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Mad Max Actors You Might Not Know Passed Away

If 2015's "Mad Max: Fury Road" is your first experience with the legend of the eponymous post-apocalyptic wasteland hero, then you might not even know that it's part of a film franchise that's over four decades old. It was created by director George Miller and the late producer Byron Kennedy. Along with being the home of the some of the best action movies you're ever going to find, the "Mad Max" films have proven to be touchstones for all post-apocalyptic fare. 

The film that started it all, "Mad Max," hit theaters in 1979 with a story that set the stage for the man Max Rockatansky (no really, he had a last name once!) becomes. Sadly, the older a film series is, the more likely it is that actors who contributed to the story are no longer with us. For George Miller's wasteland saga, this is particularly true of stars from the first film, but each of the four entries have losses. Here are the actors from the "Mad Max" films you may not know are no longer with us.

Bertrand Cadart was a biker, an actor, and a mayor

In 1979's "Mad Max," probably the least intellectually impressive member of Toecutter's (Hugh Keays-Byrne) gang is Clunk, played by Bertrand Cadart. A former brain surgeon who was left mentally challenged after a motorcycle accident, Clunk is almost like a beloved mascot to the rest of the gang. He's driven off the bridge during the gang's final confrontation with Max (Mel Gibson). We never see his body, so his fate is left a little murky. 

Like Clunk and the rest of Toecutter's gang, Bertrand Cadart was an avid motorcyclist for most of his adult life. According to Tasmanian Times, Cadart was born in France and moved to Australia in his mid-twenties. A couple of years later, he launched the popular motorcycle company La Parisienne. When George Miller approached Cadart for "Mad Max," it wasn't for his acting prowess, but to help in converting Kawasaki Z1000s into futuristic vehicles for the film. Without any room in the budget to pay Cadart, Miller offered him the role of Clunk as compensation. 

In 2007, Cadart was elected as Mayor of Glamorgan-Spring Bay, Tasmania, which he quickly set about making the very first motorcycle-friendly local government in Australia. He passed away in April 2020 after a three year battle with cancer. He was 71.

Reg Evans died a hero

Reg Evans enjoyed the relatively small role of the Station Master in "Mad Max," who has a very curious confrontation with Toecutter and his gang. While Evans wouldn't be quite as recognizable to American eyes, he was a character actor who appeared regularly on Australian television and in the country's cinema. Some of his most memorable jobs included playing Mr. Cocker on the Australian sitcom "Are You Being Served?" and the gun-toting farmer Keith Purvis in the police drama "Blue Heelers." His final role was in the comedy film "Charlie & Boots," released 7 months after his death.

As TV Tonight reported at the time, Evans and his partner Angela Brunton died during the disastrous Black Saturday Bushfires of February 7, 2009. The fires left many Australians homeless and 173 dead. Evans presumably died while fighting a local fire. A neighbor reported that he and Evans were trying to battle the flames when the neighbor suggested they head for safety. The neighbor said he reached his car only to find Evans wasn't with him. The actor's death was confirmed days later. He was 80 years old.

Sheila Florance was a prisoner and an award winner

In "Mad Max," the titular hero and his family don't have a lot of friends they can count on, but one of those friends is May Swaisey, played by Sheila Florance. May does her best to protect Max's wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and their son Sprog (Brendan Heath) from Toecutter's gang, including trying to fight them off with a shotgun, but in the end it isn't enough. Jessie and Sprog are murdered, setting the stage for Max's quest for vengeance and everything that comes after.

Like many of the actors in "Mad Max," Sheila Florance was much better known not only on Australian shores, but in the United Kingdom. Appearing on Australian TV screens and film screens since the late '50s, Florance was best known as the alcoholic repeat offender Lizzie Birdsworth on the soap opera "Prisoner." She appeared as Birdsworth in over 400 episodes over the course of four years, earning two Logie Awards (the Australian answer to the Emmys). UK audiences got to know Florance when the series was broadcast there under the title "Cell Block H." 

