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

By Daniel S Levine,

Peter O’Toole, one of the greatest actors of the 20th Century, has died at the age of 81. O’Toole starred also starred in some of the greatest films ever made, including David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor and Peter Glenville’s Becket.

O’Toole’s agent and his family shared the sad news first with the BBC. His agent confirmed that O’Toole was suffering from a long illness and was being treated at Wellington hospital in London. His daughter, Kate, told the BBC that the family was overwhelmed “by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us.”

The Irish-born actor was also remembered by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said, “My thoughts are with Peter O'Toole's family and friends. His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning.”

O’Toole was nominated for a record eight Best Actor Oscars without a win. He likely would have won for Lawrence of Arabia, which won Best Picture of 1962, but he lost to Gregory Peck for To Kill A Mockingbird. He was nominated again for 1964’s Becket, which pitted him against Richard Burton, and earned another nomination for sparring with Katharine Hepburn in 1968’s The Lion in Winter. In both Becket and Lion, he played the same King, Henry II.

In 2003, O’Toole did receive an honorary Oscar, but he wasn’t done. He earned one final nomination for his performance in Venus in 2006.

O’Toole was best remembered for those piercing blue eyes, so brilliantly photographed in Lawrence of Arabia. His performance as T.H. Lawrence remains one of the best ever captured on film.

One of his underrated performances came in the Mel Brooks production, 1982’s My Favorite Year. It did garner him another Oscar nomination and the film captures a unique performance from O’Toole, who plays a run-down action star inspired by Errol Flynn who appears on television.

For younger audiences, O’Toole may be best remembered for his voice role in Pixar’s Ratatouille, playing the food critic who has the final say on the best food in Paris.

O’Toole announced his retirement in 2012, although he was set to appear in next year’s Katherine of Alexandria.

The actor also won several other awards, including four Golden Globes, as well as an Emmy for 1999’s Joan of Arc. His performance in Lawrence also won him a BAFTA Award.

As Variety notes, he was married to Sian Phillips for 20 years and they had two daughters. He also had a child with Karen Brown in 1983.

Check out our list of O'Toole's five best performances here.


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