Reps for the actor said he died peacefully on Tuesday morning. Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, who collaborated with Keays-Byrn on The Dragon Flies, paid tribute and confirmed the death on Wednesday.
“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,” Trenchard-Smith wrote in his Facebook post, which can be viewed below.
Born in 1947 in Kashmir, India, Keays-Bryne kicked off his acting career in Australia, where he earned his first credits in the 1967 TV series Bellbird, created by Barbara Vernon. Throughout the 60’s and early 70’s Keays-Byrne has appeared in a number of various roles, including as Morrie Grosse in Trenchard-Smith’s 1975 action flick The Dragon Flies.
Keays-Byrne’s acting gigs became more regular throughout the following years with titles including Ben Hall, Rush and Mad Dog Morgan. However, the actor came to fame with George Miller’s Mad Max in 1979. In the original action flick, Keays-Bryne appeared as Toecutter, the leader of the film’s ruthless biker troupe.
More than thirty years later, Miller requested Keays-Byrne return to the Mad Max universe for his 2015 Charlize Theron-Tom Hardy-led Mad Max: Fury Road. In the revamped look at the sci-fi world, Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe and his biker gang terrorize Theron’s Furiosa and Hardy’s Max Rockatansky as they seek to liberate the Wasteland.
Theron remembered her late co-star on Twitter: “It’s amazing you were able to play an evil warlord so well cause you were such a kind, beautiful soul.”
In addition to his on-screen work, Keays-Byrne trained with the Royal Shakespeare Company and toured for the troupe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Additional Hollywood credits part include Kangaroo, For Love Alone, Secret Valley and Farscape.
RIP Hugh Keays-Byrne 😔 It’s amazing you were able to play an evil warlord so well cause you were such a kind, beautiful soul. You will be deeply missed my friend. pic.twitter.com/kXDhNs5jEU
— Charlize Theron (@CharlizeAfrica) December 2, 2020