As the New York Times reported after her passing, Florance appeared as Martha — a woman dying of cancer — in "A Woman's Tale," her final role. She won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress for her performance. The part was written for Florance, who herself died from lung cancer in October 1991, only a week after accepting the AFI Award. She was 75. 

Jonathan Hardy almost won an Oscar

One of the most enigmatic characters in "Mad Max" is Labatouche, played by the late Jonathan Hardy. Labaotouche is the local Police Commissioner whose final scene provides perhaps the strangest exit in the entire film. In spite of the MFP wanting his help to fund their efforts to stop Toecutter and others like him, Labatouche seems interested mainly in fencing, and he leaves the film in kendo fighting gear, wielding a foil or fencing sword. 

Besides Mel Gibson, Jonathan Hardy is one of the few actors from "Mad Max" who gained notoriety outside of Australia. To science fiction fans, he's best remembered not for any physical appearance, but for his voice. Hardy lent his voice to Dominar Rygel XVI — the deposed, diminutive ruler who joined the crew of heroes on the cult sci-fi series "Farscape." He was the Man in the Moon in 2001's "Moulin Rouge!" and his talents didn't stop with acting. Hardy was an acclaimed screenwriter who earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the screenplay of the 1980 war drama "Breaker Morant." 

Hardy died in July, 2012 at his home in New South Wales. He was 71 years old. 

John Ley was stronger than a bulldozer

The late John Ley played Charlie in "Mad Max." Charlie's throat is injured early in the movie and he's forced to use an electrolarynx to speak. Another of Ley's most memorable roles would come just a few years later in another dystopian action flick. In 1982's "Turkey Shoot," Ley plays the orange-haired prisoner Dodge. 

Not a lot is known about John Ley's life after acting. His last credited roles are in the early '90s, most prominently on the Australian soap opera "Neighbours." According to his blog that was regularly updated until 2015, Ley was an aspiring poet and journalist — writing poetry, interviews, and acoustic music guides for a handful of publications. 

John Ley died in December 2020 at the age of 69. His daughter Aysha delivered the news on Facebook with a touching, eloquent tribute. She makes mention of a prolonged illness, and calls her father, "stronger than a bulldozer, thicker than a lamppost and bigger than a beluga whale."

Hugh Keays-Byrne taught George Miller acting

It would be understandable if you didn't know it, considering the unforgettable breathing mask fashioned like a cybernetic skull, but Hugh Keays-Byrne — who played the ruthless Toecutter of 1979's "Mad Max" — is the same guy who plays the relentless Immortan Joe in 2015's "Mad Max: Fury Road." George Miller was deeply influenced by Keays-Byrne's work early on, and, after the actor's passing, Miller told IndieWire, "I learned acting from him, probably more than anybody else that I worked with." Miller reportedly did his best to always find a spot for Keays-Byrne on his projects, including trying (and failing) to get him a voice spot in "Babe," and planning to cast him as the Martian Manhunter in the ultimately abandoned "Justice League" project

In the years between "Mad Max" and "Fury Road," Keays-Byrne found some memorable roles, particularly alongside other "Mad Max" alums. He played the recurring role of the untrustworthy Grunchik on "Farscape," in which Jonathan Hardy had a regular voice role. He was also Mr. Stubbs in the 1998 TV miniseries "Moby Dick," which starred Patrick Stewart as the iconic Captain Ahab. Bruce Spence, another "Mad Max" regular, also appeared in the show as Elijah.

As reported by Deadline, Hugh Keays-Byrne passed away peacefully in December 2020 at the age of 73. Among the friends and former co-stars who memorialized him, Charlize Theron wrote, "It's amazing you were able to play an evil warlord so well cause you were such a kind, beautiful soul."

Steve Millichamp was an actor and an entrepreneur

Always partnered with Charlie in "Mad Max" was Roop, played by the late Steve Millichamp. Together, they patrolled the dystopian Down Under as members of the MFP in their bright yellow 1974 Ford Falcon XB Sedan, better known as The Big Bopper. Roop was the Hardy to Charlie's Laurel, often yelling at his partner, particularly during their chase of the elusive gang member the Nightrider (Vincent Gil).

