Veteran film star Rod Taylor looks like something the
cat’s dragged in. His craggy face is dirty. His hair is
tussled around a blue and white bandana, but the white gave up
long ago. His torn footy shirt bears the scars of many mishandled
snacks and a few beer stains as well. But his grin is as friendly
as a bloke who’s won the chook raffle, as we settle into his
caravan on location, as the night falls on the centre of
Australia at Alice Springs. His appearance - even the cold can of
beer he clutches - echoes Daddy-O, his wild and dangerous
character in Welcome to Woop Woop, but his talk is about the Rod
Taylor who left Australia at 24, 42 years ago, "because
there was no film making here … there was nowhere to
He walked in through the gates of MGM and saw Clark Gable
coming out "with his arms full of stuff from his dressing
room and only the cop at the gate said ‘goodbye, Mr
Gable’ and I thought: "Oh hell," so I was at the
tail end of the great Hollywood days, the very tail end. It's
become so commercial and run by so many ex-agents and attorneys
and accountants. There's nothing charming and wonderful and
exciting about it really, it's just immensely expensive
He’s bored with it. Which is one reason why he’s
grinning and talking without taking breath, excited to be on set
"It's waiting to
burst, the Aussie in me you know"
"Reading this script, I thought, this is my dream,
because I kind of lived with my mates out here, I lived with the
feeling of it….you know, it's waiting to burst, the Aussie
in me you know. And this seemed to be like a gift: I really fell
off the chair laughing and I said: "I'm damn well doing
it," and I'll have a ball here. And I love Daddy-O, even
though he's tyrannosaurus Rex, a dinosaur, but he really believes
But Taylor continues to live and work in America; tv series
and major dramas fill his schedule, movies of the week, including
one recently he really enjoyed doing, Outlaws, in which plays a
Taylor’s home base is a house in Beverley Hills, but has
another in Santa Barbara (at Carpenteria), "so I can get the
hell out of Los Angeles, and I’ve got my ocean and my surf
and stuff like that," says the man who has retained his
broad Australian accent, and the archetypical, colourful, strong
varnecular (much of which has been edited out of this interview).
"For once he
doesn’t feel like a f. . . . . . phoney,"
He quips that for once he doesn’t feel like a f. . . . .
. phoney, "because maybe out of 60 motion pictures I’ve
only played two Aussies, you know. . .one in the VIP’s, with
Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith and Orson Welles - and The High
Commissioner, with Lily Palmer and Christopher Plummer."
But Taylor hopes he can do it again - play an Aussie, and
preferably here in Australia. "I really hope this is opening
the door for me to do at least one a year here, which would be
lovely - if they're at all impressed … I would love to
gradually ease my way back, I just adore Sydney and Carol, my
wife, loves it too."
"I just saw you on
television and you're fat. . ."
Taylor met Carol during the shooting of the series Hong Kong,
over a dozen years ago. He tells the story in his trademark
larrikin style: "She was an art student who played hookey
from art school to be an extra on the thing and so this lecherous
old tiger takes a look at this 17 year old hanging around 20th
Century Fox . . . and we had a little friendship and then I
didn't see her for years, years and years and years. She became a
dancer and went to Vegas with Flower Drum Song, then owned a
business in Vegas, needlepoint or something at the Desert Inn -
and after years and years she called me in Los Angeles and said:
"I just saw you on television and you're fat. . ." and
I said: "Come over here and say that!" and we took up
again and eventually got married. We’ve been married for 12
years going on 15 now."
Taylor has an only daughter from his second marriage,( "I
married a little girl called Peggy Williams and she’s still
here in Sydney … " ) who is the anchor for CNBC
Financial News in New York. "Dunno where she got this
from," says Taylor puzzling over his genes.
But his life in Hollywood is not all movies of the week and
"I write and I still
"I write and I still paint, I was . . . not a hippie, not
a beatnik, what are they called - a bohemian. I went to East
Sydney Tech and that's how I got into the business, doing
illustrative stuff and ceramic pottery. I'd listen to these soap
operas on the radio, and I said, I can do that. So I went and did
an audition and became the biggest radio actor in Sydney and
that's how it all started. There's a book - just came out in the
US called Actors as Artists: you may see some of my work in
Taylor the painter works in oils and other media: "oils
take up too much time and it's too messy but I do a lot of pen
and wash and stuff like that. But when I'm not working if it's
not writing, it's yearning to do something in the industry. But I
also make furniture. I’ve got a work shop, with a lot of
dangerous toys and I like to make tables and chairs."
Taylor slugs another mouthful of his can of XXXX beer and
keeps talking without a pause.
"One of my follies was
I bought a ranch..."
"One of my follies was I bought a ranch over there
because I wanted it to be like the farm I used to go to. My treat
every Christmas holidays was to go up to Uncle Charlie who was a
real country bastard, who would work me from 4 in the morning
till dark. So I got this ranch, I built windmills like I
remembered, I put up water tanks and I sank wells and got no
friggin’ water . . . it was just a total folly. Total
Is it still there?
"Yeah, it's still being paid for. Some idiot bought it
that couldn't afford it . . ."