Peter O’Toole, the British actor with the piercing blue eyes who skyrocketed to fame with his performance in the title role of David Lean’s epic Lawrence Of Arabia, died yesterday in a London hospital following a long illness. He was 81.
The actor received the first of his eight Academy Award nominations for his role of T. E.Lawrence in Lean’s 1962 adaptation of the life of the British military officer who helped lead an uprising of Arab tribes against a Turkish occupation. He also received nominations for his work in Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). Although he never won an Oscar in regular competition, he was given an Honorary Academy Award in 2002 for lifetime achievement.
O’Toole is one of only a small number of actors to be Oscar-nominated for playing the same role in two different films – King Henry II in both 1964’s Becket and 1968’s The Lion in Winter.
In addition to his Oscar nominated work, he also delivered fantastic and critically praised performances in such films as What’s New Pussycat (1965), one of the few films in which he was able to display his flair for comedy, How to Steal a Million (1966), The Last Emperor (1987) and Ratatouille (2007).
O’Toole’s career began on stage, having trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he was classmates with several future acting luminaries including Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford.