The Kenblog: Two Titans Of Cinematic Evil Are Gone And The World Is The Worse For It!
Now both men had varied and successful careers beyond their signature roles, but these particular roles were so iconic that any success could not possibly come close to making the same mark. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: there’s something special about being known for a role or character that spans generations of fans.
Keays-Byrne and Prowse also shared something in common with the roles they played. Both had to do their work from behind a mask. (Although Keays-Bryne was unmasked as the motorcycle gang leader Toecutter in the first Mad Max film). Prowse, whose accent and muffled delivery behind the mask led to the famous dubbing of James Earl Jones as Vader’s voice, basically had to pantomime his performance, a talent that managed, with Earl Jones booming base, created the ultimate vision of intergalactic evil. Keays-Byrne, in “Mad Max: Fury Road” had to do a great deal of his acting with his eyes as he was burdened with a frightening, clown-grin breath mask as Immortan Joe.
In both instances, the performances were underrated as they were part if the whole, but no less impressive as a result. Prowse, with his impressive six-foot-six muscular frame (he was a champion bodybuilder and weightlifter before turning to acting) filled out the suit and made it imposing and threatening in equal measure. His physicality was vital to selling the character as someone of a less imposing stature would have made the character look silly (Rick Moranis in “Spaceballs” anyone?). The combination of his hulking yet oddly graceful performance inside the menacing black armor and Jones terrific voice (not to mention Ben Burtt’s wonderful mechanical breathing effect) helped to create a villain for all time. He will be missed.
As for Keays-Byrne, his Toecutter is a playful creation with that mop of unruly hair and a twinkle in his eye. He’s a character you might actually like were it not for his obvious desire for anarchy an violence. He’s such a presence that it takes a semi-truck to do him in. Keays-Bryne was such a talent that he essayed an entirely different sort of villain in “Fury Road” as the would-be savior of the apocalypse. Joe sees himself as the ultimate force of order in an insane world. The fact that his violent tendencies and iron rule are contributing to the anarchy never occurs to him. It gives him the slightest air of sympathy in addition to making him that much more terrifying. The fact that Keays-Byrne has to communicate most of this with just his eyes and his gruff voice is a testament to the late actor’s massive yet underrated talent. Like Prowse, he will also be missed. So Sayeth The Kendog!