Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
Rod Taylor is an undercurrent throughout director Quentin
Tarantino's 2019 movie set in 1969 Los Angeles.
In "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," Leonardo DiCaprio
plays Rick Dalton, an actor at a crossroads in his career. Brad Pitt
Booth, Rick's stuntman/assistant/best buddy. Much has been
reported about the similarity between this movie pairing and the
relationship between actor Burt Reynolds and stuntman/director/best
buddy Hal Needham.
But, as Rod Taylor biographer Stephen Vagg has pointed out, "The
relationship between actor Rick Dalton and his stuntman Cliff Booth
has parallels to Rodís close relationship with stuntman Fred Hakim."
Fred Hakim with Rod Taylor and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
characters Cliff Booth and Rick Dalton.
Rod met Hakim when the latter was a grip on the set of
Not Disturb" (1965). The two hit it off and Hakim spent the next
decade as Rodís general
assistant/stuntman/stand-in/driver/whatever -- like Cliff was
for Rick in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Rod was single
[most of that] time, and Fred and his wife, Dolores, moved in with
the actor for a period.
Hakim was credited as an assistant on three
productions where Rod was producer: "Chuka," "Bearcats!" and "Partisan."
Hakim died in a car crash in Yugoslavia during the making of
"Partisan." Taylor subsequently employed stuntman/actor Terry Wilson as
an assistant. But, like Rick, he needed him less once he got
married, in Rodís case to Carol Kikumura in 1980.
MOVIES WITHIN MOVIES
Rod Taylor does appear briefly onscreen in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," a
movie awash with references to other movies, both real and fictional.
An early scene has the character Marvin Schwarzs
(Al Pacino) watching a Rick Dalton movie. In the background, you can
catch a glimpse of Rod Taylor on the screen in a clip from the "Partizani,"
which is standing in for a fictional film, "The 14 Fists of
Screen capture from "Once
Upon a Time in Hollywood."
Screen capture from "Partizani."
"The 14 Fists of McCluskey" is one of those "guys on a
mission" movies that Tarantino loves so much. In real life, Rod's "Dark
of the Sun" is one of Tarantino's favorites. "Partizani" (aka "Hell
River") also falls into that category, and Tarantino once
screened his personal prints of the two movies at his Los Angeles
revival theater, the New Beverly Cinema.
In the July 3, 2019, edition of the
Pure Cinema Podcast for the New Beverly Cinema, Tarantino
excitedly described his inspiration for "The 14 Fists of McCluskey"
and the casting he dreamed up for it.
The inspiration was "The Secret
Invasion," a 1964 film directed by Roger Corman. That real movie
had Stewart Granger in the lead role, with Edd Byrnes as the No. 2 guy. It also
featured Raf Vallone, Mickey Rooney,
Henry Silva and Spela Rozin.
Tarantino then elaborated on his movie-within-a-movie casting for
"The 14 Fists of McCluskey."
So in my movie, Rod Taylor would have been McCluskey, so he's the
star. Virna Lisi would be the beautiful Italian partisan that joins
them. Rick Dalton is the No. 2 guy, [the] "second lieutenant," Sgt. Mike
Lewis. Sal Mineo would have been another one of the guys. Adam West
would have been in it as the sympathetic German, and Van Johnson
would have been "Brigadier General Exposition" -- the guy who sends
them to blow up the dam.
Coincidentally (or probably not), Adam West plays a sympathetic German
soldier in "Partizani."
In a deleted scene for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," the
characters Rick Dalton and Marvin Schwarzs mention that "The 14
Fists of McCluskey" was directed by Paul Wendkos and praise him as
an underrated action movie specialist. Wendkos is a real director
who helmed the Gidget films, actioners like "Battle for the Coral
Sea," as well as scores of TV episodes and movies.
Graphic artist Federico
Mancosu created this faux item in an Italian magazine for "The 14
Fists of McCluskey" premiere with Rod Taylor, Virna Lisi and Rick Dalton.
A scene in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" depicts Rick Dalton's
heroics in "The 14 Fists of McCluskey." It shows him torching a
group of Nazi officers with a flamethrower. It's a clear reference
to the climactic scenes in "Inglourious Basterds," a Quentin
Tarantino movie that included Brad Pitt and Rod Taylor in the cast.
From the collection of Stephan Wellink, producer of "Rod
Taylor: Pulling no Punches": A photo of Rod Taylor, Fred Hakim
and actress Xenia Gratsos/Brioni Farrell in "Partizani."
Tarantino's March Madness:
The New Beverly Cinema screened
Dark of the Sun
and Hell River (Partizani)
A poster designed by graphic artist Tony Stella.
Click for full version at
Tony Stella's Twitter