Hugh Keays-Byrne, Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, Dies at 73
Hugh Keays-Byrne, the man who embodied two of the iconic villains from George Miller's Mad Max film franchise, has died. He was 73.
Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, who directed Keays-Byrne in 1975's The Man From Hong Kong, announced the news on his Facebook page Wednesday, writing, "I am sad to report that our friend Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away in hospital yesterday."
"A former Royal Shakespeare Company actor who settled in Australia co-starred in my Man From Hong Kong, and achieved world wide recognition as the Toecutter in Mad Max, and Immortan Joe in Mad Max-Fury Road," Trenchard-Smith wrote alongside a photo of Keays-Byrne.
"This photo reflects the innate sense of humor he brought not only to my film but every production he worked on," the filmmaker continued. "He was a fine actor and a good friend to [wife] Margaret and myself for 46 years. We spent many happy Sunday mornings with him, his partner Christina, and a group of fellow actors and artists (the Macao Light Company) at the house they shared in Centennial Park. Christina, Jack, Shawn, Tim, Ralph, Robina, our hearts go out to you."
He continued, "Hugh had a generous heart, offering a helping hand to people in need, or a place to stay to a homeless teenager. He cared about social justice and preserving the environment long before these issues became fashionable. His life was governed by his sense of the oneness of humanity. We will miss his example and his friendship. Vale, Hugh."
Keays-Byrne was best-known for his portrayal of the ruthless biker and gang leader Toecutter in Miller's 1979 film Mad Max and later as Immortan Joe in 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road opposite Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy.
In May 2015, the actor told USA Today he was fine playing the villain because "for an old ham like me, it's great fun."
"I tend to always be the bad guys," he said. "I'm yearning to play a lover."
Miller brought back Keays-Byrne for Mad Max: Fury Road because of the actor's versatility, but also to make up for an early print of the original Mad Max that dubbed over his voice with a poor American accent.
"I always felt so guilty about that," Miller said at the time. "I thought I had to make up for it in some way."
Keays-Byrne was born in India in 1947 to British parents. He was raised in England where he began his career as a stage actor, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1967, he landed his first TV gig in the series Boy Meets Girl. He moved to Australia in 1973 after a touring production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. He became a regular on Australian films and TV shows before working with Miller.
The star told USA Today he was "always a lazy actor" preferring to stay at home painting, writing poetry and working on his garden.
"I love sitting around talking, having coffee, chatting about politics and rubbish," he said. "It's all good."