Peter O’Toole, the Irish actor whose stunning onscreen performances in films like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Lion In Winter” earned him eight best-actor Oscar nominations, died Saturday in a hospital in London, his agent announced Sunday. O’Toole was 81.
According to The Guardian, O’Toole died following a long illness. Throughout his career, the Hollywood legend, who won himself a reputation as something of a “hell-raiser,” had a propensity for heavy drinking, which complicated his well being later in life.
O’Toole starred in over 90 film and TV roles throughout his career. While he holds the record for most Oscar nominations without ever winning, the Academy gave O’Toole a special honorary award in 2003. "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” O’Toole humorously responded.
Those who knew him remember the famously handsome, 6-foot-2-inch, blue-eyed actor as “flamboyant,” with a certain and charming “candor.” “Peter didn't leave much of life unlived, did he?" Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News television.
"If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it," O’Toole was quoted as saying. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt."
Among the first to pay homage to the late actor was the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins. "Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre,” Higgins said in a statement. "In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor.”
Born in 1932, O’Toole got his start in theater, making his stage debut at the age of 17. His march into acting was briefly interrupted by a two-year stint in the Royal Navy as a radioman, but after leaving the service, O’Toole quickly picked up where he had left off.
It was his role in David Lean's 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia” that launched him into international stardom.
From there, O’Toole went on to star in a number of hits, including “Murphy’s War,” “The Ruling Class,” “The Stunt Man” and “My Favorite Year.” He announced his retirement from acting last year, bidding Hollywood adieu with a “dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.” His last film, “Katherine of Alexandria,” in which he plays a palace orator named Cornelius Gallus, is slated for release in 2014.
“I’ve never talked about acting in my life, but any good actor will tell you that the common denominator is private study, for months if necessary,” O’Toole said in an interview. “Every nuance, every face is considered and thought up well in advance.”
"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished," Peter O’Toole’s daughter, Kate O’Toole, said in the statement. "Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts."
Here is a clip from the 2003 Oscars, during which the Academy recognized Peter O'Toole's remarkable career as one of Hollywood's most charismatic leading men.