Mad Max: Fury Road actress Charlize Theron took to social media today to pay her respects to the late Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Immortan Joe in the movie and squared off against Theron's Furiosa in the Academy Award-nominated movie. She had kind words for both Keays-Byrne as a person and for the remarkable performance he pulled off as the creepy antagonist in the film from filmmaker George Miller. Filmmaker Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) shared news of Hugh Keays-Byrne's passing with fans ealier today, leading to a number of online tributes from friends, fans, and collaborators who were sorry to hear of his death.
The notion of Keays-Byrne being the central antagonist both in the original Mad Max and then again in its remarkable reinvention decades later tickled fans and critics, and led to a resurgence in interest in his long career. That the movie was popular enough to spawn spinoffs has also led some people to speculate whether Immortan Joe might appear in future films. For Theron, though, Keays-Byrne was seemingly as much a friend as a collaborator.
You can see her comment below.
RIP Hugh Keays-Byrne 😔 It’s amazing you were able to play an evil warlord so well cause you were such a kind, beautiful soul. You will be deeply missed my friend. pic.twitter.com/kXDhNs5jEU— Charlize Theron (@CharlizeAfrica) December 2, 2020
Hugh Keays-Byrne was born in Srinagar in British-controlled India, in 1947, before moving to Britain as a young boy. He gravitated toward stage acting and was performing in the Royal Shakespeare Company by 1968, and remained with the company until 1972.
Keays-Byrne came to the Mad Max franchise early, appearing as the villain "Toecutter" in Miller's Mad Max in 1979. Keays-Byrne would continue doing character actor work in Australian and American genre films through the 1980s and '90s, before appearing in the Farscape franchise in the 2000s.
After their planned collaboration in Justice League: Mortal fell apart, Miller brought Keays-Byrne with him back to the Mad Max franchise, to star as villain Immortan Joe in Miller's 2015 reboot, Mad Max: Fury Road. The novelty of seeing "Toecutter" back in the franchise helped Hugh Keays-Byrne enjoy some of the biggest acclaim of his career. Fans were wondering if Keays-Byrne might appear again as Immortan Joe in the Fury Road prequel Mad Max: Furiosa, which is now moving forward with Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen's Gambit), Chris Hemsworth, and George Miller returning to direct.