Earlier this week, the world of cinema lost a genre legend, as Mad Max franchise fixture Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away at the age of 73. His most recent work as the villain Immortan Joe in 2015’s Mad Mad: Fury Road helped series creator and director George Miller revive his storied franchise for a modern audience, and as a result the prequel film Furiosa is something fans will have to look forward to in the near future. But of course, with the legacy of Immortan Joe inexorably tied to the genesis of this new film’s titular hero, Miller is planning to pay tribute to Keays-Byrne’s legacy, within the movie itself.
At this moment, the connection Furiosa’s narrative will have to the life of Hugh Keays-Byrne, or his memorable Mad Max: Fury Road character, is yet to be seen. While George Miller told IndieWire that it was in the works, there were no specifics disclosed around the project’s content. However, Miller did disclose not only why his presence would be important to this future movie, but also why he loved working with Hugh Keays-Byrne in the first place.
[He 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.
That reminiscence from George Miller above pertains to the first time Hugh Keays-Byrne made a mark on the Mad Max franchise, courtesy of casting the actor in that first 1979 film as the baddie known as Toecutter. One of the instrumental figures in the breakdown of former lawman turned wasteland vigilante Max Rockatansky, then played by actor Mel Gibson, his menace would help carry the film into the history books. Eventually, two more sequels, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome would come to pass, before a huge hiatus would see setbacks and struggles beset the eventual delivery of Mad Max: Fury Road 30 years after what was presumed to be the final film in the series.
Making that sort of impression on a director, and their star making franchise, is pretty impressive. Which makes the fact that 36 years after Mad Max had paired the two together to make history, Mad Max: Fury Road would give George Miller an opportunity to make another unshakable adversary with the help of Hugh Keays-Byrne. Part of the reason the actor was cast as Immortan Joe was because of the villainy that Keays-Byrne could naturally exude. The other part came from special gifts that Miller recognized in his remarks below:
The eyes! His eyes carry that power. There’s no other way to describe it. The stature, the demeanor, and the voice. Hugh embodied all that. If he was with you right now, you would feel that natural charisma that he had. People tended to come around to him in some way. To think that presence is no longer available to the world is very sad.
Reading George Miller’s memories of what made Hugh Keays-Byrne so special as a performer shows just how good of a partnership their efforts were in the Mad Max series. And much as he declared directly above, it’s sad we won’t get to see him actually take part in Furiosa alongside the amazing cast that’s being assembled. But at least his legacy will be represented in some shape or form, waiting for eager fans to discover and enjoy in the future past of the Mad Max series.
Unfortunately, there’s no ETA on when Furiosa will get off the ground, or whether the film has gotten an official greenlight from Warner Bros. However, you can be sure to get any future updates from CinemaBlend as they break. And while you’re waiting, you can always check out the 2021 release schedule, full of other action packed delights to keep you occupied in the interim.