Peter O'Toole

  • Born: August 2, 1932
  • Died: December 14, 2013
  • Location: London, England

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In this March 23, 2003 file photo, Actor Peter O'Toole accepts his honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during the 75th annual Academy Awards telecast in Los Angeles. O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died. He was 81. O'Toole's agent Steve Kenis says the actor died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at a hospital following a long illness.

'Lawrence of Arabia' star dead at 81

JILL LAWLESS, The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — World leaders, film critics and Hollywood stars remembered Peter O'Toole on Monday as an actor of towering talent, blue-eyed Irish charm and unfettered hell-raising — an icon of a vanished, less strait-laced era of filmmaking.

"There won't be any more like that, will there?" said 73-year-old actor Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore in several "Harry Potter" films.

O'Toole, the 81-year-old star of "Lawrence of Arabia," died Saturday in London. Britain's prime minister and Ireland's president were among the many expressing condolences

Irish President Michael D. Higgins said O'Toole had been "unsurpassed for the grace he brought to every performance."

O'Toole was nominated eight times for an Academy Award without winning — a record. He was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2003.

Nick James, editor of film magazine Sight & Sound, said O'Toole was "an actor with a kind of bohemian quality to him which has kind of passed on — largely to do with health and safety concerns on movie sets."

"You're not allowed to behave that way anymore," James said. "You don't get hell-raisers anymore because you can't get them insured."

O'Toole had long suffered from ill health, his famously handsome face eroded by years of prodigious drinking. He gave up alcohol in 1975 following serious health problems and major surgery, but was unrepentant about his life of excess.

"If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it," he once said. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt."

James said O'Toole's career "was intrinsic to the times he lived in, the milieu he moved in."

"I don't think he would have wanted it any other way. The arts have always dallied with the dark side in order to feed creativity."

Seamus Peter O'Toole was born Aug. 2, 1932, the son of Irish bookie Patrick "Spats" O'Toole and his wife Constance. There is some question about whether Peter was born in Connemara, Ireland, or in Leeds, northern England, where he grew up, but he maintained close links to Ireland.

After a teenage foray into journalism at the Yorkshire Evening Post and national military service with the navy, a young O'Toole auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won a scholarship.

He went from there to the Bristol Old Vic, where his 1955 "Hamlet" was acclaimed, and was soon recognized as one of the most exciting young talents on the British stage.

International stardom came in David Lean's epic "Lawrence of Arabia." With only a few minor cinema roles behind him, O'Toole was unknown to most moviegoers when they first saw him as T.E. Lawrence, the British World War I soldier and scholar who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks.

His sensitive portrayal of Lawrence's complex character garnered O'Toole his first Oscar nomination, and the spectacularly photographed desert epic remains his best known role. O'Toole was tall, fair and strikingly handsome, and the image of his bright blue eyes peering out of an Arab headdress in Lean's film was unforgettable.

Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O'Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie "Florence of Arabia."

Further Oscar nominations followed for "Becket"; "The Lion in Winter"; "Goodbye, Mr. Chips"; "The Ruling Class"; "The Stunt Man" and "My Favorite Year."

He almost turned down the honorary Oscar in 2003. Hoping another Oscar-worthy role would come his way, O'Toole wrote: "I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright."

And one did. He was nominated again for the 2006 film "Venus." True to form, he didn't win.

O'Toole's later stage career was patchy. The 1980 "Macbeth" in which he starred was a critical disaster of heroic proportions. But it played to sellout audiences, largely because the savaging by the critics brought out the curiosity seekers.

"The thought of it makes my nose bleed," he said years later.

In 1989, however, O'Toole had a big stage success with "Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell," a comedy about his old drinking buddy, the legendary layabout and ladies' man who wrote The Spectator magazine's weekly "Low Life" column when he was sober enough to do so.

A month before his 80th birthday in 2012, O'Toole announced his retirement from a career that he said had fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing "me together with fine people, good companions with whom I've shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits."

"However, it's my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one's stay," he said. "So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell."

O'Toole's marriage to Welsh actress Sian Phillips ended in divorce in 1979, after 19 years of marriage. The couple had two daughters, Kate and Pat.

