It's not every actor who has the longevity to work with the likes of both Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino
But Rod Taylor had it.
The Australian actor, whose leading-man looks and solid presence kept him working in Hollywood for six decades, died Wednesday at the age of 84. The news was announced by his daughter Felicia Taylor, a former CNN correspondent.
Though he racked up dozens of film and TV credits over the years, Taylor was perhaps best known for starring opposite Tippi Hedren in The Birds, playing an eligible bachelor who catches the eye of a socialite and then ends up having to protect her and his family from a squadron of murderous avians in the Hitchcock classic.
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Taylor's breakout role came in George Pal's epic 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, in which he played a version of the Victorian-era novelist who leaps forward in time to find that society has split into hostile factions.
"There were no real special effects, there were no computers in those days," Taylor recalled in a late-1990s interview with Turner Classic Movies' Movie Talk. "This was all movie-making and trick stuff, and cartooning and models and stuff like that, so for The Time Machine to have become so classically wonderful is a feat of movie-making."
A year after braving a dystopian future, the Taylor provided the voice of Pongo in the original animated version of 101 Dalmations.
The thesp had prominent supporting roles in 36 Hours, Fate Is the Hunter and the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton-starring drama The V.I.P.s.
"I was really able to burst upon the scene, it was a wonderful experience," the actor also told TCM, remembering the golden age of Hollywood that he was a part of. "I was typecast to the extent 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 could fight in a bar, I guess."
But though he laughingly noted that he was cast in The Time Machine "when I was young and gorgeous," he also claimed that he didn't think he was good-looking enough to be the strapping leading man he was frequently cast as, but his leading ladies over the years such as Hedren, Debbie Reynolds and Doris Day would presumably have disagreed.
"There are so many incredible feelings I have for him. Rod was a great pal to me and a real strength, we were very, very good friends," Hedren told People, which was first to report the news of Taylor's death. "He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy, there was everything good in that man."
Moreover, Tarantino actually pulled Taylor out of retirement to play one of the toughest (mentally, at least) guys of all—Winston Churchill, in 2009's Inglourious Basterds.
After recurring roles on Murder, She Wrote and Walker, Texas Ranger in the late 1990s, Taylor ended up capping his career with Tarantino's critically acclaimed dark comedy.
Taylor is survived by his third wife, Carol Kikumura, whom he'd been married to since 1980, and Felicia, his daughter from his second marriage.