DIRECTING ROD TAYLOR
Rod was in 'The Time Machine' & Hitchcock's 'The Birds'
I've been a fan of Rod Taylor since I saw The Time Machine. And who better to take us through the narration of a story than the guy that most boys, and the young at heart, have taken the ride with him countless times in his machine.
His narrative voice is strong and gentle at the right times and we trust him to guide us on our adventure together into the future. So for me, he was the only choice for my audio-book Rock Star Rising.
We planned to start recording at 9 am. My producer and friend Larry Metzger and I decided to site in the plush building lobby and wait for Rod. The sound man was setting things up in the studio and everything was cool. Our chairs in the lobby faced the heavy glass recording studio door that had a bell on it. We were only 10 feet away, and since there was no one else in the lobby on a Saturday we would surely see Rod arrive.
Suddenly in the midst of conversation the sound man comes out and says, "Rod's here. He's in the studio." I said, "What! We were both looking right at the door. We would have seen him open the heavy slow door and heard the bell." We jumped up and went into the studio.
Rod, even though having never met me, greeted me with a big smile and a "Hello Paul." Maybe he checked my photo on IMDB site, I don't know. But I had heard that Rod is a happy, gregarious fellow and I saw that in person one other time which I will tell later on. He said, "I really enjoyed your script especially...." and then he quoted a passage by heart. And then said, "That's a long winded sentence, but I think I can make it."
I said, "Yeah, I do have a few run-on sentences in there." I told him how much I liked him and Jim Brown in Dark of the Sun. That is the movie where he plays a mercenary soldier and takes a train into the African Congo to bring back people trapped by rebels, as well as diamonds. Rod said, "Do you know, that's Martin Scorsese's and Quentin Tarintino's number one favorite movie?"
After a few more stories, I explained to Rod how we were recording in digital and that he could stop and repeat a line again any time he wanted.; hat any mistake could be easily cut out later. This was his first time working with digital and was amazed how technology had progressed since he had recorded the voice of Pogo in the original 101 Dalmatians.
Rod started out as contract player for MGM. He appeared in Giant and Separate Tables. He made it a point to appear only in good movies, turning down lower class productions, as he was, and is, truly interested in doing good work in a profession that he really respects.
He gained fame with The Time Machine and the TV show Hong Kong where he became the highest paid actor for a one hour show. Rod solidified his star position with the Alfred Hitchock movie, The Birds. Fate is the Hunter, 36 Hours, and Dark of the Sun showed he could chose imaginative and rugged parts.
Only at one point in the narration of my production did Rod actually lose his breath, at the end of which he chuckled out, "There you go again, Paul, with the run-on sentences." "Sorry Rod. I was advised on my first novel that there was a period on the typewriter. I thought I had improved."
I was surprised when Rod made improvements to some of the lines I wrote and even found an "unnecessary and confusing" passage that he recommended I delete. When he explained it to me, I understood right away and deleted it. Rod was not only acting, he was processing the story and making additions and improvements.
He was a real example of a professional interested in his craft. At the 2-hour point, Rod asked for a break. We talked about his other films and I was able to tell him this story:
"You know Rod, I once visited your set at the Burbank studio when you were filming the TV pilot for "Shamus." I sat on an "apple box" against the wall and watched you film. When you finished, you started telling a funny experience to the crew, who gathered around you and where I was sitting. Half way through your story you looked around for a place to sit and sat on the end of the box, shoulder to shoulder with me. I was in heaven sitting with my hero. "Rod laughed and replied, "You should have told me to 'Get the hell off my apple box'."
After finishing the narration, I asked Rod to sign a Time Machine photo for me. Instead of leaning over the table, he sat himself down as if preparing to paint a master piece, and signed it large and clear.
Just before leaving, I said to him, "Rod, just one last thing. I want to tell you my favorite line you ever said in the movies: "Put the swastika back on. You've earned it!" He said, "Yeah, that's from Dark of the Sun. He then added. "I had a great time working with you. Good luck with your project."
A week later when Larry and I were again sitting outside in the lobby near the recording studio door, it finally occurred to me how Rod had gotten inside without us seeing him. "Larry", I said, using a Scottish accent, trying to sound like Alan Young in 'The Time Machine'. "Now I see. Rod drug his heavy machine over there, scratching the floor, so that he would appear inside the studio to record our production and make a better world for us." I don't know which three books he took with him. But I hope one of them is Rock Star Rising.