Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia star, dies aged 81

Actor Peter O’Toole, who starred in Sir David Lean’s 1962 film classic Lawrence of Arabia, died on Saturday aged 81, his agent has said.
Peter O'Toole

O’Toole announced he was retiring from the stage and screen in 2012

He was being treated at London’s Wellington hospital after a long illness, his agent added.

O’Toole’s daughter Kate said the family was overwhelmed “by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us”.

He received an honorary Oscar in 2003, having initially turned it down.

In a letter the actor asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to delay it until he was 80, saying he was “still in the game and might win the bugger outright”.

O’Toole’s agent said he was “one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field”.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “My thoughts are with Peter O’Toole’s family and friends. His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning.”

O’Toole began his acting career as an exciting young talent on the British stage and his Hamlet in 1955 at the Bristol Old Vic, was critically acclaimed.

Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia
O’Toole was 30 when he played Lawrence of Arabia

He hit international stardom when Sir David cast him as British adventurer T E Lawrence, the British World War I soldier and scholar who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks.

Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the film “Florence of Arabia”.

Lawrence of Arabia earned him the first of eight Oscar nominations, with his second coming for 1964’s Becket, in which he played King Henry II to Richard Burton’s Thomas Becket.

Burton and O’Toole’s shared love of drinking garnered many headlines along with their performances.

O’Toole played Henry again in 1968 in The Lion in Winter, for which he received his third Oscar nod, opposite Katharine Hepburn.

His five other nominations were for Goodbye, Mr Chips in 1968, The Ruling Class in 1971, 1980’s The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year [1982] and finally for Venus in 2006.

Retiring from acting

Other performances included leading Shakespearean parts, comic roles in adaptations of PG Wodehouse and his famed starring role in Keith Waterhouse’s stage play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell.

O’Toole also had a reputation for riotous behaviour following bouts of drinking, but in the mid-70s he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and was warned by medics that more alcohol would prove fatal.

He had yards of his intestinal tubing – “most of my plumbing” – removed and he gave up drinking.

“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.”

Last July, after a career spanning 50 years and at the age of 79, O’Toole said he was retiring from the stage and screen.

“I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell,” he said.

“The heart for it has gone out of me. It won’t come back”.

However, last month it was announced he was being lined up for a role as a Roman orator in Katherine of Alexandria, a film scheduled for release next year

 

 

Source : bbc news

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