One of the most mesmeric actors ever to grace stage and screen, Peter O’Toole, has died aged 81. He had only recently come out of retirement to make a new movie.
Most people associate him with one role, his first film made before he was 30, which catapulted him to megastardom in a stoke. David Lean’s “Laurence of Arabia” took his sapphire-blue eyes and in close-up shots against the desert sands the camera revealed the conflict within, an O’Toole trademark.
Incredibly, he was nominated for an Oscar eight times but never won, but O’Toole had a life packed with carousing with his drinking buddies Richard Harris and Richard Burton, and getting into innumerable scrapes. Awards meant little.
He also shunned marquee roles to take on edgy, left-field projects, often giving the impression he was working for himself, not the public. Few of his films lived up to the sweep and grandeur of “Laurence”. That one movie alone would have made him immortal. Fortunately, there is a lot more to discover, “The Ruling Class”, “The Stunt Man”, “My Favourite Year” and “Venus” are well worth hunting out, and are very different to his higher-profile roles in “Beckett” or “A Lion in Winter”.