Legendary Actor Peter O’Toole Dies at 81

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 24th, 2014 at 11:29 am,

Peter O Toole Venus Legendary Actor Peter OToole Dies at 81

Irish acting legend Peter O’Toole – still perhaps best known for his iconic lead performance in director David Lean’s classic film Lawrence of Arabia - has died. BBC News reports that O’Toole succumbed Saturday to a long illness at London’s Wellington Hospital, which has been confirmed by his agent, Steve Kenis.

O’Toole was the very definition of acting royalty. Nominated for eight Academy Awards for Best Actor - Lawrence of ArabiaBecket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006) – O’Toole never won an Oscar, but received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in 2003, which he initially turned down, stating that he thought he had more time to “win the lovely bugger outright.” During the course of his career, he also won four Golden Globes, a BAFTA award and an Emmy.

O’Toole retired from acting last year at the age 79, saying, “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.” His daughter, actress Kate O’Toole, released the following statement in the wake of his passing:

“His family are very appreciative and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts.”

Michael Higgins, the President of Ireland and a friend of O’Toole’s since 1968, mourned the actor’s passing, saying: “All of us who knew him in the west will miss his warm humor and generous friendship.”

Peter OToole as Lawrence of Arabia Legendary Actor Peter OToole Dies at 81

Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia

Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole was born on August 2nd in 1932, but he himself could not say just where. His birthplace has variously been stated as Leeds, England, where he grew up, or in Connemara in County Galway in Ireland. O’Toole stated in his autobiography that he had a birth certificate from each country, with the one from Ireland giving him a June 1932 birth-date.

His mother, Constance, was a nurse from Scotland, and his father Patrick worked as a metal plater, a football player and a racehorse bookie. O’Toole worked as a journalist and photographer before serving in the Royal Navy as signaler. He entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on a scholarship in 1952, training alongside some other future British acting greats as Richard Harris (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Albert Finney (Skyfall) and Alan Bates (Gosford Park).

Peter O’Toole’s most famous performance was also his first big break: O’Toole won the role of T.E. Lawrence after Marlon Brando turned it down. Based on the writings of the legendarily complex Lawrence, who was a flamboyant, ego-centric intelligence officer (and, some say, charlatan) who went on to organize a guerrilla army of Arabs to help destroy the Ottoman Empire during World War I. O’Toole is one of only four actors to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination for playing the same role twice – he portrayed King Henry II in both Becket and The Lion In Winter, and his eight nominations are the most for any actor without a single win.

Peter O’Toole never stopped working prior to his retirement, with scarcely a year going by without his appearance in something. In the last decade, he lent a sense of majesty to his role as King Priam in the Brad Pitt vehicle Troy, lent his voice to the role of the terrifying food critic Anton Ego in Pixar’s Ratatouille and nearly stole the show, portrayed Pope Paul III in Showtime’s The Tudors, and was nominated for Best Actor for his role as a great but forgotten actor in Venus (2006).

Peter OToole and Katherine Hepburn Legendary Actor Peter OToole Dies at 81

Peter O’Toole with Katherine Hepburn in ‘The Lion in Winter’

O’Toole’s personal life was plagued by his astonishing propensity for drinking, which is cited as ruining his marriage to Welsh actress Siân Phillips, with whom he had two daughters, Kate and Patricia. His son Lorcan was born to his girlfriend Karen Brown in 1983.

In the ’70s, O’Toole had part of his pancreas and portions of his stomach and intestines removed due to cancer, which was initially misdiagnosed as complications due to his drinking. Although he recovered and kept working, this experience does not seem to have dimmed his fondness for alcohol, of which he once said: “Booze is the most outrageous of drugs, which is why I chose it.”

A mere 800-odd words or so is wildly insufficient to sum up such a magnificent career. Peter O’Toole was simply one of the greatest actors of our time, able to blend gravity, authority and a sense of lighthearted playfulness into an astonishing variety of roles, be it the megalomaniacal movie director (said to be modeled on David Lean) of The Stunt Man, the aging – but still imposing – King Henry II in The Lion in Winter or the insane aristocrat who thinks he’s Jesus Christ in The Ruling Class.

