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Peter O'Toole, dies aged 81


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Peter O'Toole, Lawrence of Arabia star, dies aged 81

_71757590_015290737-2.jpgO'Toole announced he was retiring from the stage and screen in 2012
Actor Peter O'Toole, who starred in Sir David Lean's 1962 film classic Lawrence of Arabia, died on Saturday aged 81, his agent has said.

He was being treated at London's Wellington hospital after a long illness, his agent added.

O'Toole's daughter Kate said the family was overwhelmed "by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us".

He received an honorary Oscar in 2003, having initially turned it down.

In a letter the actor asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to delay it until he was 80, saying he was "still in the game and might win the bugger outright".

But when he finally clasped his statuette, he said: "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot."

O'Toole's agent said he was "one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field".

_71757648_71758008.jpgO'Toole was 30 when he played Lawrence of Arabia

Film critic Barry Norman described him as a "true movie star", who had "tremendous charisma".

The Irish President, Michael D Higgins, said Ireland, and the world, had lost "one of the giants of film and theatre".

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with Peter O'Toole's family and friends. His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning."

Irish President Michael D Higgins added: "Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.

"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."

Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News it was hard to be too sad about the news of his passing, and smiled as he said: "Peter didn't leave much of life unlived, did he?"

O'Toole began his acting career as an exciting young talent on the British stage and his Hamlet in 1955 at the Bristol Old Vic, was critically acclaimed.

_71757649_71757717.jpgPeter O'Toole starred with Audrey Hepburn in 1965's comedy How to Steal a Million Dollars and Live Happily Ever After

He hit international stardom when Sir David cast him as British adventurer T E Lawrence, the World War I soldier and scholar who LED an Arab rebellion against the Turks.

Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O'Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the film "Florence of Arabia".

Lawrence of Arabia earned him the first of eight Oscar nominations, with his second coming for 1964's Becket, in which he played King Henry II to Richard Burton's Thomas Becket.

Burton and O'Toole's shared love of drinking garnered many headlines along with their performances.

O'Toole played Henry again in 1968 in The Lion in Winter, for which he received his third Oscar nod, opposite Katharine Hepburn.

His five other nominations were for Goodbye, Mr Chips in 1968, The Ruling Class in 1971, 1980's The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year [1982] and finally for Venus in 2006.

Other performances included leading Shakespearean parts, comic roles in adaptations of PG Wodehouse and his famed starring role in 1989 in Keith Waterhouse's stage play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell.

It was comedy about his old drinking pal Jeffrey Bernard, who wrote The Spectator magazine's weekly Low Life column.

_71758575_71757584.jpgO'Toole is seen backstage at the opening night of Hamlet at the Old Vic theatre in London in 1963

O'Toole also had a reputation for riotous behaviour following bouts of drinking, but in the mid-70s he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and was warned by medics that more alcohol would prove fatal.

He had yards of his intestinal tubing - "most of my plumbing" - removed and he gave up drinking.

"If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it,'' he once said. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt."

It was sometimes tough finding good roles, but he told the Independent on Sunday in 1990: "I take whatever good part comes along.

"And if there isn't a good part, then I do anything, just to pay the rent. Money is always a pressure. And waiting for the right part - you could wait forever. So I turn up and do the best I can."

In 1980 he starred in a critically panned production of Macbeth, but it was a sell-out after a drubbing from critics brought in audiences of curiosity seekers.

Farewell to acting

"The thought of it makes my nose bleed," he said years later.

He spoke in 2001 of the importance of good writing, and said: "With all good scripts, plays, screenplays, there's this extraordinary alchemy of - you look at the ink on the page, the ink goes into the eye, into the mind, and then comes out the mouth.

"I found with all fine works, they live on the page, for an actor, for an actor's sensibilities."

Last July, after a career spanning 50 years and at the age of 79, O'Toole said he was retiring from the stage and screen.

"I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell," he said.

"The heart for it has gone out of me. It won't come back".

However, last month it was announced he was being lined up for a role as a Roman orator in Katherine of Alexandria, a film scheduled for release next year.

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