A brief relationship with American model Karen Somerville led to the birth of his son Lorcan in 1983.

His daughter Kate said the family had been overwhelmed by expressions of sympathy.

"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished," she said in a statement.

___

Associated Press Writers Gregory Katz, Raphael Satter and Danica Kirka contributed to this report.


Condolence & Memory Journal

As an actor, he shared his life with his fans playing a different role in every film. He had the power to make you laugh or cry in his many films including Lawrence of Arabia, Night of the Generals, but my favorite was Goodbye Mr. Chips. I hop

Thank you for entertaining us for many years!

Posted by Richard Collins - germantown, MD - Fan   December 25, 2013

Candle

All the good actors are leaving for good. What is going to be the future without them? I love PeterO'Toole and God bless you my friend.

Posted by Peter vayeos chang - Salem, MA - friend   December 23, 2013

Candle

EVERY TIME I SAW HIM IN A MOVIE, I REALLY LOVED HIM.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE IF I COULD HAVE DINED WITH HIM.
DINNER IS A GREAT WAY TO GET TO KNOW A PERSON. ALEXANDRIA EAST

Posted by ALEXANDRIA EAST - NILES, IL - FAN   December 23, 2013

You will be truly missed! You were one of the greatest actors in history! Luckily for us we will always have you on film. Condolences to your family and friends! May God Bless them all and keep them safe and get them thru this hard time.

Posted by Claudia Masciangioli - Clayton, NC - Fan   December 21, 2013

A great actor has left us.

Posted by Paul - Boston, MA - Fan   December 20, 2013

Candle

My you light shine always sir

Posted by L Macleod - St. Helier, Jersey,UK - Admirer   December 19, 2013

Candle

Your love is still alive in us
We see it ever new
Our mornings filled with happiness
By memories of you.

Posted by John Panneton - Virginia Beach, VA - Friend   December 18, 2013

We have lost another of our classic film and stage actors that I grew up watching and enjoying. Peter O"Toole was at the top of my list, and certainly should have won an Oscar for his performance in "Lawrence Of Arabia", as well as some other films he was in. He was a great gentleman and will be sorely missed. As some have said, "There won't be any more like that, will there?"

Posted by Michael S Banks    December 17, 2013

Leave a condolence or a memory.

Posted by Arthur Clay Tillis - South Bend, IN - Fan   December 15, 2013


Family Album

In this Aug. 30, 1965 file photo, Actor Peter O'Toole poses for a scene from his new film named "How to Steal a Million Dollars and Live Happily Ever After" during shooting in France. O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died. He was 81. O'Toole's agent Steve Kenis says the actor died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at a hospital following a long illness.
In this March 23, 2003 file photo, Peter O'Toole appears backstage without his Oscar after receiving the Academy Award's Honorary Award during the 75th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles. O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died. He was 81. O'Toole's agent Steve Kenis says the actor died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at a hospital following a long illness.
In this Monday, Jan. 22, 2007 file photo, British actor Peter O'Toole arrives for the British premiere of his latest film 'Venus' at a central London cinema, Peter O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died, it was announced on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. He was 81.
In this March 23, 2003 file photo, Actor Peter O'Toole accepts his honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during the 75th annual Academy Awards telecast in Los Angeles. O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, has died. He was 81. O'Toole's agent Steve Kenis says the actor died Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at a hospital following a long illness.
In this 1961 file photo, actor Peter O'Toole is shown in the title role in the film "Lawrence of Arabia.”
Peter O'Toole, center, the Irish actor who is to play the title role in the film "Lawrence of Arabia" squats on the dusty ground as he takes a glass of tea with a couple of Beduin farmers on April 20, 1961 in Amman, Jordan. O'Toole has spent several weeeks among the Jordanian Arabs learning their language, local customs and how to ride a camel.


Family Album

Actor Peter O'Toole, center, Academy Award nominee for best actor, chats with actress Helen Mirren, right, Academy Award nominee for best actress, and Jodie Whittaker at the Miramax pre-Oscars party in West Hollywood, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007.


Community Photos

A great actor has left us.