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Movie Talk (TCM interview)

Rod Taylor discusses films, friends and leading ladies in this interview show produced for Turner Classic Movies. It may have been taped in 1996 and was aired in late 2001 in Australia.

Taylor reminisces amid film clips of "Raintree County," "The Time Machine," "The VIPs," "Sunday in New York," "Young Cassidy," "Dark of the Sun" and "Zabriskie Point." Following are some highlights of his interview, in text and video.

On whether he felt he was typecast:

Typecast in the sense that it was mostly kind of an active leading man, which kind of embarrassed me sometimes because I really wasn't big enough to be a really tough guy.... I wasn't good looking enough to pull off some of the roles I was put into, and so I was a little bit... sometimes insecure playing all that kind of thing. That's why it's so wonderful for me now, being an ugly old dinosaur, to play an ugly old dinosaur like I did just now in Australia ["Welcome to Woop Woop," filmed in 1995].

Remembering an early role, playing alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift and Eva Marie Saint, Taylor said:

"Raintree County" to me was the very beginning so I was mostly overawed. ... I was little bit shy that this was my first big big movie ... and I was the new kid on the block.

A few movies later:

"The Time Machine" is a big part of my life because it was my first starring role. ... It was made for 600,000 bucks and nobody thought it would be anything. ... [But now] it's probably the biggest ... classic of of science fiction movies ever. ... There were no computers in those days. This was all movie-making and tricksters and cartooning and modeling. So for "The Time Machine" to have become so classically wonderful is a feat of movie-making.

On "Sunday in New York":

I love to play high comedy and this was strictly high comedy. And Jane [Fonda] and I got on so beautifully... and we never stopped laughing. On screen, off screen just laughing all the time. ... It was the first time for me filming on the streets of New York. ... The cops would come over for autographs and everybody would go ooh-ahh every time I kissed Jane on the bus. ... It was very exciting.

On "The VIPs":

It was one of the few times that I played what I really am, an Aussie, and so I just had a ball. And Terrance Rattigan -- he was one wonderful screenwriter and playwriter -- without any ego whatsoever, he came to me and said, 'Rod I'm not too sure about Australians. If you want to write some of your dialogue, that would be fine.' So I went ahead and wrote stuff with the full permission of Terrance Rattigan!

He was amazed at his circumstances in "Young Cassidy":

I'm an Australian who breaks into Hollywood, becomes and American star, goes to Ireland to play the starring role of Sean O'Casey with Dame Edith Evans, Sir Michael Redgrave, Dame Flora Robson, Maggie Smith, Julie Christie's first picture and the whole of the Dublin Abbey players. You don't think I was scared?

On "Dark of the Sun":

"Dark of the Sun" was a violent, violent movie. Nowadays they'd think it was a fairy tale. ... They threw us out of the Congo because it was just too political. And we finished up in Jamaica, where we had a ball and shot some wonderful stuff. Jack Cardiff was the director and he's one of the greatest cameramen ever, so it was an immensely well-mounted and well-shot movie.

A rare discussion of "Zabriskie Point":

"Zabriskie Point" was magnificently done. And Michelango [Antonioni] was a magnificently talented director. When he becomes outrageous, there's a sense of viciousness in his kind of commentary. It was very, very anti-American, so much so that Antonioni would have the dailies -- cans of film -- shipped directly to Rome and he would give a second set to MGM so they wouldn't see what he was doing.

On his leading ladies:

I loved all my leading ladies, but I think that the fun of working and loving at the same time -- getting on well with somebody and doing good constructive immensely talented work -- was Maggie [Smith]. Maggie was a delight. Of course they've all been wonderful.

And finally, on his past, present and future:

I had a wonderfully interesting youth and sometimes wild youth. At that age I was going all over the world , working with the most beautiful people in the world and the most talented people in the world. It was just an incredible life.

I never look at my movies because it reminds me that I was fairly presentable in those days and now I'm just an old codger. I don't revel in the memorabilia at all. I'm interested in what's coming next.



Video on YouTube