The actor’s agent confirmed that O’Toole had died on Saturday morning at London’s Wellington Hospital after a long illness.
He was a man who lived life to the full and anyone who shared his company for the evening was likely to remember the experience for the rest of their life. David Walliams from Little Britain represented many when he said on Twitter today: ‘Matt & I had drinks with Peter O’Toole in LA a few years ago. He was hugely entertaining. The greatest company. A legend on screen and off.’
O’Toole was born in 1932 but like any great character even his birthplace is a thing of mystery. O’Toole always said he was born in Connemara in Ireland but others swear his actual place of birth was either Dublin or even Leeds.
After trying various jobs in journalism and a stint in the Royal Navy, O’Toole decided on a career in acting entering RADA in 1954. After graduating from RADA he spent several years on stage at the Old Vic in Bristol where he won great reviews from the critics for roles in Shakespeare, Beckett and Osborne amongst many others.
After a couple of very minor parts in movies he won the massive role of T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. It was a triumph of a role for O’Toole and such was his charisma that Noel Coward was quoted as saying that if O’Toole had been any prettier they would have had to rename the movie Florence of Arabia.
During his long career he was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar on no fewer than 8 occasions but fate dictated that he was not to win this particular award. He did finally receive an honorary Oscar from the Academy in 2003 although it is no secret that he did not view this as a substitute for the actual Best Actor award.
The lack of an Oscar victory should not be seen as a reflection of O’Toole’s worth as an actor however, remember that Alfred Hitchcock also received an honorary Oscar late in life after failing to win an Oscar outright despite his 5 Best Director nominations.
Peter O’Toole will be remembered as much for his love of life (drink, smoking and women) as he will for his appearances on screen and stage. One of his drinking evenings in the 60’s started out in Paris and when O’Toole eventually came to he found that he was in Corsica!
He is also said to have once been out drinking in Ireland with the late Peter Finch (Network) and been so upset that the landlord would not serve them after he had called time that the pair of them wrote out a cheque on the spot to buy the bar and get themselves another drink.
Although he had announced his retirement from acting in July last year he did actually return to play the role of Gallus in Michael Redwood’s historical drama Katherine of Alexandria. The movie is due for release next year and we can only hope that it is a fitting reminder of this great character’s acting power.