Mad Max actor Hugh Keays-Byrne dead aged 73

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·3-min read

Hugh Keays-Byrne, best known for his roles in Mad Max and Mad Max: Fury Road, has died at the age of 73.

Keays-Byrne’s passing was announced by American writer and director Ted Geoghegan on Thursday morning on Twitter. A cause of death has yet to be revealed.

Actor Hugh Keays-Byrne wearing blue pants and a jacked covered in colourful patches at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Mad Max: Fury Road" at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 7, 2015 in Hollywood, California.
British-Australian actor Hugh Keays-Byrne at the 2015 premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road in Hollywood. Photo: Getty Images.

“Hugh Keays-Byrne, an unsung hero of Aussie cinema, has passed away at age 73,” Geoghegan tweeted.

“Im continually floored that he played Toecutter, the central antagonist of 1979's MAD MAX *and* Immortan Joe, the central antagonist 2015's MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Thanks for all the entertainment, sir,” he added.

In a subsequent tweet, Geoghegan lauded the late actor, who lived in Gosford, NSW, as “an absolutely wonderful human”.

“By all accounts, Hugh Keays-Byrne, who trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company, was an absolutely wonderful human who fought very hard for environmental and humanitarian issues.

“This photo of him from earlier this year says it all. You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.”

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American actor Mel Gibson and English actor Hugh Keays-Byrne on the set of Mad Max written and directed by Australian George Miller. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Keays-Byrne and his Mad Max co-star Mel Gibson. Photo: Getty Images.
Writer/director Ted Geoghegan announced Hugh Keays-Byrne's passing on Twitter on Wednesday morning. Photo: Twitter.
Writer/director Ted Geoghegan announced Hugh Keays-Byrne's passing on Twitter on Wednesday morning. Photo: Twitter.

‘Unsung hero of Aussie cinema’

Keays-Byrne was born in India to British parents in 1947 before returning to the UK to complete his schooling and begin his acting career in the theatre.

At 26, he toured Australia with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, when the tour ended, he stayed down under.

Five years later, he was cast as Toecutter in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic thriller, Mad Max alongside Aussie star Mel Gibson. Keays-Byrne returned for the fourth instalment in the franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road, as villain Immortan Joe in 2015.

In 1977, Keays-Byrne won a Best Actor Logie for his role in the ABC TV series Rush and was nominated for ‘Best Villain’ at the 2016 MTV Movies awards for his role in Fury Road.

Brian Medwin Trenchard-Smith, who directed Keays-Byrne in his 1975 film The Man From Hong Kong, shared a tribute to his ‘good friend’ on Facebook.

Australian model and actor Megan Gale hugs British-Australian actor Hugh Keays-Byrne at the Australian Premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road at Event Cinemas George Street on May 13, 2015 in Sydney, Australia
Aussie model and actor Megan Gale gives her Mad Max: Fury Road co-star Keays-Byrne a hug at the film's Australian premiere. Photo: Getty Images.

“I am sad to report that our friend Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away in hospital yesterday [Wednesday, November 2],” he wrote.

“He was a fine actor and a good friend to Margaret and myself for 46 years. 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. Vale, Hugh.”

At the time of his passing, Keays-Byrne had around 40 film and TV credits to his name.

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