A man of few words, Hugh Keays-Byrne has nonetheless played big parts on the big screen. You’ve seen him as the Toecutter in the original Mad Max, Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, and Grunchlk in TV’s Farscape.
Now Hugh is heading to Sydney and Perth to greet fans at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming 2019 this weekend and next.
Cream asks the actor why we’re loving the anti-hero in films these days, and why TV has moved into more noiresque territory.
Interview by Antonino Tati
Hi Hugh. You’re often referred to as a ‘character actor’ rather than simply an actor. Do you think the word ‘character’ ought to be there, and do you sometimes find it limiting if, say, you want to go for a role that’s just Joe-next-door?
I cannot say Joe-next-door. No thanks. Immortan Joe, yes. I have always wanted to play a lover.
The character of ‘Toecutter’ was a key player in the first ‘Mad Max’ movie… and Immortan Joe the main antagonist in 2015’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. What is it about playing bad guys that you enjoy most?
Toecutter was fighting for Nomads. The Immortan was fighting for order. No bad guys there.
“Grunchlk has his own planet where his main biz is located, universal body parts. G is a massive chick magnet. The negative press is fake news.”
Fair enough. Do you have to psych yourself up to play a particular character in a series or film?
I do think a lot about the ins and outs.
In sci-fi, you play the bad boy: Grunchlk in TV’s Farscape, for example. He’s so conniving that the Farscape Encyclopedia Project define him as “a businessman, consultant, travel agent, liar, sneak, back stabber [and] thief”. Do you find those titles to be ‘Splendid’? And what is the great thing about being all of the above in the scheme of the show?
Grunchlk has his own planet where his main biz is located, universal body parts. G is a massive chick magnet. The negative press is fake news.
Aside from fantasy and sci-fi, you’ve featured in a lot of classic stories, like ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Moby Dick’. Do you miss the simpler story-lines of the classics compared to the convoluted plots and subplots of today’s storytelling?
I miss nothing, except constant attention.
And why do you think audiences demand more convoluted story-lines today?
Good stories, classic or not, are great.
That said, I suppose you could say Shakespeare had convolution down to a fine art, yes?
Yes, to say nothing of sex and violence.
We’ve noticed the rise of the anti-hero in film, television, and even in theatre. Why are fans championing the villain more today than they do even the hero?
Because we need villains to show us what good is.
Television has moved into more noiresque territory of late. And production values have increased. Why are we wanting that cinematic experience in our own living rooms now, compared to just out there in the cinemas?
We love to feel it close.
Have you checked out the schedule for this year’s Supanova and what are you looking forward to yourself?
The lot, with bells on. I can’t wait!
Final question, Hugh: ‘Joker’ or ‘It: Chapter 2’. Which are you looking forward to seeing later this year?
Means nothing to me.
Supanova Comic Con & Gaming is on in Sydney (21–23 June) and Perth (29-30 June).
Admission tickets for the Sydney and Perth events are available from www.supanova.com.au.