Peter O’Toole, the legendary actor best known for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, died Saturday, Dec. 14 after a long illness. He was 81.
Born in Ireland in 1932, O’Toole was raised in England and made his stage debut at 17. After serving as a radio technician in the British Royal Navy, he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He made his cinematic debut in Kidnapped in 1960. A scant two years later, O’Toole earned worldwide acclaim playing the lead in David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. Upon its release, Time Magazine raved, “It is O’Toole who continually dominates the screen, and he dominates it with professional skill, Irish charm and smashing good looks.” Lawrence was nominated for 10 Oscars, and won seven, but O’Toole, who was nominated for Best Actor, was not among the winners.
O’Toole would be nominated for Best Actor seven more times; he never won, but he was awarded an Academy Honorary Award in 2003. His nominated performances include The Lion in Winter, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, and My Favorite Year. Most recently, O’Toole was nominated in 2006 for his performance as an elderly actor who becomes close with a friend’s much younger great niece in Venus. In addition, O’Toole lent heft and gravitas to such diverse films as Man of La Mancha, Supergirl, Bright Young Things, Troy, Ratatouille, and Stardust. He announced his retirement from acting in 2012. He is survived by three children from two relationships.