A fan memorial posted on Facebook says that Millichamp split his time between his acting career and entrepreneurship. The memorial says Millichamp did work behind the camera as well as in front of it, working both as a freelance grip, runner, and as a script assistant. As an actor, he worked regularly on the big and small screens until the early aughts, including appearing with fellow "Mad Max" alum on series like "Prisoner" and "Blue Heelers." He had a hand in founding a number of successful Australian business ventures, including the still thriving cosmetics company Coral Colours

According to the Facebook memorial and an obituary in The Age, Millichamp passed away in November 2013 at the age of 57. His cause of death is not mentioned, though some of the comments on his obituary page make reference to an illness.

Max Phipps was a beloved stage actor

The funniest and least physically impressive of the ranks of the brutal Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) in 1982's "The Road Warrior" is The Toadie, played by the late Max Phipps. It's curious the Toadie has any place among the marauders, considering just how useless he is. As the man who announces the arrival of Humungus, you're at first led to believe he's the brains of the operation — a suspicion you're cured of when he loses his fingers trying to catch the Feral Kid's (Emil Minty) sharp-edged boomerang. He eventually dies setting off a booby trap in Mad Max's car. 

According to an obituary from the Australian newspaper The Age (reproduced at the Mad Max Movies fan site), Max Phipps died from cancer in August of 2000 at the age of 60. Written by John Preston, who at the time was a lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology, the obituary focuses mainly on Phipps' stage work. Preston says Phipps' "dramatic range was unsurpassed" in Australian theater, and makes particular note of his comic roles such as when he played the iconic Doctor Frank N. Furter in a stage performance of "The Rocky Horror Show." 

In spite of the fact that Phipps worked regularly in television and film up until his death — including, like so many "Mad Max" alum, making an appearance on "Farscape" — the obit curiously barely touches on his TV work and makes no mention of his appearance in "The Road Warrior." 

Arkie Whiteley had a unique, too-short life

A character known only as The Captain's Girl stands out among the tribe of Pappagallo (Michael Preston), who controls the refinery Humungus and his marauders want so badly in "The Road Warrior." The sneaky Gyro pilot (Bruce Spence) tries to lure her away from the tribe and almost succeeds but, as they're slipping away in the night, she has a change of heart and refuses to leave. 

The Captain's Girl was played by Arkie Whiteley, whose last name — in Australia — carries a lot more weight. Arkie was the daughter of Brett and Wendy Whiteley. Brett Whiteley was a famous, award-winning artist before his death in 1992 and his ex-wife Wendy remains an esteemed cultural figure in Australia. 

In a loving tribute to Arkie Whiteley published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Janet Hawley wrote about Whiteley's singular life with her famous and artistic parents, and the actress' final years. She learned she had adrenal cancer shortly before marrying her second husband Jim Elliott in December 2001. She died that same month, at the age of 37.

Frank Thring was a veteran of Hollywood Bible epics

To survive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Max sometimes make deals with the last kind of people you want to make deals with. That's certainly the case in 1985's "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," the final film in the series to feature Mel Gibson as the eponymous drifter. Max is forced into an ugly bargain with Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) as soon as he arrives in the aptly named Bartertown, and the deal is brokered by the bespectacled, sweat-slicked Collector, played by the late Frank Thring. 

"Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" proved to be one of Frank Thring's final big screen roles, though the parts that filled the actor with pride came decades earlier. According to an obituary originally published in the Canberra Times, Thring "took great pleasure" knowing he had worked with theater and screen legends such as Laurence Olivier, who he shared a stage with for a production of the William Shakespeare tragedy "Titus Andronicus." On the big screen, Thring had the chance to work with Hollywood greats like Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis in 1958's "The Vikings." He also landed memorable villain roles in films set not after the apocalypse, but in Biblical times. He was Pontius Pilate in 1959's "Ben-Hur," and the Roman lord Herod in 1961's "King of Kings."

