Hugh Keays-Byrne, Villain on ‘Mad Max,’ Dead at 73

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images

“Mad Max” star Hugh Keays-Byrne has died at age 73. The actor reportedly passed away peacefully while in the hospital on Tuesday (Dec. 1). No cause of death was given.

Keays-Byrne acted for more than four decades. But fans will remember him for his villainous portrayals in the “Mad Max” franchise. He first appeared in the 1979 original film as the antagonist Toecutter opposite a young Mel Gibson. Never to keep a good villain down, Keays-Byrne reappeared in “Mad Max: Fury Road” as the volatile Immortan Joe.

Hugh Keays-Byrne Acted for More Than Four Decades

Director Brian Trenchard-Smith confirmed the actor’s death via a Facebook post. Trenchard-Smith worked with the actor on “The Dragon Flies” and remained friends over the years.

He wrote. “I am sad to report that our friend Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away in hospital yesterday. A former Royal Shakespeare Company actor who settled in Australia co-starred in my ‘Man From Hong Kong,’ and achieved world wide recognition as the Toecutter in ‘Mad Max,’ and Immortan Joe in ‘Mad Max-Fury Road.’ This photo reflects the innate sense of humor he brought not only to my film but every production he worked on.”

“He was a fine actor and a good friend to Margaret and myself for 46 years,” Trenchard-Smith continued. “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. Christina, Jack, Shawn, Tim, Ralph, Robina, our hearts go out to you. 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. His life was governed by his sense of the oneness of humanity. We will miss his example and his friendship.”

I am sad to report that our friend Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away in hospital yesterday. A former Royal Shakespeare…

Posted by Brian Trenchard-Smith on Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Keays-Byrne was born in 1947 in Kashmir, India. He first started acting in Australia, appearing in the 1967 TV series “Bellbird.” Throughout his career, Keays-Byrne continued acting in various roles. But he’ll always hold a special place in pop culture for his “Mad Max” roles.