May he ride eternal, shiny and chrome. Actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, best known for his villainous roles in the Mad Max series, has passed away at the age of 73. The news was first reported by his friend and frequent collaborator, filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith.
“I am sad to report that our friend Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away in hospital yesterday,” Trenchard-Smith wrote on his Facebook. “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…He was a fine actor and a good friend to 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. 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.”
As mentioned there, while Keays-Byrne was a classically trained actor who had a long, successful career on stage and screen, he’s best-known for his collaborations with George Miller on the first Mad Max film in 1979 and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Both characters, Toecutter and Immortan Joe, are the sort of memorably colourful, charismatic lead villains actors dream of playing and Keays-Byrne nailed them both — and as Joe, Keays-Byrne pulled it off with just his eyes showing for the most part. That he played different roles in two iconic genre films, in the same franchise, over 30 years apart, and was amazing both times, is simply remarkable. A testament to a life that will truly last eternal.