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Mad Max returns ... but without Mel

Mad Max director George Miller was "heartbroken" over Mel Gibson's string of scandals in recent years. But he says that isn't why he recast the lead part in the post-apocalyptic auto action franchise.

Gibson (inset) was simply too old, he said.

The Australian director helped launch Gibson, now 58, to stardom three decades ago in the trilogy featuring stark desert landscapes, intense car chases and a bleach-blonde Tina Turner.

Miller originally hoped to bring Gibson back as Max Rockatansky for the fourth film. As he developed the story over the last decade, Miller hatched plans for a second trilogy instead of just the one new film. Concerned that Gibson wouldn't be able to commit to three more movies, he asked Tom Hardy (36) to step into the road warrior's black leather boots.

"I have a great affection for Mel. I was really heartbroken to see him go into [the scandals]," Miller said in a recent interview. "But it's a new time. I hope Mel gets to act in more movies because I think he's a wonderful actor. But I think he's an amazingly good director."

Miller describes Mad Max: Fury Road as an extended chase taking place over three days. The movie, due out next summer and also starring Charlize Theron, features minimal dialogue.

Miller showed the first footage from "Mad Max: Fury Road" at the recent Comic-Con fest in San Diego and got an enthusiastic response from attendees. He's still finishing work on the movie.