News / Europe

'Lawrence of Arabia' Star Peter O'Toole Dies

FILE - Peter O'Toole is seen at the 2003 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
FILE - Peter O'Toole is seen at the 2003 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Reuters
Stage and screen star Peter O'Toole, the lanky actor of regal bearing and piercing blue eyes who shot to fame in the title role of the epic film “Lawrence of Arabia,” has died at age 81 after a long illness, his agent said on Sunday.
 
The eight-time Oscar nominee, who survived a bout with stomach cancer in the 1970s but whose health had been damaged by years of heavy drinking and chain-smoking, died in a London hospital on Saturday, Steve Kenis, his agent, told Reuters.
 
“Peter O'Toole's family announced today that very sadly Peter died yesterday, peacefully in hospital. He had been ill for some time,” Kenis said in a statement.
 
Appearing in dozens of films during a career spanning six decades, O'Toole is best remembered for his breakout role in David Lean's 1962 blockbuster “Lawrence of Arabia” starring as T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British army officer who fought with Arab irregular troops against Ottoman Turkish rule in World War One.
 
The film earned O'Toole the first of eight Academy Award nominations as best actor in a leading role.
 
Nearly a half-century later, O'Toole gained a new following among cable television viewers for his portrait of Pope Paul III, the Roman Catholic pontiff at odds with Britain's King Henry VIII in the historical drama series “The Tudors.”
 
In between, O'Toole delivered seven more Oscar-nominated performances, along the way becoming one of just a handful of actors to earn Academy Award bids by playing the same character in two different films - portraying King Henry II in “Becket” (1964), co-starring Richard Burton, and in “The Lion in Winter” (1968), opposite Katharine Hepburn.
 
He also garnered Oscar nods for his work in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1969), “The Ruling Class” (1972), “The Stunt Man” (1980), “My Favorite Year” (1982) and once more in “Venus” (2006).
 
The most-nominated actor never to win the award, he eventually and reluctantly accepted an honorary Oscar in 2003.
 
Before doing so, he composed a hand-written open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
 
Later describing his ambivalence at accepting the honorary statuette, he wrote: “I was enchanted but said that as I was still in the game and might yet win the lovely bugger outright, would the Academy please defer the honor until I am 80?”
 
Believed to have been born in Ireland, O'Toole grew up in England and trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he was in the same class as Albert Finney.
 
His striking blue eyes, tousled brown hair and 6-foot-3-inch (1.9 meter) frame made him an instant hit with women when he began his stage career in 1954.
 
He initially made waves on stage in several key Shakespearean roles, including an acclaimed turn as “Hamlet,” and launched his film career in 1960 with small parts in a handful of pictures, including “Kidnapped” and “The Day They Robbed the Bank of England.”
 
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet that “Lawrence of Arabia” was his favorite film, hailing O'Toole's performance in it as “stunning.”
 
Daughter Kate O'Toole thanked the public for what she described as an outpouring of love for the late actor.
 
She asked for her family to be allowed to grieve in private, saying in the same statement it would organize a memorial service “filled with song and good cheer” in due course.
 
O'Toole leaves behind children Kate and Patricia from his failed marriage with Welsh actress Sian Phillips, and Lorcan, his son from a relationship with Karen Brown, a former girlfriend.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs