll hear from every Hollywood star, but if iOTA dodges clichés there he also does so with the fact that he is an openly gay rock musician – something which, let’s be honest, is still something of a rarity. But, for him, not a problem.

“My whole life has been about putting flags in the ground,” is his steely reply when asked if his sexuality has ever been something people have had a problem with, “for every aspect of my life. But I think metal is one of the most open-minded groups of people that I know. I know I could go to a metal concert and people are wearing make-up and you can’t even always tell the boys from the girls, and I’ll go to a show and see lots of other gay fans of heavy music. It’s never been a problem for me. So, no I haven’t ever encountered homophobia in the metal world like you might do in the rap world.”

Which is good to hear. And, as a figurehead for heavy metal in the acting world, we could do a lot worse that The Doof Warrior.

Why Mad Max: Fury Road Is The Most Metal Film We've Ever Seen

Mad Max: Fury Road is out on Blu-Ray and DVD in October.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.