After a long struggle with cancer, Frank Thring died in December 1994, at the age of 68.

Angelo Rossitto worked alongside American legends

In "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," the man known only as Master — one half of the formidable Master Blaster — starts off as an antagonist. It's Master's powerful partner Blaster (Paul Larsson) who Max is tasked with killing in order to cement Aunty Entity's rule over Bartertown. But before the end of the flick, Master proves to be an essential ally in saving Max's young, new friends from the oasis Planet Erf. 

Master was played by Angelo Rossitto who had been acting since the silent movie era. According to The Irish Times, Rossitto became a favorite of horror legend Bela Lugosi after they co-starred in the 1941 horror comedy "Spooks Run Wild." Lugosi recruited him for other films like the following year's "The Corpse Vanishes" and 1947's "Scared to Death." Rossitto was also one of the stars of the controversial 1932 horror movie "Freaks," which — among other things — helped him get tapped to appear on album covers like Bob Dylan's "The Basement Tapes" and Tom Waits' "Swordfishtrombones."

"Beyond Thunderdome," filmed when Rossitto was 77, proved to be one of his final movies. Between his age and poor eyesight, Rossitto had trouble getting insured to appear in more films, so he retired after his role alongside Vincent Price in "From a Whisper to a Scream." He died in 1991 at the age of 83. In 2018, he appeared posthumously in Orson Welles' long-delayed film, "The Other Side of the Wind." 

Richard Carter went out all guns blazing

One of the fiercest villains of "Mad Max: Fury Road" is Richard Carter's Bullet Farmer, an old ally of Immortan Joe from before the world was a wasteland. In spite of his advanced age, the Bullet Farmer rages after Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) even after being blinded by gunfire. Carter's performance is one of the most unforgettable in the film, and it proved to be his last.

Richard Carter was a fixture in Australian television and film for decades, though he also scored some memorable roles beyond his own shores. He played Herzog in the 2013 adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" and had voice roles in popular family movies like the "Babe" and the "Happy Feet" films.

Luke Buckmaster — author of the 2017 book "Miller and Max" — wrote Richard Carter's obituary for The Guardian, after the actor died in July 2019 at the age of 65. Buckmaster wrote with admiration and affection for the man he'd interviewed for his book, and who he described as "kind, passionate, refreshingly unusual and thoughtful." In a particularly striking story, Buckmaster relates how, while filming "Fury Road" in Namibia, Carter and director George Miller came across what the actor described as "one and a half million greater and lesser flamingos." Carter said he and Miller were so struck by the experience that they returned to the set "hand in hand."

Quentin Kenihan defied all expectations

Starting with Bertrand Cadart's Clunk in "Mad Max," the franchise has a penchant for featuring characters who learn to thrive in brutal times, in spite of having disabilities that cause many to underestimate them even before the world went to hell. There is arguably no more perfect example than Corpus Colossus, played by Quentin Kenihan. As the eldest son of Immortan Joe, Corpus Colossus is left in charge of the Citadel when Joe leaves on his pursuit of his escaped wives, and no one — not even Joe's other sons — treat Colossus with anything but the respect and even fear due a wasteland warlord.

According to his obituary as presented by ABC Australia, Quentin Kenihan was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that rendered his bones so brittle he'd reportedly been dealt over 600 fractures in his lifetime. According to the Australian TV journalist Mike Willesee who interviewed Kenihan as a child, at the age of 7 the actor had told Willesee he was not expected to survive past 30. Kenihan not only surpassed those doctors' expectations, but he became a successful actor, TV host and disability advocate who was nicknamed the "little Aussie battler" because of his convictions. Before his passing he rubbed shoulders with celebrities such as Karl Urban, Angelina Jolie, and Russell Crowe — the latter of whom tweeted a touching tribute to Kenihan, calling the news of his death "devastating," and calling Kenihan "the bravest bloke" he'd ever met. Kenihan died in October 2018 at the age of 43.