Actor Peter O'Toole dies aged 81


Actor Peter O'Toole dies aged 81

Actor Peter O'Toole, who achieved stardom in the Oscar-winning epic Lawrence Of Arabia, has died at the age of 81, his agent has confirmed.

The acclaimed leading man, who received an honorary Academy Award in 2003 for his body of work, died yesterday at the Wellington hospital in London after a long illness, his agent Steve Kenis said.

"He was one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field," Mr Kenis said.

O'Toole's daughter, actress Kate O'Toole, said: "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,"

"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished.

"We will be happy to speak to you all then but in the meantime if you could give Peter O'Toole the respect he deserves and allow us to grieve privately we'd appreciate it.

"Thank you all again for your beautiful tributes - keep them coming."

O'Toole retired from showbusiness last year, saying in a statement that it was time to ''chuck in the sponge''.

An eight-time Academy Award nominee who never won Hollywood's top acting honour, O'Toole shot to screen stardom 50 years ago in the title role of Lawrence Of Arabia, which earned seven Oscars, including best picture and director for David Lean.

O'Toole's grand performance as British adventurer T.E. Lawrence brought him his first best-actor nomination but set him on an unenviable path of Oscar futility.

His eight losses without a win is a record among actors.

The honours stacked up quickly as O'Toole received Oscar nominations for 1964's Becket, 1968's The Lion In Winter, 1969's Goodbye, Mr Chips, 1972's The Ruling Class, 1980's The Stunt Man and 1982's My Favourite Year.

In the latter film, O'Toole played a dissolute actor preoccupied with drink and debauchery, seemingly a tailor-made role for a star known in his early years for epic carousing with such fellow party animals as Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Peter Finch.

O'Toole went into acting after serving in the Royal Navy, studying at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

His early stage successes included the lead in Hamlet and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

No living person is sure whether his birthplace was Connemara, Dublin, or Leeds.

In 2003, aged 70, O'Toole received an honorary Oscar, often given as a consolation prize for acclaimed actors and filmmakers who never managed to win Hollywood's top award.

By then it seemed a safe bet that O'Toole's prospects for another nomination were slim. He was still working regularly, but in smaller roles unlikely to earn awards attention.

O'Toole graciously accepted the honorary award, quipping ''Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,'' as he clutched his Oscar statuette.

O'Toole nearly turned down the award, sending a letter asking that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hold off on the honorary Oscar until he turned 80.

Hoping another Oscar-worthy role would come his way, O'Toole wrote: ''I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright.''

He earned his eighth best-actor nomination for 2006's Venus, in which he played a lecherous old actor consigned to roles as feeble-minded royals or aged men on their death beds.

''If you fail the first time, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again,'' O'Toole said in a statement on nominations day.

The best-actor prize that year went to Forest Whitaker for The Last King Of Scotland.

O'Toole is survived by two daughters - Kate and Patricia - and a son, Lorcan Patrick O'Toole.

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