Award-winning actor Peter O’Toole has died at the age of 81. According to the Guardian, he died after a long illness on Saturday at London’s Wellington hospital in London. O’Toole starred in the David Lean Oscar-winning film “Lawrence of Arabia” and fought stomach cancer in the 1970s.
O’Toole announced last year he was stopping acting, saying: “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell. The heart for it has gone out of me. It won’t come back”
Born in 1932, he was the son of Constance Jane Eliot, a Scottish nurse, and Patrick Joseph O’Toole, an Irish metal plater, football player, and racecourse bookmaker.
O’Toole was part of the 1954 graduating class of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art along with Richard Burton, Albert Finney, and Alan Bates.
The actor received Oscar nominations for his performances in 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 Favorite Year” — trailer below:
He is survived by two daughters – Kate and Patricia – and a son, Lorcan Patrick O’Toole.
In a statement released earlier today, daughter Kate 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.”
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins memorialized O’Toole in a statement via the actor’s agent, Steve Kenis:
“I have heard with great sadness of the passing of Peter O’Toole this weekend. Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.
In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor. He had a deep interest in literature and a love of Shakespearean Sonnets in particular.
While he was nominated as Best Actor for an Oscar eight times, and received a special Oscar from his peers, for his contribution to film, he was deeply committed to the stage.
Those who saw him play leading roles on the screen from Lawrence in 1962, or through the role of Henry II in Becket, and The Lion in Winter, or through the dozens of films, will recognise a lifetime devoted to the art form of the camera.
Yet others may have have seen him on stage in London, New York, or Dublin where he performed at the Abbey with the late Donal McCann in Godot or at the Gaiety in the plays of Shaw and O’Casey. His performance in Shaw’s plays was outstanding.
I was privileged to know him as a friend since 1969. I spent part of 1979 in Clifden where we met almost daily and all of us who knew him in the West will miss his warm humour and generous friendship.
To Kate, Pat, Lorcan and Sian my deepest sympathy. Sabina and I and our Children will miss him, as will all those who saw him on screen or stage or had the privilege, as I had, of having his friendship and humour.
He was unsurpassed for the grace he brought to every performance on and off the stage.”