Hugh Keays-Byrne

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Hugh Keays-Byrne
Hugh Keays-Byrne 2019 (32175116127) cropped.jpg
Keays-Byrne in 2019
Born(1947-05-18)18 May 1947
Died2 December 2020(2020-12-02) (aged 73)
NationalityBritish, Australian
Occupation(s)Actor, film director
Years active1967–2015
Notable workToecutter in Mad Max
Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road
Toad in Stone

Hugh Keays-Byrne (18 May 1947 – 2 December 2020) was a British-Australian actor and film director. A former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he was best known for playing the main antagonist in two films from the Mad Max franchise: Toecutter in Mad Max (1979),[1] and Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).[1] He also played Toad in the 1974 biker film Stone, and Grunchlk on the science fiction series Farscape.

Early life[edit]

Keays-Byrne was born in Srinagar, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (part of the British Raj then, India now) to British parents; his family returned to Britain when India was partitioned.[2] He began his career as a stage actor. Between 1968 and 1972, he had parts in Royal Shakespeare Company productions including As You Like It, The Balcony, King Lear,[3] Hamlet,[4] Much Ado About Nothing,[5] A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest or The Enchanted Island, Doctor Faustus, The Man of Mode, Troilus and Cressida, Enemies, The Revenger's Tragedy, and Bartholomew Fair.[6]


Keays-Byrne made his first television appearance in 1967 on the British television programme Boy Meets Girl.[7] He was part of Peter Brook's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which toured Australia in 1973. Keays-Byrne decided to remain in Australia after the tour ended.[1] In 1974, he acted in the TV movie Essington, then made his first film appearance in the motorcycle picture Stone (1974). This was followed by supporting roles in films like The Man from Hong Kong (1975), Mad Dog Morgan (1976), The Trespassers (1976) and Snapshot (1979).[8][9]

After his first starring role in the 1978 TV movie Death Train,[10] Keays-Byrne was cast as the violent gang leader Toecutter in Mad Max (1979).[1] Director George Miller had Keays-Byrne and the other actors for the gang travel from Sydney to Melbourne in a group on motorcycles, as there was no money for airplane tickets. In an early international print of the film, Keays-Byrne was dubbed with a bad American accent, which Miller later regretted.[11]

Keays-Byrne then continued to act in post-apocalyptic and science fiction films like The Chain Reaction (1980), Strikebound (1984),[12] Starship (1985)[13] and The Blood of Heroes (1989).[14] In 1992, he made his directorial debut and acted in the film Resistance.[15] He also appeared in TV miniseries adaptations of Moby Dick (1998) and Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1999).[13]

Keays-Byrne played Grunchlk in the science fiction television series Farscape (1999–2003) and its conclusion Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars (2004). George Miller also cast him as the Martian Manhunter in the planned 2009 movie Justice League: Mortal.[5]

Keays-Byrne returned to the Mad Max franchise in the 2015 film Mad Max: Fury Road as the main villain Immortan Joe.[1][11] The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning 6,[16] and Keays-Byrne was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Keays-Byrne and his partner Christina were long-time residents of Lisarow.[18] They were also part of the Macau Light Company, an artist collective based in Centennial Park.[2] His hobbies included painting, poetry, and gardening.[11]


Keays-Byrne died peacefully on 2 December 2020 at Gosford Hospital in NSW, at the age of 73. His death was confirmed on social media by his friend, The Man from Hong Kong director Brian Trenchard-Smith.[19]




Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Subject Result Ref.
1977 Logie Award Best Actor Rush Won [23][24]
1979 Australian Film Institute Award Best Supporting Actor Mad Max Nominated [25]
2011 Alliance of Women Film Journalists EDA Special Mention Award – Most Egregious Age Difference
Between the Leading Man and the Love Interest
Sleeping Beauty Nominated [26]
2016 AFCA Award Best Supporting Actor Mad Max: Fury Road Nominated [27]
Gold Derby Awards Best Ensemble Cast Nominated [28]
MTV Movie Award Best Villain Nominated [17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Toecutter is back – but as a different villain in Mad Max: Fury Road". The Independent. 16 May 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Hugh Keays-Byrne, actor behind Immortan Joe in 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' dies at 73". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  3. ^ "'Mad Max' and 'Mad Max: Fury Road' villain Hugh Keays-Byrne has died". NME | Music, Film, TV, Gaming & Pop Culture News. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  4. ^ "BBC – Hamlet – Past Productions: 1970". BBC. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Hugh Keays-Byrne, Dastardly Villains in 'Mad Max' Films, Dies at 73 | Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Search | RSC Performances | Shakespeare Birthplace Trust". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  7. ^ Serrao, Nivea (2 December 2020). "Mad Max: Fury Road's Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Immortan Joe, dies at 73". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Hugh Keays-Byrne – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Mad Dog Morgan – Review – Photos – Ozmovies". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Hugh Keays-Byrne, Villain of 2 'Mad Max' Films, Dies at 73". TheWrap. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Truitt, Brian. "Hugh Keays-Byrne is forever a 'Mad Max' villain". USA Today. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Hugh Keays-Byrne on ASO – Australia's audio and visual heritage online". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Hugh Keays-Byrne". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  14. ^ "The Salute of the Jugger – Review – Photos – Ozmovies". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Hugh Keays-Byrne | TV Guide". TV Guide. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  16. ^ Bishop, Bryan (29 February 2016). "Mad Max: Fury Road wins most awards of the night with six Oscars". The Verge. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  17. ^ a b Bell, Crystal. "2016 MTV Movie Award Winners: See The Full List". MTV News. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  18. ^ Barnes, Denice (21 May 2015). "Mad Max baddie to the bone". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  19. ^ Del Rosario, Alexandra (2 December 2020). "Hugh Keays-Byrne Dies: Actor Who Played Immortan Joe In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Was 73". Deadline. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  20. ^ Murray, Scott (1996). Australia on the small screen, 1970–1995 : the complete guide to tele-features and mini-series. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553949-4. OCLC 36835095.
  21. ^ "Outsiders eps". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  22. ^ "John Stamford". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Rush". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  24. ^ "Australian Television: 1974–1977 Logie Awards". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  25. ^ "1979 AACTA Awards". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  26. ^ "2011 EDA Awards Nominees – ALLIANCE OF WOMEN FILM JOURNALISTS". Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  27. ^ "AFCA 2016 Film & Writing Awards". AUSTRALIAN FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  28. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (25 February 2016). "Gold Derby Film Awards: 'Mad Max: Fury Road' sweeps (8 wins), Leonardo DiCaprio wins for the 4th time". GoldDerby. Retrieved 3 December 2020.

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