Mad Max 2 & Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Is Bruce Spence the same character in Mad Max 2 and Thunderdome?
No. In Thunderdome neither character acknowledges each other in any way, and it seems clear therefore that Jebediah in Thunderdome is not meant to be the Gyro Captain character from Mad Max 2, otherwise we'd expect some sort of recognition between them. This is especially true when they first enter Thunderdome, and Jebediah is obviously trying to avoid Max because he has stolen his equipment, instead of going up and saying "hi" and apologising, which is what he should do if he recognises him from Mad Max 2. The end of Mad Max 2 tells that the Gyro Captain went north to live out his days, and if he did reappear somewhere else it seems the last person he'd be stealing from is Max.
Bruce Spence is a distinctive and well known Australian character actor, and it makes sense that they'd want to use him again for that particular part in Thunderdome. It's just confusing for us, given that he's already played a different character in another film in the series!
Plus Jebediah has really good teeth, which would have been kind of hard for the Gyro Captain to achieve.
Of course, my opinion could be totally wrong, so for your entertainment, here's one of the more reasonable arguments I've had from the opposing side, courtesy of The Word Warrior:
"The Wordwarrior's" opinion
"I believe that Bruce Spence's characters, the Gyro captain and Jebediah, are one in the same. Jebediah stole from Max simply because he didn't know who he was. Max's face was masked. Considering that Max almost killed the Gyrocaptain for trying to steal his V-8, I'm not surprised that Jebediah didn't try to get his attention after stealing his lorry and camels. As far as the Great Northern Tribe, nothing was ever said about him staying for the rest of his days. Obviously, the Gyrocaptain and Lusty Girl gave birth to Jebediah Jr. Perhaps she had died during childbirth or decided to stay with her "family" while the boys went out to trade.
George Miller did not cast Spence in his $12 million international film as a different character. Why would he cast him in a lead role for two consecutive sequels? Surely Miller would have changed his attributes for the third film. In the very first scene in Beyond Thunderdome we see Spence flying about in his plane, clearly connecting him with the flying Gyrocaptain of the previous movie. There just is no arguement to be made!"
Mike Jackson also pointed out that this isn't the first time a possibly "confusing" re-casting of an actor has happened in a series of films:
"This is not the first time such casting choices have been made in films: a good example is the Dollars trilogy - Gian Maria Volonte plays the major, but completely unrelated, villians in the first two films; and Lee Van Cleef plays a major role as a hero in the second yet a villian in the third!. So I agree with you - different characters for Bruce Spence!"
Of course, there's always Max Fairchild as well, who plays different characters in Mad Max and Mad Max 2.
Note that apparently at a talk / event George Miller and Terry Hayes confirmed that Bruce Spence is definitely a different character in the two films. I don't know when this talk was given, so if anyone has further info on where this originates (or has the exact quote) please contact me.
If you have a differing opinion, and want to add your own thoughts, I suggest visiting the discussion forum.