Welcome to Woop Woop (1998)
Rod Taylor plays Daddy-O in his return to Australian cinema, four decades
after leaving his native Sydney for Hollywood.
This was director Stephan Elliott's first effort since his campy cult
film, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," and
viewers seem to rate "Woop Woop" as either hilarious or vile.
Of course, it's both vile AND hilarious -- and that's the point.
BEHIND THE SCENES
"People will laugh and they will be offended," director Elliott
has said. "Ultimately, as upset as the politcally-corrected may stand,
it's very tongue-in-cheek. A silly, silly movie."
One newspaper proclaimed that "The heart and soul of 'Woop Woop'
is the sensational performance by Australian expat actor Rod Taylor"
and further explained:
Elliott believes the performance grew out of the fact
that Taylor, a genuine knockabout Aussie, has lived and worked in America
for so long that he has been forced to suppress his natural self for 40
"The true base of what he was has been simmering
away under the surface -- like boiling to get out -- and this role came
along and he just explodes on screen," Elliott said. "I usually
tell the actors I am working with to turn it up a bit. Rod is the first
actor I have worked with where I had to keep telling him to turn it down
a bit. Once it was unleashed the energy coming out of the man was just
terrifying. I was there going 'down Rod, down, cool it baby.'"
-- Sunday Tasmanian, Aug. 16, 1998
Elliott sought out Taylor for the role of Daddy-O, the patriarch of warped
Woop Woop, based on his fond memories of "The Time Machine" and
"Picture Show Man."
When his name came up, I said he is such an American now,
I wonder if he could do it. I rang his agent and asked is he still working
[and] do you think he could pull off the accent. He said, "Why don't
you just go round to his house and knock on the door." So I did, he
threw it open and said, "G'day...how the f--- are you? Come in and
have a glass of red wine."
I said to him immediately, "You have the job."
It was that quick.
To make it even more perfect, his comic timing is so spot-on.
I hope this is a good film for him as it was with [Terence Stamp, in "Priscilla"],
an amazing resurrection. This shows ... that he is an amazing actor.
-- Sunday Tasmanian, Aug. 16, 1998
Rod accepted the role in a snap. "I fell off the sofa laughing when
I read the script," he said. "It was the most outrageous comedy
I had ever read and certainly the most outrageous comedy I'd ever acted
in. I usually do nice sophisticated comedies with Jane Fonda and people
like that -- gentlemanly roles. But here I am in Australia playing this
bloody dinosaur with tattoos. It is just fantastic."
Several reviewers thought Rod was fantastic, too. An Australian reviewer
In a stroke of inspired casting, Rod Taylor looms larger
than life as the lewd Daddy-O, and basically steals the film. His character
is vile and vulgar, yet Taylor manages to inject a dose of charm that is
hard to ignore. The scene in the bar when he tap dances on electric sparking
feet is quite sensational.
A reviewer in Toronto liked Rod, too:
Especially notable is Rod Taylor's version of the blustery
autocrat, Daddy-O. ... Taylor seems to have gone through an acting rebirth
since his days as the square-jawed lover boy from the '60s action movies.
So did the Los Angeles Times:
There are many funny moments in "Woop Woop,"
and two very good performances. One is from ... a nearly unrecognizable
Rod Taylor, a former Hollywood leading man who returns to his native Australia
[as the] cruel, iron-fisted ruler of Woop Woop.
And finally, Rod's co-star -- Jonathan Schaech, in The Australian, Jan.
HE is a sensational
actor. Charisma, balls, strength, power, emotion and great comedic timing.
Originally titled "The Big Red," the film was shown as a work-in-progress
at Cannes. "Woop Woop" had plenty of detractors, but what most
reviews of this movie agreed upon is that the point of "Woop Woop"
is not the plot, it's the bizarre characters.
ON THE SCREEN
Speaking of plot -- here's the outline: "Welcome to Woop Woop"
is the story of Teddy (Johnathon Schaech), a streetwise hood who hawks exotic
birds in New York City. In an alleyway shoot-out, Teddy's birds are released,
and as they swoop over the city, New Yorkers find a solution that perhaps
the good people of Bodega Bay should have considered in "The Birds."
Teddy flees to Australia and ends up shackled in the outback to a "girl
who cain't say no," Angie (Susie Porter). He tentatively meets and
then bonds with the weird folk of Woop Woop, which is run by Angie's father,
Daddy-O's rules? All money is pooled for the common good; nobody leaves,
and only Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes are allowed (which, by the way,
makes for a wonderful soundtrack -- my favorite pick-me-up!).
Rod has magnificent moments in this film: His joyous dance upon the bar
(to "Shall We Dance," of course), his speech as he lays out the
rules, and another as he relates the history of Woop Woop after his authority
is challenged by Teddy. This is a great actor having a wonderful time.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Author Michael Winkler has brought us an essential guide to this
misunderstood movie in his book, "Fahfangoolah!: The
Despised and Indispensable Welcome to Woop Woop," published in 2016.
Winkler writes that Woop Woop has "everything a cult classic needs:
top-notch casting, quotable dialogue, memorable music, crazy costumes,
black humour and ... batshit crazy cameos."
Rod Taylor, of course, heads the "top-notch casting" part. The chapter
titled "Rod Taylor and Johnathon Schaech" opens with this statement:
"The great roaring engine that propels Welcome to Woop Woop is Daddy-O."
Rod also provides quotable dialogue: "As Daddy-O, [Taylor's] accent is
not just broad Australian but wonderfully, broad 1950s Australia. The
voice is right, the face is fantastic, and he even contributed his own
catchphrase -- 'Fahfangoolah!'"
Winkler does a great job of capturing why "Woop Woop" is so
misunderstood but yet so essential in depicting a disappearing slice of
Australian life. The book also maps out the triumphs and challenges of
the production, as well as the forces that shaped the final product.
In regard to Rod, the book contains praise for his performance and
offers details about key scenes -- especially his electrifying tap-dance
on the bar.
It also describes some scenes that didn't make the final cut, including:
A pivotal scene that would have explained why the
residents of Woop Woop wear such a weird assortment of clothing. It
was inspired by director Stephan Elliott's recollection of the all
the "inappropriate crap" that he saw piled up following a call to
aid the residents of a flooded town -- wedding dresses, designer
gowns, platform shoes, etc. The deleted scene has Daddy-O
driving up in a big truck and screaming, "The rain's come down in
Marble Bar," and then he empties a bunch of castoff clothing from
A sub-plot that gives Daddy-O further ammunition, so
to speak, for shooting Midget as he tries to escape Woop Woop.
The book offers a glimmer of hope that such scenes -- and Elliott's
original vision -- may surface one day. Elliott says he'd love to raise
the money and put all the footage back together. In the meantime, read
all about it!
Michael Winkler's website
Book review on Urban Cinefile