Entertainment Celebrity ‘Thanks for the entertainment, sir’: Mad Max villain mourned
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‘Thanks for the entertainment, sir’: Mad Max villain mourned

hugh keays byrne dies
Hugh Keays-Byrne at the Hollywood premier of Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015. Photo: Getty
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Co-stars and friends have paid tribute to Mad Max villain Hugh Keays-Byrne, who died this week.

Keays-Byrne is best known for playing the nasty Toecutter in the original 1979 Mad Max film and then returning to play another baddie – warlord Immortan Joe – in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Keays-Byrne was the only actor to appear in both films. The 2015 follow-up scored 10 Academy Awards, including best picture, and he was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain.

Aged 73, Keays-Byrne died on Tuesday morning.

Brian Trenchard-Smith, who directed Keays-Byrne in the 1975 film The Man From Hong Kong, confirmed his death in a Facebook post.

“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,” Trenchard-Smith wrote on Facebook.

Charlize Theron, who starred alongside Keays-Byrne in Mad Max: Fury Road, followed suit.

“RIP Hugh Keays-Byrne,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s amazing you were able to play an evil warlord so well because you were such a kind, beautiful soul. You will be deeply missed, my friend.”

Keays-Byrne was born to British parents in India in May 1947. He moved to Britain to study theatre, and worked in Royal Shakespeare Company productions.

He toured Australia with the company in the early 1970s, and stayed on to pursue his acting career. He became a regular on Australian screens big and small before Mad Max director George Miller came calling.

“Hugh was formidable, daring, warm and kind both as an artist and a man,” Miller told USA Today on Wednesday.

“He taught us all so much.”

Keays-Byrne returned the compliment, reflecting on the success of the Mad Max franchise to the same newspaper in 2015.

“I don’t think you think about things like this. It seems a bit big,” he said, adding that being a villain was just fine, because “for an old ham like me, it’s great fun”.

“I tend to always be the bad guys,” he said.

“I’m yearning to play a lover.”

Keays-Byrne’s other TV and film credits included parts in Bellbird, The Dragon Flies, Ben Hall, Rush and Mad Dog Morgan.