Hugh Keays-Byrne, actor behind Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, dies at 73
Hugh Keays-Byrne, the Anglo-Australian actor behind Immortan Joe in 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road, died Tuesday during a hospital stay, according to his friend and former movie director Brian Trenchard-Smith.
A rep for Keays-Byrne confirmed to EW that he died peacefully and that his family requests privacy at this time. He was 73.
Trenchard-Smith helmed Keays-Byrne in films like 1975's The Dragon Flies, a.k.a. The Man From Hong Kong. Afterwards, the actor became "a good friend" to him and wife Margaret for 46 years, as the filmmaker wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. "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," he wrote.
Trenchard-Smith mentioned the "innate sense of humor" Keays-Byrne brought with him to every production. "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," Trenchard-Smith continued. "His life was governed by his sense of the oneness of humanity. We will miss his example and his friendship."
No other information surrounding his death was given.
Keays-Byrne's Mad Max legacy extends beyond Fury Road — about 36 years before that when he debuted in the film series' first movie in 1979 as Toecutter, the main antagonist as the head of a motorcycle gang terrorizing the outback.
On returning for Fury Road as the raging tyrannical lord of his Citadel, he told The New York Times earlier this year, "It was a wonderful thing to feel everyone around me crashing about in their costumes and absolutely living it."
Miller recalled in a 2015 interview with USA Today that he brought Keays-Byrne back partly because an early print of the first Mad Max had a bad American dub of the actor's voice. "I always felt so guilty about that," Miller said. "I thought I had to make up for it in some way."
"It's a sad day to have to say goodbye to The Toecutter and Immortan Joe," filmmaker Edgar Wright tweeted. "RIP Hugh Keays-Bryne [sic], who played indelible baddies in the first and last Mad Max films—36 years apart."
Born May 18, 1947 in Srinagar, Keays-Byrne and his British parents moved to England when he was child. He began his career as a stage actor, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in productions of As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, and more. His television career began in 1967 with Bellbird and Boy Meets Girl, and his film roles kicked off with 1974's Stone.
Keays-Byrne would later appear in as Mr. Stubb in 1998's Moby Dick, the character Grunchlk in episodes of Farscape, and in a minor role for 2011's Sleeping Beauty. Mad Max: Fury Road was his final film role.