Australian filmmaker Stephan Elliott (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) has revealed that a new documentary on the late Rod Taylor will released this year. Elliott co-produced the recently-completed Pulling No Punches: Rod Taylor, which claims to be the first to pay kudos to the star of The Time Machine and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and whose career included collaborations with many other major filmmakers like George Stevens (Giant), Michelangelo Antonioni (Zabriskie Point) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds).
“He was a kid from Parramatta who simply turned up in LA to give Hollywood a crack,” says Elliott. “He was tough – a great boxer. Yet this was strangely at odds with his gentler side. He was an astonishing actor. He stole every minute he was in.”
Elliott previously directed Taylor, (who died on 7th January) in his 1997 comedy Welcome to Woop Woop, which featured the star in a standout part as a foul-mouthed patriarch of a fictional Outback Aussie town. The film was Taylor’s first local production in 20 years, following his turn as a pompous American travelling film exhibitor in John Power’s Victoria-shot comedy, The Picture Show Man (1977).
“I had lunch with him just before Christmas in LA, and after a couple of beers he was on fire,” says Elliott. “Bravery marked his entire career. He did TV at a time when it was considered career suicide movie-wise, voiced animation then seamlessly turned into a serious Hollywood player. Few people knew he turned down 007 on his agent's advice. He was a great talent, a mate and a trailblazer.”
The doco also acknowledges that Taylor was one of the first to put a unique stamp on the cinematic Australian male identity in Hollywood, unlike fellow Aussie stars Errol Flynn and Peter Finch, who had been labelled by studios as Irish and British respectively.
"Rod set the mould for the Australian onscreen tough guy/charming leading man and paved the way for the likes of Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and others to follow,” says Robert De Young, the documentary’s director. "Rod was enormously generous with his time and sharing his stories with us. He struck me as being genuinely humble about his life and career, which to be honest, was not what I expected."
Co-producer Stephan Wellink said he wanted to celebrate Taylor “because he was a great actor who deserved to receive greater recognition for his achievements, particularly in his homeland, Australia”.
"I first became aware of Rod Taylor when my father took me to the cinema to see The Time Machine. My father told me that the ‘man in the Time Machine’ was an Australian. I was fascinated and little did I know that some 50 years later I would sit with ‘H. G Wells’ at his Beverly Hills home as the cameras rolled for a documentary I conceived.
“My fondest memory of working with Rod for the documentary was the experience of bringing his co-star from The Birds, Tippi Hedren, to his house for the interview. Tippi and Rod hadn’t seen each other for about 20 years and it was a great privilege to be able to bring these two stars together to talk about working with Hitchcock. They loved catching up and sharing a laugh about their early days in Hollywood.”
Pulling No Punches: Rod Taylor will be released in mid-2015. Pictured below: Stephan Wellink with the late Rod Taylor.