Born in Kashmir, India, in 1947, Keays-Byrne moved to Australia in his 20s, landing himself the role of Toecutter in the original 1979 Mad Max film. Then in 2015, Keays-Byrne returned to work with George Miller on Mad Max: Fury Road, with the actor taking on the unforgettable role of Immortan Joe.
In a Facebook post today, the actor's longtime friend Brian Trenchard-Smith wrote, "I am sad to report that our friend Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away in hospital yesterday. He was a fine actor and a good friend to Margaret and myself for 46 years. 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."
In addition to his Mad Max roles, Keays-Byrne starred in such cult films as Stone (1974), The Dragon Flies (1975), Mad Dog Morgan (1976), The Trespassers (1976), The Death Train (1978), The Chain Reaction (1980), Lorca and the Outlaws (1984) and The Blood of Heroes (1989).
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, 2 December 2020
Hugh Keays-Byrne, an unsung hero of Aussie cinema, has passed away at age 73. I'm 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. pic.twitter.com/55W99w3wzq— Ted Geoghegan (@tedgeoghegan) December 2, 2020