Rodney Sturt "Rod" Taylor (born 11 January 1930) is an Australian actor of film and television. He has appeared in over 50 films, and is well known for his leading roles in the science fiction classic The Time Machine (1960), and in the Alfred Hitchcock horror story The Birds (1963).
Taylor was born on 11 January 1930 in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney, the only child of William Sturt Taylor, a steel construction contractor and commercial artist, and the former Mona 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.
Taylor soon landed roles in television shows such as Studio 57 and the films Hell on Frisco Bay (1955) and Giant (1956). In 1955, he guest-starred in the third episode ("The Argonauts") of the first hour-long western television series, Cheyenne, an ABC programme starring Clint Walker. Taylor and Edward Andrews played gold seekers Clancy and Duncan, respectively, who are best friends until they strike it rich, only to see native Americans release their gold dust to the wind. The episode was a remake of the film Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Taylor was considered for one of the leads in Warner Bros. Television's Maverick.
Towards the end of 1955, Taylor unsuccessfully screen tested to play boxer Rocky Graziano in MGM's Somebody Up There Likes Me after James Dean's death, but his use of a Brooklyn accent and physical prowess in the test impressed the studio enough to gain him a long-term contract. At MGM he played a series of support roles in The Catered Affair,Raintree County (1957) and Ask Any Girl (1959). He had a significant role in Separate Tables (1958), which won Oscars for two of its stars, David Niven and Wendy Hiller. He also made a strong impression guest-starring in "And When the Sky Was Opened" (1959), an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Taylor's first leading role in a feature film was George Pal's adaptation of H.G. Wells' science-fiction classic The Time Machine (1960) as a man who transports himself from 1900 England into the near and then distant future. Taylor played a character not unlike that of his Twilight Zone episode of a year earlier. This film, made in color, would be one of a number of breakthrough science fictions films in the 1960s, manifesting Rod Taylor's unique combination of charisma and gentlemanliness. It was as seminal a film for Taylor, as it would prove to be for science fiction.
In the 1960-61 television season, Taylor starred as foreign correspondent Glenn Evans in the ABC dramatic series Hong Kong. His principal co-star was Lloyd Bochner; Jack Kruschen played the bartender, Tully. The program faced stiff competition on Wednesday evenings from NBC's Wagon Train and hence lasted only one season. He voiced Pongo the Dalmatian in Disney's animated One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) and also guest-starred in 1961 on Marilyn Maxwell's short-lived ABC series Bus Stop. In 1962, he starred in an episode of NBC's The DuPont Show of the Week ("The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon"), an adaptation of A.J. Cronin's novel, Shannon's Way.
Taylor starred in Alfred Hitchcock's horror/thriller The Birds (1963) along with Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, and Suzanne Pleshette, playing a man whose town and home come under attack by menacing birds. Taylor later said of working with Hitchcock, "What separates a great director from a not-great director is their vision. ... They can look at a thing and compose it as well as Cezanne. Hitchcock would have his Cezannes around in sketch form. Everything was planned. He was so extremely technical ... He was an architect, rather than a wonderfully fluid painter."
Also in 1963, Taylor had a leading role in the all-star cast of The V.I.P.s along with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Orson Welles and Maggie Smith.
During the mid-'60s, Taylor worked mostly for MGM, his credits including Sunday in New York (1963), Fate Is the Hunter (1964 for 20th Century Fox), 36 Hours (1965), Young Cassidy (1965), The Liquidator (1965) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). He began to change his image towards the end of the decade to more tough-guy roles, such as Chuka (which he also produced) (1967), Dark of the Sun (aka The Mercenaries) (1968), Nobody Runs Forever (1968) and Darker than Amber (1970).
He was also reportedly up for the role of Caucasian martial artist Roper in the Bruce Lee vehicle Enter the Dragon (1973). The film was directed by Robert Clouse, who had also directed Taylor in the 1970 film, Darker than Amber. 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) on CBS and in The Oregon Trail (1976) on NBC. 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 the CBS drama series Falcon Crest as Frank Agretti, playing opposite Jane Wyman. In the mid 1990s, he appeared 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 original writer 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 1997, he played the foul-mouthed redneck "Daddy-O" in the black comedy Welcome to Woop Woop.
