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Rod Ansell: Inspiration for the Movie "Crocodile Dundee"

Readmikenow is a freelance writer who enjoys researching music, movies, history, and more.

Rob Ansell

Rob Ansell

Rod Ansell worked as an Australian cattle grazier and buffalo hunter. Those who knew him described Ansell as someone who enjoyed spending time in the bush.

In 1977, Ansell was stranded in a remote section of Australia's Northern territory. He became famous for surviving for 56 days in a wild region with limited supplies. Ansell made headlines around the world when he returned. His behavior inspired Paul Hogan to create the character Mick for the 1986 movie Crocodile Dundee.

Ansell's Early Years

Rodney William Ansell was born on October 1, 1954, in Murgon, Queensland. He was the third of four children. His father's name was George William Ansell, and his mother's name was Eva May Ansell.

When he was 15, Ansell's family moved to the Northern Territory. When he was young, Ansell made money hunting feral water buffalo in an area known as the Top End. The meat from the Buffalo was exported to foreign countries.

The Incident

In May 1977, Rod Ansell would have an experience that would forever change his life. Ansell told his girlfriend he would be hunting buffalo in Western Australia at Kununurra for a job. He would be gone for a few months. Ansell went with minimal food, bedding, a rifle, knife, and his two dogs.

Ansell traveled alone along a deserted area of the Fitzmaurice River, intending to reach the Victoria River. His motorboat capsized and was sunk by something Ansell claimed to be quite large.

Ansell was able to save a single oar, a small dinghy, his two dogs, and a small amount of equipment. This included some canned food as well as a knife, some bedding, a rifle, and some ammunition. He lost all of his fresh water. Ansell was over 100 miles from the nearest permanent human settlement. One of his dogs also has broken its leg.


During the first night, Ansell wasn't paying attention, and the dinghy accidentally drifted out to sea. It washed up on the shore of an island in the Fitzmaurice River. During the next two days, Ansell walked along the Fitzmaurice River.

During this time, he became extremely dehydrated. Ansell was able to find fresh water when he reached an area above the saltwater tidal range. He was able to successfully hunt wild buffalo and cattle. This made it possible for Ansell to feed his dogs and himself. There were times when he had to drink the blood from wild cattle so he would not dehydrate. Ansell would also follow bees to their hives and get the honey.

At night, he would sleep in trees, so he was out of the reach of crocodiles. He did have to shoot a 16-foot crocodile during this time. Ansell cut off its head and kept it as a souvenir even after being found.


Ansell had come to believe he would never be rescued. He knew he had told people he would be away for months. Ansell believed any rescue efforts would be focused on the Victoria River and not the Fitzmaurice. His goal was to make it to a pastoral station during the wet season.

One day, the sound of horse-bells could be clearly heard by Ansell. He saw a cattle manager and two Aboriginal stockmen. When they saw Ansell, they noticed he was a bit emaciated but in every other way seemed to be healthy.

Once he returned to his home, he didn't speak about the seven weeks he spent being stranded. Ansell didn't want to upset his mother or get others angry at him for his recklessness. He told friends that if you get through something dangerous and you're still alive, it's not worth mentioning.

To Fight The Wild book

To Fight The Wild book


Members of the local media were told about Ansell's ordeal. They thought it was a big deal. Ansell was soon called "a modern-day Robinson Crusoe" by the Australian media.

In a short time, Ansell was given offers to re-enact his story of surviving in a documentary. It was called To Fight the Wild. Ansell also co-authored a book with an identical title. He wasn't comfortable with all the attention the incident had brought him.

Rob Ansell's wife Joanne Van Os

Rob Ansell's wife Joanne Van Os


By 1977, Ansell had become a media sensation in Australia because of the story of survival in the Outback. During this time, he met Joanne Van Os. She was a radio operator who worked in an Aboriginal community that was extremely remote.

Ansell and Van Os married. They had two sons named Shawn and Callum. According to Ansell's wife, their family spent the early years of the marriage calling a canvass sheet their home. They cooked by a campfire, communicated by radio, and had no running water or electricity. She also says it was a very happy time for them.

Paul Hogal left and Rod Ansell Right

Paul Hogal left and Rod Ansell Right

Crocodile Dundee

In 1981, Ansell was in Sydney and appeared on the Parkinson TV show. This is where the idea for a movie was born. When Ansell went to the television interview, he was barefoot. He was staying at the Sebel Townhouse Hotel, a famous luxury five-star accommodation.

Ansell preferred to sleep in his sleeping bag on the floor rather than in the bed. He was shocked when seeing his room's bidet as he had never before seen one. Learning about this behavior inspired Paul Hogan. He worked with his co-writers John Cornell and Ken Shadie to invent the movie character Mick "Crocodile" Dundee.

Movie Poster for Crocodile Dundee

Movie Poster for Crocodile Dundee

Movie Success

Crocodile Dundee was a movie about a rough crocodile hunter who lives in the Australian Outback. He finds himself in a big city and deals with various city slicker scenarios. It was a huge success. The movie brought over $327 million in sales at the box office.

When the movie was released, Ansell and his family lived on a piece of land located ten miles from the nearest phone. Seeing the movie in the theater was not possible for him. The news of the movie eventually reached Ansell. Many people told Ansell they saw several similarities between his life and what was portrayed in the movie. He didn't care too much until a few years later.

He and a business partner tried to start a tourism business. They wanted to bill their piece of land as the place where the real-life Crocodile Dundee lived. Paul Hogan's office rejected the request to use the name. They threatened legal action if Ansell and his partner used it for their business. They took Paul Hogan to court over the issue and lost.

Intersection where shootout occurred

Intersection where shootout occurred


On August 3, 1999, Rod Ansell was killed during a shootout with police. It all began early in the morning at the intersection of Old Bynoe Road and Stuart Highway. This is where a roadblock had been placed.

The previous night Ansell had been involved in an altercation with two men. Shots had been fired by Ansell. At the roadblock, Ansell ambushed two law enforcement officers named Constable James O'Brien and Sergeant Glen Anthony Huitson. Ansell shot Huitson below his bulletproof vest in his abdomen, killing him.

Many officers from the Adelaide River Police station rushed to the scene of the gun battle. After several minutes of exchanging gunfire, Ansell was shot and killed. It was confirmed that Ansell was suffering from amphetamine intoxication before the fatal gun battle. He was in a paranoid psychotic state associated with using this type of drug use.

The people who got to know Rod Ansell described him as a man who was unique but also extremely frayed. Some say he was resourceful and intense. Others claim he was wild and unpredictable. Everyone agreed that Ansell was tough as nails, just like the Australian Outback where he spent most of his life.


© 2020 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on August 19, 2020:

Fran, thanks. I agree, but he did live an amazing life.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on August 19, 2020:

Great article and very informative!. I loved the movie, Crocodile Dundee. I had no idea how he died and wonder how he got drugs. Sad ending for a true legend.

Readmikenow (author) on August 15, 2020:

Liz, thanks. I agree. Drugs can ruin any person.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 15, 2020:

I remember the film well. You have produced interesting research here. It's sad to read how the real life character ended his life.

Readmikenow (author) on August 15, 2020:

Pamela, thanks. Rod Ansell was an interesting man.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 14, 2020:

I really liked this movie. Your article was very interesting and had many facts that I had not heard before.