Biography

A trained painter, Australian-born Rod Taylor switched to acting in his early twenties, toting up Australian stage credits before making his first Aussie film, The Stuart Exposition, in 1951. A villainous stint as Israel Hand in the 1954 Australian/U.S. production Long John Silver gave evidence that Taylor might be able to handle leading roles. However, he was still among the supporting ranks in his first American film, The Virgin Queen (1955). Signed to a nonexclusive contract by MGM in 1957, Taylor was cast in predominantly American roles, and accordingly managed to submerge his Australian accent in favor of a neutral "mid-Atlantic" cadence; even when playing an Englishman in 1960's The Time Machine, he spoke with barely a trace of a discernable accent. His film career peaked in the early to mid 1960s; during the same period he starred in the TV series Hong Kong (1961), the first of several weekly television stints (other series included Bearcats, The Oregon Trail, Masquerade and Outlaws). He was so long associated with Hollywood that, upon returning to Australia to appear in the 1977 film The Picture Show Man, Taylor was cast as an American. In his later career, Taylor thrived in character roles as ageing, but still virile, outdoorsmen, appearing in television shows like The Oregon Trail and Outlaws. He had recurring roles on Falcon Crest, Murder, She Wrote and Walker, Texas Ranger before mostly retiring from acting. In 2009, director Quentin Tarantino lured him out of retirement with the chance to play Winston Churchill in Inglourious Basterds. Taylor died in 2015, at age 84. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi