Though Rod Taylor spent less time on screen in Inglourious Basterds than Adolf Hitler, he spent weeks preparing for the role, a role he never wanted in the first place, until Tarantino convinced him it was a great idea.
You see, prior to Inglourious Basterds, Rod Taylor was retired, as in, properly fired-his-agent retired, which according to the dictionary is about as retired as it is physically possible for a person to be. However, Quentin Tarantino was having approximately, none of that and sent Taylor a message personally anyway asking if he’d consider being in his movie.
After several phone-calls which we imagine involved repeated use of the phrase “Yes, I’m that Quentin Tarantino”, Tarantino was able to secure himself a few minutes of Rod Taylor’s time. Not wanting to waste a moment, the second Tarantino got Taylor on the phone he immediately began fanboy-ing all over his various movie roles instead of introducing himself as a famous movie director who wanted to pay him millions of dollars. Say what you want about the man, but you have to respect those priorities.
When Tarantino finally got around to mentioning the, then unnamed, WW2 movie he was currently trying to cast, Taylor was very hesitant to accept any role in the movie, presumably because he was fucking retired. Unperturbed, Tarantino told Taylor that he wanted him and only him to play Winston Churchill in his movie. Very humbly, Taylor’s first reaction was to recommend another actor, Albert Finney, for the role. Taylor explained to Tarantino that Finney was closer to his current location, had played Churchill on screen before and was currently not retired, so was probably a much better fit for the role. Again, Tarantino was having none of that shit.
Without missing a beat, Tarantino very of matter-of-factly said, “Well, if Rod Taylor turns me down, then I’ll get Albert Finney”. Basically saying in a roundabout way that Finney could go eat a dick and that Taylor was the only man Tarantino wanted for the role. Taylor was so touched by Tarantino’s comments and faith in his ability to own the shit out of the role that he came out of retirement and flew to Germany to star in the movie. Taylor was actually so excited about the role and so determined to not mess it up that he spent weeks prior to filming watching endless footage of Churchill just to get his posture right, how adorable is that? But Tarantino wasn’t done warming this old actors heart just yet.
After arriving on set, Taylor very quickly noticed that the (mostly German) crew were all very interested in his previous leading roles and that they’d even ask him questions about movies he’d not spoken about or given much thought to in years. As it turned out, unbeknownst to Taylor, Tarantino had instructed the entire film crew to stay after work to watch some of his movies prior to his arrival. Tarantino never told Taylor this, he just wanted the film crew to be as pumped about him arriving as he was and went out of his way to make sure that they’d all seen at least one of his movies.
If that wasn’t enough to make you squee all over, after Taylor had finished filming his scene, Tarantino walked into his dressing room with a bucket of beer and spent the entire evening talking with the actor about his glory days just because he wanted to. And that ladies and gentlemen is the story of how Quentin Tarantino made an old actor’s day with his childlike love of movies and a desire to shoot Hitler in the grill.