Lawrence of Arabia star Peter O’Toole dies aged 81

Peter O’Toole, the multi-Oscar nominated star of Lawrence of Arabia has died at the age of 81.

The flamboyant British actor passed away on Saturday evening at the Wellington hospital in London following a long illness. Prior to his death, he had announced his retirement from acting last year.

Born in Ireland and raised in London, O’Toole’s first major film role would prove to be his most iconic as he was cast as real-life British general T.E Lawrence in David Lean’s epic masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Whilst the film did well with the Academy (with six wins), his mesmerising performance wasn’t enough to help him win the Best Actor Oscar as he lost out to Gregory Peck’s remarkable turn in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Arabia was the first of EIGHT Oscar nominations for O’Toole, an accolade he would never win during his illustrious career (an Oscar record) though he was rewarded an honourary accolade in 2003. He also went on to claim a BAFTA (for Arabia) and four Golden Globes.

Amongst his outer Oscar-nominated performances included King Henry II, a role which saw him nodded twice for Beckett (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

He was also recognised for the likes of Goodbye Mr Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972) and The Stunt Man (1980) with his last nomination coming in his role as a lonely old man who falls in love with a much younger woman in the British dramedy Venus (2006).

Part of the British band of hell-raisers which also included Richard Burton and Richard Harris, O’Toole was notoriously known for his love for alcohol. Ironically, his seventh Oscar nomination for My Favourite Year (1982) became an ironic case of life intimidating art with his role as Alan Swann, a showy actor with an alcohol problem.

Prior to his later years, he also featured in the likes of How to Steal a Million (1966), Man Friday (1975), Cagilura (1979) and the Oscar-winning epic The Last Emperor (1987) but also endured disappointing results in films like Zulu Dawn (1979), Supergirl (1984), Phantoms (1998) and the underwhelming Troy (2004).

He did conclude his screen career well with his admirable voice-work on food critic Anton Ego in Pixar’s Ratatouille (2007) as well as playing Pope Paul III in several episodes of the historical series The Tudors (2008).

However 2012 would mark the end of O’Toole’s brilliant career as he finally decided to retire from acting a month before his 80th birthday.

“It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back. My career has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits. However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”

O’Toole is survived by his two daughters, Pat and Kate O’Toole, from his marriage to actress Siân Phillips, and his son, Lorcan O’Toole, by Karen Brown.

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