Mad Max director George Miller has paid an emotional tribute to actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, who died at the age of 73 last week.
The 75-year-old filmmaker said Keays-Byrne was the “glue that held the first Mad Max movie together”.
Keays-Byrne starred as Toecutter in the franchise’s first instalment, released in 1979, and as Immortan Joe in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
Watch: Charlize Theron leads tributes to Mad Max: Fury Road co-star Hugh Keays-Byrne
Miller said he found Keays-Byrne rather formidable to deal with on the set of Mad Max, his first film as director, especially since the actor embodied his villainous role so intensely.
But it didn’t take long for Keays-Byrne’s warm and sweet persona to emerge, with Miller insisting that the actor was “so embracing of everybody”, adding that he “learned acting from him”.
After Mad Max, Miller tried to cast Keays-Byrne in his planned Justice League movie, and even Babe and Happy Feet, but their cinematic reunion didn’t materialise until 36 years later, when Miller was finally able to cast Keays-Byrne in Fury Road.
Miller is the first to admit that the shoot in the desert was “arduous,” but he said Byrne’s presence helped make it easier.
“There was no better person to be out there with. He’s very collaborative. The relationship he had with all the actors and stunt crew, who were the War Boys, was very strong.
“On set, he would always tease them up in a very playful way. All those actors responded to him.
“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.”