It is with great sadness that Cult Faction has to report that Rod Taylor has passed away aged 84 following a heart attck. Taylor was most known for his staring role in the H.G. Wells’ movie version of The Time Machine and an Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller The Birds. In recent years Taylor was known for his award winning portrayal of Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds – a role Tarantino offered him long after his retirement that he initially declined, suggesting Albert Finney instead! Taylor though was soon convinced by Tarantino and went on to win a Screen Actors Guild award in 2010 for the role.
Taylor was born on 11 January 1930 in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney, Austrailia, the only child of William Sturt Taylor, a steel construction contractor and commercial artist, and Mona Taylor (née Thompson), a writer of more than a hundred short stories and children’s books. His middle name comes from his great-great grand uncle, Captain Charles Sturt, a British explorer of the Australian Outback in the 19th century.
Taylor attended Parramatta High School and later studied at the East Sydney Technical and Fine Arts College. For a time he worked as a commercial artist, but decided to become an actor after seeing Laurence Olivier in an Old Vic touring production in Australia.
Taylor acquired extensive radio and stage experience in Australia where his radio work included a period on Blue Hills and a role as Tarzan. Earlier in his career he had to support himself by working at Sydney’s Mark Foy’s department store designing and painting window and other displays during the day. In 1951 he took part in a re-enactment of Charles Sturt’s voyage down the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, playing Sturt’s offsider, George Macleay. A short documentary, Inland with Sturt (1951), was based on it. Taylor also appeared in a number of theatre productions for Australia’s Mercury Theatre.
Taylor made his feature film debut in the Australian Lee Robinson film King of the Coral Sea (1954), playing an American. He later played Israel Hands in a Hollywood-financed film shot in Sydney, Long John Silver (1954), an unofficial sequel to Treasure Island. Following these two films, Taylor was awarded the 1954 Rola Show Australian Radio Actor of the Year Award, which included a ticket to London via Los Angeles, but Taylor did not continue on to London instead he headed for Hollywood.
In Hollywood, Taylor impressed everyone he met and received a number of roles including a major role in James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor’s Giant in 1956), but his first appearance on the Cult Faction radar happened in 1959 in The Twilight Zone episode And the Sky Was Opened.
Taylor was apparently the first choice for the role of Caucasian martial artist Roper in the Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973). The film was directed by Robert Clouse, who had also directed Taylor in the film, Darker than Amber (1970), but unfortunately Taylor was supposedly deemed too tall for the part, and the role instead went to John Saxon.
In the 1970s, Taylor turned again to television. He starred in Bearcats! (1971) and in The Oregon Trail (1976). He had a regular role in the short-lived spy drama series Masquerade (1983), and played one of the leads in the equally short-lived series Outlaws (1986).
From 1988 to 1990, Taylor appeared in Falcon Crest as Frank Agretti as well as appear in several episodes of Murder, She Wrote and Walker, Texas Ranger.
In 1993, he hosted the documentary Time Machine: The Journey Back. At the end of the special came a mini-sequel, written by David Duncan, the screenwriter of the George Pal film. Taylor recreated his role as George, reuniting him with Filby (Alan Young).
Taylor returned to Australia several times over the years to make films, playing a 1920s travelling showman in The Picture Show Man (1977), and a paid killer in On the Run (1983). In the black comedy Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) he played the foul-mouthed redneck ‘Daddy-O’. Then Tarantino came calling…
The actor is survived by his third wife Carol Kikumura, whom he married in 1980, and by his daughter