The Real Crocodile Dundee Died In Wild Shootout

By Brian Myers | Published

It might be hard to believe that it’s been nearly 40 years since Australian actor Paul Hogan became a household name after being vaulted to international stardom with his role as Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee in the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee. What fans of the blockbuster comedy might not know is that the main character was based on a real-life Australian, Rodney William Ansell, a rancher from the Northern Territory who defied death after a poaching expedition went terribly wrong. Unlike the film version of the Australian, the real Crocodile Dundee didn’t get the girl in the end and live happily ever after; his fate was sealed during a fatal shootout with local law enforcement.

The Real Crocodile Dundee Survived In The Wilderness

Ansell first made headlines in 1977 when his small boat was swept out to sea from the Fitzmaurice River after being upended by a crocodile. Armed with two rifles and ammunition, Ansell and his two dogs made it safely to land at the mouth of the river and lived the next two months in the most rugged way possible. In the oppressive heat of the Northern Territory and without any potable water, Ansell was forced to put his survival skills to work fast, setting up a sequence of events that eventually led to the creation of the fictional character in Crocodile Dundee.

Living Off The Land

While trying to make his way back to civilization, Ansell was soon able to find a limited fresh water source. But to supplement his hydration needs, he reportedly drank the blood from the buffalos he killed for food. The real Crocodile Dundee followed bees to their hives for honey, killed and ate goannas, and slept in the crooks of trees at night to avoid predators.

An Australian Folk Hero

Ansell became a folk hero after he was discovered by Aboriginal trackers more than two months into his ordeal. He became a media sensation and was named Territorian of the Year by the Northern Territory government for putting the remote part of the world on the international radar. His book, To Fight the Wild, led to a Sydney book tour that helped set up the premise for the film Crocodile Dundee.

However, the wealth that went to Paul Hogan, who portrayed the real Crocodile Dundee in the film, evaded Ansell. He was largely forgotten outside of the Northern Territory and settled down to raise buffalo on a ranch in the early 1990s. It wouldn’t be long before Ansell began running afoul of the law.

Shootout With The Police

Rodney Ansell first got into trouble for stealing livestock and eventually lost his stake in the ranchland. His marriage fell apart, and he developed an addiction to injectable amphetamines. It was this addiction that led to the untimely end of the real Crocodile Dundee.

In 1999, police were called to Ansell’s property after reports of two people in a nearby home being injured by gunfire. They were met by Ansell, who opened fire on them. Ansell was brought down in a shootout that left one onlooker and an officer injured and one officer dead.

Crocodile Dundee Was A Massive Success

Crocodile Dundee debuted in theaters in 1986, raking in $328 million against a meager $8 million budget. It was well received by audiences and critics alike and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Two sequels followed, Crocodile Dundee II in 1988 and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles in 2001.