Peter O'Toole (born 2 August 1932) is an Irish and British actor who achieved instant stardom in 1962 playing T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia and went on to become one of the most honoured film and stage actors of his time. He has been nominated for more Academy Awards without winning than any other performer.
Upon leaving school O'Toole obtained employment as a trainee journalist and photographer on a provincial newspaper until he was called up for National Service as a signaller in the Royal Navy. As reported in a radio interview in 2006 on NPR, he was asked by an officer whether he had something he'd always wanted to do. His reply was that he'd always wanted to try being either a poet or an actor. O'Toole attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) (1952–1954) on a scholarship after being rejected by the Abbey Theatre's Drama School in Dublin by the then director Ernest Blythe, because he couldn't speak Irish. At RADA, he was in the same class as Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford. O'Toole described this as "the most remarkable class the academy ever had, though we weren't reckoned for much at the time. We were all considered dotty".
O'Toole began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company, before making his television debut in 1954 and a very minor film debut in 1959. O'Toole's major break came when he was chosen to play T. E. Lawrence in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), after Marlon Brando proved unavailable and Albert Finney turned down the role. His performance was ranked number one in Premiere magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. The role introduced him to U.S. audiences and earned him the first of his eight nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
O'Toole is also one of a handful of actors to be Oscar-nominated for playing the same role in two different films; he played King Henry II in both 1964's Becket and 1968's The Lion in Winter. O'Toole played Hamlet under Laurence Olivier's direction in the premiere production of the Royal National Theatre in 1963. He has also appeared in Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock at Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, fulfilling a lifetime ambition when taking to the stage of the Irish capital's Abbey Theatre in 1970 to play in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, alongside the stage actor Donal McCann. His 1980 performance as Macbeth is often considered one of the greatest disasters in theatre history, but he has redeemed his theatrical reputation with his performances as John Tanner in Man and Superman and Henry Higgins in Pygmalion, and won a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (1989).
O'Toole won an Emmy Award for his role in the 1999 mini-series Joan of Arc. In 2004, O'Toole played King Priam in the summer blockbuster Troy. In 2005, he appeared on television as the older version of legendary 18th century Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova in the BBC drama serial Casanova. O'Toole's role was mainly to frame the drama, telling the story of his life to serving maid Edith (Rose Byrne). The younger Casanova seen for most of the action was played by David Tennant, who had to wear contact lenses to match his brown eyes to O'Toole's blue.
He was once again nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Maurice in the 2006 film Venus, directed by Roger Michell, his eighth such nomination. Most recently, O'Toole co-stars in the Pixar animated film, Ratatouille, an animated film about a rat with dreams of becoming the greatest chef in Paris. O'Toole has recently starred in the second season of Showtime's hit drama series The Tudors in which he portrays Pope Paul III, who excommunicates King Henry VIII from the church. That leads to a showdown between the two men in seven of the ten episodes.
He and his ex-girlfriend, model Karen Brown, had a son, Lorcan Patrick O'Toole (born March 14, 1983), born when Peter was in his fifties. Lorcan, now an actor, was a pupil at Harrow School, boarding at West Acre from 1996.
Severe illness almost ended his life in the late 1970s. Due to his heavy drinking, he underwent surgery in 1976 to have his pancreas and a large portion of his stomach removed, which resulted in insulin dependent diabetes. O'Toole eventually recovered and returned to work, although he found it harder to get parts in films, resulting in more work for television and occasional stage roles. However, he gave a star turn in 1987's much-garlanded The Last Emperor. He has resided in Clifden, County Galway, Ireland since 1963 and at the height of his career maintained homes in Dublin, London and Paris (at the Ritz), but now only keeps his home in London. While studying at RADA in the early 1950s he was active in protesting British involvement in the Korean War. Later in the 1960s he was an active opponent of the Vietnam War.
He is perhaps the only one of his "London" acting contemporaries not to be knighted. While a glaring omission at first glance, as an Irish citizen, O'Toole is not eligible for British Knighthood. However,according to London's Daily Mail, he was offered an honorary knighthood in 1987, but turned it down for personal and political reasons.
In an NPR interview in December 2006, O'Toole revealed that he knows all 154 Shakespeare sonnets. A self-described romantic, O'Toole regards the sonnets as among the finest collection of English poems. He reads them daily. In the movie Venus, he recites Sonnet 18, "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day". O'Toole has written two books. Loitering With Intent: The Child chronicles his childhood in the years leading up to World War II and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1992. His second, Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice, is about his years spent training with a cadre of friends at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The books have been praised by critics such as Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote: "A cascade of language, a rumbling tumbling riot of words, a pub soliloquy to an invisible but imaginable audience, and the more captivating for it. O'Toole as raconteur is grand company." O'Toole spent parts of 2007 writing his third instalment. This book will have (as he described it) "the meat", meaning highlights from his stage and filmmaking career.
O'Toole is a noted fan of rugby and used to attend Five Nations matches with friends and fellow rugby fans Richard Harris and Richard Burton. He is also a lifelong player, coach and enthusiast of cricket. O'Toole is licensed to teach and coach cricket to children as young as ten. O'Toole is a fan of the football club Sunderland AFC. During an interview with DJ Chris Evans on his show TFI Friday, he was asked about his soccer allegiances and snarled 'Sunderland!' as if blighted by the experience.
