Immortan Joe! Who killed the world? He did! Who has shit taste in guitar tone? He does! And who plays the baddest guy we’ve seen yet in the Mad Max universe?
As it happens, fans of the original Mad Max series were handed a pretty substantial Easter egg by filmmaker George Miller when he cast Hugh Keays-Byrne in the role of Fury Road’s principle villain. We’ve seen Keays-Byrne before. The India-born actor was every bit as indelible as Toecutter, Max Rockatansky’s mystically inclined biker nemesis in the 1979 original.
“He was from the Royal Shakespeare Company, he traveled with Peter Brooks’s company in a very celebrated version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and he settled in Sydney and formed an actor’s commune, and they made the basis of the biker gang in the first Mad Max. And I hadn’t had any experience really with actors. I’d barely been on a film set before, and I saw the way that he, in a very playful way, was able to bring a whole ensemble together. And that was something for Mel [Gibson], who was just out of acting school, to work with. Thirty years later I thought if he came back as a different character, he’d bring that same quality. And this time he had a whole cult of half-life war boys to deal with.”
That gang in Mad Max wasn’t Keays-Byrne’s first. Five years earlier he starred in the seminal Aussie biker flick, Stone, a movie that would have a clear influence on Miller’s debut. If there’s another Ozploitation movie that matches Mad Max in terms of its unhinged stunt work—not to mention memorable character roles—it’s Stone.