Mad Max: Fury Road gave audiences one of the most memorable and imposing villains in Immortan Joe, a horrific wasteland leader who cut an impressive visage and commanded the screen with his booming voice and powerful personality. The actor that played Immortan Joe, Hugh Keays-Byrne, has unfortunately passed away at the age of 73.
Hugh Keays-Byrne was no stranger to the world of Mad Max. He appeared in the original Mad Max film back in 1979. He also played the antagonist in that movie. The villain was named the Toecutter and Hugh Keays-Byrne was equally terrifying and compelling in that role. The fact that he was able to bookend the franchise as two incredible villains is a testament to how adept he was at playing such characters.
Mad Max: Fury Road star Charlize Theron shared her feelings about the passing of Hugh Keays-Byrne on Twitter, stating that she found the actor to be “a kind, beautiful soul.”
When Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller decided to return to his post-apocalyptic franchise after after a 30-year hiatus, he specifically wanted Hugh Keays-Byrne to play the part of Immortan Joe. The character actor would be put under a cumbersome costume and makeup, but he was still able to cut through those elements to deliver a performance that stands as one of the best villains in recent movie memory.
Hugh Keays-Byrne was not only known for his roles in the Mad Max films. He was a celebrated Australian actor, appearing in such films as The Dragon Flies and Mad Dog Morgan. He also appeared as Mr. Stubb in the 1998 television miniseries adaptation of Moby Dick. Science fiction fans might recognize him for his role of Grunchlk in the cult hit series Farscape. He was also a celebrated stage actor who trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company and toured with the troupe for their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Celebrated Australian filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith worked with the Mad Max: Fury Road actor on the film The Dragon Flies and posted his remembrance on his Facebook account:
Though many film viewers will only know of Hugh Keays-Byrne because of his towering performance as Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, the hope is that his passing will illuminate his many other roles in the world of cinema. And if you have never seen the original Mad Max, do yourself a favor and watch that right now. Hugh Keays-Byrne is just as fantastic in that film as the Toecutter, the leader of a violent gang that sets Max Rockatansky on a path of revenge.
The world is a less wonderful place now that Hugh Keays-Byrne has left it. Thankfully, he will live on forever in the memories of moviegoers. If you somehow have not managed to see Mad Max: Fury Road, drop everything and watch it immediately. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive and engrossing mainstream releases of the last decade. And Hugh Keays-Byrne is a significant reason why that movie is such an amazing experience. Ride into Valhalla, shiny and chrome.