Lawrence of Arabia actor Peter O'Toole dies at age of 81

Updated: 2013-12-16
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peter o'toole
The actor is pictured in 2011 at the opening night of a screening of "An American In Paris"
He had a prodigious appetite for drink and wild living that sometimes threatened to eclipse his brilliance on stage and screen.
And Peter O’Toole was accused more than once of wasting his genius on his legendary heroic and seemingly endless bouts of boozing.
But the defiant movie star had decided long ago that his life would never be dull.
In a poem he wrote in his youth, he partly predicted his future, saying: “I will not be a common man because it is my right to be an uncommon man.”
He added: “I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.”
And he was true to his word – in a typically larger than life way – until ill-health began to take its toll.
His days of riotous behaviour were brought to an abrupt halt in the mid-70s, when doctors diagnosed pancreatitis and warned he would drop dead if he took another sip.
He had yards of his intestinal tubing – “most of my plumbing” – removed and became teetotal… almost.
He had been ill for some time when the final curtain fell on Saturday at the Wellington hospital in London. He was 81.
Fellow actor Stephen Fry was among the first to pay tribute: He tweeted : “Oh what terrible news. I had the honour of directing him in a scene. Monster, scholar, lover of life, genius…”
Peter Seamus O’Toole was born on August 2, 1932.
Not even he was sure whether his birthplace was Connemara in Ireland or Leeds, where he was brought up.
He was the son of Constance Eliot, a Scottish nurse, and Patrick O’Toole, a racecourse bookie.
Young Peter attended a Catholic school but renounced religion at 15.
He lived in a tough area of Hunslet, in Leeds, where three of his friends were later hanged for murder.
He liked to say: “I’m not from the working class. I’m from the criminal class.”
One day, Patrick stood his young son on the mantelpiece and said: “Jump, boy. I’ll catch you. Trust me.”
As he jumped, his father withdrew his arms, letting him crash to the floor. The lesson, said his father, was “never trust any b*****d”.
O’Toole worked for five years on the Yorkshire Evening News, until the editor told him: “You’ll never make a reporter – try something else.”
After completing his National Service in the Navy he hitch-hiked to London in search of adventure.
He said: “I was trying to find a hostel when I passed the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and walked in just to case the joint.”
He took up a scholarship, “not out of ambition – but because of all the wonderful-looking birds”.
After mixed reviews in a number of productions, O’Toole finally shot to film stardom in David Lean’s  1962 classic telling of T.E. Lawrence’s life story, Lawrence of Arabia.
His performance was described by producer Sam Spiegel as “unequalled in modern cinema”.
Yet O’Toole wasn’t even first choice, with both Albert Finney and Marlon Brando having turned down the role.
However success was followed by more major roles, including Goodbye Mr Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man and My Favourite Year.
Incredibly, he was nominated for an Oscar eight times, most recently as Best Actor in the 2006 film Venus – but never won one.
In 2003 he received an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work.
O’Toole sent a letter asking the Academy to hold on to it until he turned 80, explaining: “I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright.”
The star was offered a knighthood in 1987, but turned it down for “personal and political reasons”.
His title role in the stage play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell won widespread acclaim, but it was O’Toole’s colourful private life, including massive binges with kindred spirits such as Richard Burton and Richard Harris that captured people’s imagination.
He once said: “We heralded the 60s. We did in public what everyone else did in private then, and does for show now. We drank in public, we knew about pot."
After one heavy night of boozing, Michael Caine asked O’Toole: “What time is it?” He replied: “Never mind that – what f****** day is it?”
The actor was married for 20 years to actress Sian Phillips and also had a long relationship with model Karen Somerville.
He is survived by two daughters, Kate and Patricia, and a son, Lorcan Patrick O’Toole.
Actress Kate said: “We are completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed.”
Ireland’s president Michael D Higgins greeted the news of his old friend’s death “with great sadness”.
He added: “Ireland and the world has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.”
SOURCE: mirror.co.uk
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