Hugh Keays-Byrne, most known to modern audiences for his turn as the evil Immortan Joe in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, has passed away at the age of 73. The English-Australian actor led a long and illustrious career on the stage and screen, in both his two native nations and in Hollywood.
Movie fans will know that Keays-Byrne had a long-standing working relationship with director George Miller. Not only did he star as the main antagonist of Fury Road, but nearly 40 years prior, he appeared as the villain of the original Mad Max (1979), Toecutter. In between the two projects, Miller cast the actor as Martian Manhunter in his ultimately unmade Justice League Mortal movie and though we never got to see it, the lost DC film lives on in the memory of fans.
Keays-Byrne was born in India in 1947 before moving to Britain as a young boy. He was a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s and 70s and in 1973, he went on tour with the RSC’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which took him to Australia. He ended up loving the country so much that he relocated there permanently after the tour ended. As well as Mad Max, genre fans may also know him for his role as Grunchlk in cult 2000s sci-fi show Farscape.
Earlier this year, we learned that Miller was returning to direct a Furiosa spinoff, starring Chris Hemsworth and Anya Taylor-Joy as a younger version of the breakout character played by Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Fans had wondered whether Keays-Byrne would return as Immortan Joe, or even in a new role, for the prequel. Sadly, however, that’s no longer possible, but given Miller’s long friendship with the actor, maybe some kind of tribute will still be paid to him.
Rest in peace, Hugh Keays-Byrne.