Taylor came out of retirement for the small but important role of Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Married to third wife Carol Kikumura since 1980, Taylor is the father of CNN financial reporter Felicia Taylor (born 1964), from his second marriage to model Mary Hilem (1963-69). His first wife was model Peggy Williams (1951-54).
He now lives in New York City.
King of the Coral Sea (1954) (film debut),
Long John Silver (1954),
The Virgin Queen (1955),
Hell on Frisco Bay (1955),
Top Gun (1955),
World Without End (1956),
The Catered Affair (1956),
Raintree County (1957),
Separate Tables (1958),
Step Down to Terror (1958),
And When the Sky Was Opened (1959),
Ask Any Girl (1959),
The Time Machine (1960),
Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960),
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) (voice),
Seven Seas to Calais (1962),
The Birds (1963),
A Gathering of Eagles (1963),
The V.I.P.s (1963),
Sunday in New York (1963),
Fate is the Hunter (1964),
36 Hours (1965),
Young Cassidy (1965),
The Liquidator (1965),
Do Not Disturb (1965),
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966),
Dark of the Sun (1968),
Nobody Runs Forever (1968) (aka The High Commissioner),
The Hell with Heroes (1968),
Zabriskie Point (1970),
Darker than Amber (1970),
The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970),
Powderkeg (1971) (TV),
Family Flight (1972) (TV),
The Train Robbers (1973),
Gli eroi (1973) (aka The Heroes),
Trader Horn (1973),
The Deadly Trackers (1973),
Hell River (1974) (aka Partizani),
A Matter of Wife... And Death (1976) (TV),
The Oregon Trail (1976) (TV),
The Picture Show Man (1977),
The Treasure Seekers (1979),
Cry of the Innocent (1980) (TV),
A Time to Die (1983),
On the Run (1983),
Terror in the Aisles (1984),
Mask of Murder (1985),
Half Nelson (1985) (TV),
Marbella, un golpe de cinco estrellas (1985),
Danielle Steel's 'Palomino' (1991) (TV),
Grass Roots (1992) (TV),
Point of Betrayal (1995),
Welcome to Woop Woop (1998),
Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy (1998) (TV),
KAW (2007) (TV),
Inglourious Basterds (2009),
As a regular:
Taylor has had several lead roles in television, from the early 1960s to the early first decade of the 21st century. Among his TV shows as a regular are:
Hong Kong with co-star Lloyd Bochner (1960, ABC),
Bearcats! (1971, CBS),
The Oregon Trail as Evan Thorpe, a widower taking his three children from their Illinois farm to the Pacific Northwest by way of the Oregon Trail (1977, NBC),
Studio 57 (1955) - "The Last Day on Earth", "The Black Sheep's Daughter",
Lux Video Theatre (1955) - "Dark Tribute", "The Browning Version",
Cheyenne (1955) - "The Argonauts",
Suspicion (1957) - "The Story of Marjorie Reardon",
Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1958) - "A Thing to Fight For",
Studio One (1958) - "Image of Fear",
Lux Playhouse (1958) - "The Best House in the Valley",
Playhouse 90 (1958-59) - "Verdict of Three", "The Great Gatsby", "The Long March", "The Raider", "Misalliance",
The Twilight Zone (1959) - "And When the Sky Was Opened",
Zane Grey Theater (1960) - "Picture of Sal",
Goodyear Theatre (1960) - "Capital Gains",
General Electric Theater (1960) - "Early to Die", "The Young Years",
Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1960) - "Thunder in the Night",
Bus Stop (1961) - "Portrait of a Hero",
The DuPont Show of the Week (1962) - "The Ordeal of Dr. Shannon",
Walker, Texas Ranger,
Murder, She Wrote,
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Independent, 1950),
Home of the Brave by Arthur Laurents (Independent, 1950),
Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw (John Alden Company, 1951),
Twins by Plautus (Mercury, 1952),
Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare (Mercury, 1952),
The Witch by John Masefield (Mercury, 1952),
They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard (Mercury, 1952),
The Happy Time by Samuel A. Taylor (Mercury, 1953),
Inland with Sturt (1951),
The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985),
Time Machine: The Journey Back (1993),
All About the Birds (2000),
Not Quite Hollywood (2008)