Mad Max Director George Miller Planning on Honoring Late Hugh Keays-Byrne in Furiosa Spinoff

Last week brought the tragic news that actor Hugh Keays-Byrne had passed away at the age of 73. The actor was a staple of the Mad Max film franchise and a friend of creator/director George Miller, appearing in the first film in the series as the villain Toecutter back in 1979 and then as big-bad Immortan Joe in 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road. Though it seemed unlikely that Keays-Byrne would reprise his part for the upcoming Furiosa spin-off/prequel movie, Miller has revealed in a new interview that he does intend to honor him in the upcoming movie in some way.

Speaking with Indiewire, the outlet noted that "Miller could not disclose any information about his upcoming (film), he did confirm he is already thinking about ways to honor Keays-Byrne in the new film." The filmmaker also opened up about their relationship, saying that the actor was "the glue that held the first 'Mad Max' movie together....At first I found him formidable to the point of being scary because he was so into the role. The truth is he is a warm and sweet person and so embracing of everybody…I learned acting from him, probably more than anybody else that I worked with."

Though actress Charlize Theron won't be appearing as Furiosa in the upcoming film, she did release a statement on Keays-Byrne's passing, tweeting: "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."

The New Mutants star Anya Taylor-Joy will star as the younger version of Furiosa in the upcoming film. Her co-stars in the film are Chris Hemsworth and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II with Miller once again set to direct. This will be the fifth Mad Max movie and the first to, presumably, not feature the title character, Max Rockatansky.

While there's no timetable from the studio, Miller previously stated that he hopes to shoot the Furiosa prequel in 2021. "So after we finish [Three Thousand Years of Longing], and hopefully everything settles down with the pandemic, we'll see what the world allows us to do with Furiosa," Miller said in a recent interview. "For the longest time, I thought we could just use CG de-aging on Charlize, but I don't think we're nearly there yet. Despite the valiant attempts on The Irishman, I think there's still an uncanny valley. Everyone is on the verge of solving it, particular Japanese video-game designers, but there's still a pretty wide valley, I believe."

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Mad Max: Fury Road released in 2015 and topped many critics' year-end "best of" lists, as well as many lists for the best films of the decade in 2019. The film earned $374.7 million worldwide, earned a Best Picture nomination and a Best Director nomination for Miller from the Academy Awards, and won six other Oscars.