O'Toole has been interviewed more than three times by Charlie Rose on The Charlie Rose Show. In the last year interview January 17 2007, O'Toole said that the actor who had influenced him the most was Eric Porter. He also said that the difference between actors of yesterday and today are that actors of his generation were trained for "theatre, theatre, theatre." He also believes that the challenge for the actor is "to use his imagination to link to his emotion" and that "good parts make good actors." However, in other venues (including the DVD commentary for Becket), O'Toole has also credited Donald Wolfit as being his most important mentor. In an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on January 11 2007, O'Toole said that the actor he most enjoyed working with was his close friend, actress Katharine Hepburn. They made the movie The Lion in Winter. He played King Henry II to her Eleanor of Aquitaine.
In 2003, the Academy honoured him with an Academy Honorary Award for his entire body of work and his lifelong contribution to film. O'Toole initially balked about accepting, and wrote the Academy a letter saying he was "still in the game" and would like more time to "win the lovely bugger outright." The Academy informed him that they would bestow the award whether he wanted it or not. Further, as he related on The Charlie Rose Show in January 2007, his children admonished him, saying that it was the highest honour one could receive in the filmmaking industry. And so, O'Toole agreed to appear at the ceremony and receive his Honorary Oscar. It was presented to him by Meryl Streep, who has the most Oscar nominations of any actor (14).
|The Day They Robbed the Bank of England||Captain Fitch|
|The Savage Innocents||First Trooper|
|1962||Lawrence of Arabia||T. E. Lawrence|
|1965||Lord Jim||Lord Jim|
|What's New Pussycat?||Michael James|
|1966||How to Steal a Million||Simon Dermott|
|The Bible: In the Beginning...||The Three Angels|
|1967||The Night of the Generals||General Tanz|
|1968||The Lion in Winter||Henry II''|
|Great Catherine||Capt. Charles Edstaston|
|1969||Goodbye, Mr. Chips||Arthur Chipping|
|1970||Country Dance||Sir Charles Ferguson|
|1972||Under Milk Wood||Captain Tom Cat|
|The Ruling Class||Jack Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney|
|Man of La Mancha||Don Quixote de La Mancha/Miguel de Cervantes/Alonso Quijana|
|Man Friday||Robinson Crusoe|
|Rogue Male||Sir Robert Thorndyke|
|1978||Power Play (aka State of Shock)||Colonel Zeller|
|1979||Zulu Dawn||Lord Chelmsford|
|1980||The Stunt Man||Eli Cross|
|1981||Masada||General Cornelius Flavius Silva|
|1982||My Favorite Year||Alan Swann|
|1983||Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear||Sherlock Holmes||(voice)|
|Sherlock Holmes and a Study in Scarlet||Sherlock Holmes||(voice)|
|Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four||Sherlock Holmes||(voice)|
|1986||Club Paradise||Governor Anthony Cloyden Hayes|
|1987||The Last Emperor||Reginald Johnston|
|1988||High Spirits||Peter Plunkett|
|1989||As Long as It's Love||Prof. Yan McShoul|
|1990||The Rainbow Thief||Prince Meleagre|
|Wings of Fame||Cesar Valentin|
|The Nutcracker Prince||Pantaloon||(voice)|
|1991||King Ralph||Sir Cedric Charles Willingham|
|1992||Rebecca's Daughters||Lord Sarn|
|Isabelle Eberhardt||Maj. Lyautey|
|1993||The Seventh Coin||Emil Saber|
|1997||FairyTale: A True Story||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|1998||Phantoms||Dr. Timothy Flyte|
|1999||The Manor||Mr. Ravenscroft|
|Molokai: The Story of Father Damien||William Williamson|
|2002||Global Heresy||Lord Charles Foxley|
|The Final Curtain||J.J. Curtis|
|2003||Bright Young Things||Colonel Blount|
|One Night with the King||Samuel, the Prophet|
|Stardust||King of Stormhold|
|2008||Thomas Kinkade's Home for Christmas||Glen Wessler||awaiting release|
|Dean Spanley||Fisk Senior||gala premiere at TIFF|
|1956||The Scarlet Pimpernel||First Soldier||TV show (1 episode)|
|1961||Rendezvous||John||TV show (3 episodes)|
|1980||Strumpet City||Jim Larkin||TV show|
|1981||Masada||General Cornelius Flavius Silva||miniseries|
|1982||Man and Superman||Jack Tanner||TV movie|
|1983||Pygmalion||Professor Henry Higgins||TV movie|
|Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse||Sherlock Holmes||(voice) TV movie|
|Svengali||Anton Bosnyak||TV movie|
|1986||The Ray Bradbury Theater||John Hapmton||TV show (1 episode)|
|1987||The Dark Angel||Uncle Silas||TV movie|
|1990||Crossing to Freedom||John Sidney Howard||TV movie|
|1992||Civvies||Barry Newman||TV movie|
|1994||Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III||Sam Trump||miniseries|
|1995||Heavy Weather||Clarence, Earl of Emsworth||TV movie|
|1996||Gulliver's Travels||Emperor of Lilliput||TV movie|
|1998||Coming Home||Colonel Carey-Lewis||TV movie|
|1999||Joan of Arc||Bishop Cauchon||Emmy Award|
|Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell||Jeffrey Bernard||TV movie|
|2002||The Education of Max Bickford||Sidney McKnight||TV show (1 episode)|
|2003||Hitler: The Rise of Evil||President Paul von Hindenburg||TV movie|
|Imperium: Augustus||Augustus Caesar||TV movie|
|2005||Casanova||Older Casanova||TV movie|
|2008||The Tudors||Pope Paul III||TV show (7 episodes)|