Bright Lights Film Journal

Welcome Back, Rod Taylor

One of the many incidental pleasures of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is the reappearance after far too long an absence of the wonderful Rod Taylor.

Taylor, who was born on January 11, 1930 in Sidney, Australia, has worked with some of cinema’s greatest auteurs – with George Stevens in Giant, playing memorable leads for George Pal in The Time Machine (1960 version), for Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds (above), for John Ford and Jack Cardiff in Young Cassidy, and giving the best performance in the otherwise indifferently-acted Zabriskie Point directed by Michelangelo “volumes in space” Antonioni.

Taylor came out of retirement to play Sir Winston Churchill in Tarantino’s highly personalized take on World War II (as much about the cinema as it is about the War). According to the Miami Herald, Taylor “watched dozens of DVDs to get Churchill’s voice, complete with lisp, and the hunched body language.” Tarantino is, of course, a huge Taylor fan: “He particularly loves Dark of the Sun [Jack Cardiff, 1968].”

Taylor as Churchill appears in one scene only of Inglourious Basterds, saying very little, but dominating the scene with his presence as only a true star can.