Peter O’Toole is survived by his daughters Kate and Patricia and his son Lorcan. All of us here at Screen Rant wish to express our deepest and most sincere condolences to his friends and family. We have lost one of the greats.


R.I.P. Peter O’Toole: August 2nd (or was it June?) 1932 – December 14th, 2013

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  1. It was August, the month that he was born, not July.

  2. Beautifully written. We are genuinely reaching the stage now where over the next 5-10 years a whole generation of heralded talent will be leaving us. Those that defined cinema in the 70s and in many ways changed it completely (before the 80s cheeseballed us) have simply gotten too old too fast to the point where it is almost a surprise when you are unfortunately reminded just how old they actually were.

    Hollywood is a poorer place right now in many aspects when compared to back then. A lot of its soul is slowly fading out.

    RIP, Mr O’Toole.

    • I’d say that if Hollywood is losing its soul that’s, largely, the production’s fault. The way I see it, new generations of great actors are steadily replacing the old ones; that hasn’t changed.

      • This is not the time to engage in a debate, but Ajeno’s point is well made. When I think of legendary actors, and who among them we could lose in the next five to ten years, names like Cint Eastwood, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lee, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Jack Nicholson, among others, immediately come to mind, and frankly, I don’t believe they have any equals among today’s often entitled and spoiled generation…

        • You misunderstand me if you think I’m trying to spark a debate. Frankly, you seem more inclined to do that since you’re willing to throw terms like “spoiled” and “entitled” around.

          All I’m saying is that there are many great actors and directors today who have many years ahead of themselves to mature further, thus becoming the new long-standing Hollywood icons. Drawing comparisons between the great elders of cinema and those who still haven’t had a career as long and rich as theirs seems unfair.

          • I take your point as well…it just appeared as though you were dismissing Ajeno’s comments, if ever so mildly, and there is some truth in them.

  3. Aside from Lawrence of Arabia, I don’t know a single film he’s been in.

    • Yeah, he definitely wasn’t a Hollywood A-Lister, and was almost non existent in big budget 21st century films except for Troy and Ratatouille. But he was one of the most critically acclaimed actors, and was known for his work in theater, Shakespeare, television, and dramatic works from the 60s toward the 80s. But none of them were blockbusters.

      • Acting includes a lot more than just film, as you correctly indicated, and O’Toole’s reputation was right up there with those who made their careers primarily in big budget movies.

    • Troy as King Priam

  4. Very sad news. A true Icon.

  5. RIP, easily one of the greatest actors of all time. He may not have been Nelson Mandela, but he was still damned awesome.

  6. One of Hollywood’s great drunks, and he outlived his drinking buddies Oliver Reed and Richard Harris. I will lift a glass in honor.

  7. He was a great actor, a true legend… He will be missed.

  8. Sad news, RIP Peter O’Toole

  9. “How tall was King Kong?!!”

    I can still hear that title theme in my head. one of my favorite movies of all time.

  10. Man of La Mancha, my number one film of his.

  11. a legend like no other

  12. That’s Sad But we all miss him. He did played an angel from John Huston’s THE BIBLE and Zaltar from SUPERGIRL 1984-film

  13. A Giant in the Acting Community, has gone home. Thank you, for your gift,and for sharing it with the world.

  14. He was one of the great ones.

  15. A true loss, he was an amazing actor.

  16. Excellant article giving his life details.rip Peter.

    Just saying,Richard Harris not Britsh

  17. I saw Peter O’Toole in the premier opening of Lawrence of Arabia at the Criterion Theater in 1964, the last great theater of elegance in New York City before it too finally closed after Lawrence of Arabia left.

    In a word, the movie and the surrounding elegance of the theater, were magnificent, with Peter O’Toole capturing everyone’s attention and breath throughout the entire film.

    He was one of the greats of cinematic history and his loss will be sorely felt by all who can appreciate great acting…

  18. One of the first movies I remember seeing him in was My Favorite Year where he played a slightly satirical version of himself. One of his best lines probably describes 80% of the actors in films today (and possibly then), “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star…” RIP-Peter O’Toole.

  19. I quite enjoyed his work, may he rest in peace.