Crocodile Dundee’s Real-Life Inspiration Was More Tragic Than Comic

Crocodile Dundee is a beloved film from the ’80s. But the man who inspired the icon led a life that ended up being more tragic than funny.

One of the most iconic films of the late ’80s was the Paul Hogan starring adventure comedy Crocodile Dundee. The film introduced Mick Dundee as an Australian bushman who knew his way around the wild Australian outback and was nothing short of a survivor. While audiences have fallen in love with the character, it’s not as widely known that he was actually based on the real bushman, Rod Ansell.

Ansell was a survivor who could make do with nearly anything, and his feats earned him some fame in the late ’70s. But unlike Dundee, his story ended up becoming much more tragic and shows how sometimes, the story gains more recognition than the person who inspired it. But how does Dundee compare with Ansell, and where did the latter’s story take a much darker turn?

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What Is Crocodile Dundee About?

The original Crocodile Dundee follows writer Sue Charlton as she travels to the Australian outback in search of a man named Crocodile Dundee, who is said to have lost half of his leg to a massive croc. When she finally meets him, she finds that he still has both legs and his feats are slightly embellished. While she doesn’t care for him at first, the two develop an admiration for each other that later blossoms into a romance. Eventually, he follows her back to New York City, where he feels like a fish out of water, leading to many famous moments.

After the first film’s success, a sequel was greenlit that continued Dundee’s adventures in NYC. While he eventually returns to the outback with Sue, the two later travel to California in Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, where audiences are introduced to their son and later see the two finally tie the knot. While the later films didn’t capture the same iconography as the first, the events and hilarity that take place in the movie hardly mirror the stories surrounding actual bushman Rod Ansell.

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The Real-life Inspiration for Mick Dundee

Rod Ansell’s story began when he took a fishing trip after a buffalo catching job. While he said he would be gone a “few months,” things went south rather quickly when a massive creature capsized Ansell’s boat. With only a dinghy, a few rations and two bull terrier pups, one with a broken leg, Ansell eventually drifted to the mouth of another river and was stranded many miles away from the nearest settlement. While there, he was able to locate fresh water and care for his dogs but had to survive off of wild cattle and buffalo. After living in a tree with a brown tree snake and shooting a crocodile, whose head he kept as a souvenir, Ansell was finally discovered by cattle farmers.

This story eventually got media attention, and his way of life and story inspired Paul Hogan to write Crocodile Dundee. In the years that followed, Ansell tried to live a peaceful life as a buffalo farmer to provide for his family. However, the Bovine Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign forced him to kill 3,000 head of cattle, and to make matters worse, he wasn’t properly compensated for his losses. Sadly, Ansell later got divorced and began selling marijuana, which evolved into an addiction to amphetamines. After years of this lifestyle, his addiction would lead him to be killed in a police shootout. In the end, the story shows that even iconic figures who inspire hit films aren’t immune to the harshness of life, and nothing in this world is ever promised. That said, at least a slider of his legacy remains intact in the character and franchise he loosely inspired, even if he never fully approved of the idea.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo