About stephenvagg

Stephen's writing career started with sketches for the UQ Law Revue, then graduated to sketches for a group of people who met doing the UQ Law Revue and didn't want to stop. He began writing plays and scripts which thankfully were never made, but got him accepted into the Australian Film Television Radio School as a token ex-lawyer. Since then he has written for TV, film and theatre, as well as various magazines and journals. He earned an AWGIE nomination for his play "Friday Night Drinks", an AFI nomination for his screenplay, "All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane", and a living writing "Home and Away" for television.

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches

A documentary on the life and times of Rod Taylor, Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches, debuted on Foxtel last week. Full disclosure: I’m in it, and am credited as “consultant” – probably the only time in my life I’ll ever co-star with Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, Rod and Tippi Hedren (among others).

There’s some great “talking heads” especially Rod himself, who was interviewed before he died. It features many of the people I was unable to talk with for my book – Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Murray Niedorf, Stephan Elliot and Rod himself. Worth checking out – the trailer is here.

Vale Rod Taylor

It’s a weird sensation when someone you’ve written a book about dies. I never actually met Rod Taylor but I would have spent, I guess, two years researching and writing about his life and career. I’m sad I never got the chance to meet him but he had a wondrous life – a working class kid from Lidcombe who got to travel the world, make a lot of money, do a job he loved, have flings with a succession of glamorous women and act in a lot of terrific films and TV shows. He also made lots of friends, got to marry his soul mate (his third time at bat but better late than never!) and from all accounts he kept active and engaged until the end. And for twenty years he was the biggest Aussie star in Hollywood – Vale Rod, and thanks for such adventures.

Quick Rod Taylor primer for anyone interested in watching his movies:

– If you’ve never seen a Rod Taylor movie, I urge you to check out The Time Machine (1960) and The Birds (1963). Those are the two of his pretty much every one likes, along with 101 Dalmatians (1961), for which he provided one of the voices.

– If you like glossy 50-60s rom coms about single girls worried about their virginity in New York City, you’ll enjoy Ask Any Girl (1959) and Sunday in New York (1964).

– If you like glossy all star melodramas from the 60s, it’s worth looking at The VIPs (1963) (where he plays an Aussie) and Hotel (1967)

– If you’re a fan of gritty guys on a mission action flicks, you’re going to love Dark of the Sun (1968)

– Lovers of wacky screwball comedies will enjoy The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) with Doris Day

-If you want to see what happens when MGM give Antonioni $7 million and complete creative carte blanche, see Zabriskie Point (1970) – Rod’s role is only small but its a fascinating, flawed movie

– If you don’t have a lot of time, and/or are into sci fi his best TV performance was probably “And the Sky Was Opened”, a 1959 episode of The Twilight Zone – 30 mins of paranoiac greatness

– If you’re into “little known undiscovered gems” I can recommend the war time thriller 36 Hours (1964) and the air crash mystery Fate is the Hunter (1964)

– His best Australian movie was probably The Picture Show Man (1977) but his role is only small; he has a bigger part and is easily the best thing about Welcome to Woop Woop (1997)

– His best fight scene was in Darker Than Amber (1970)

– Great role he never played: either of the two leads in a version of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll