News / Arts & Entertainment

'Lawrence of Arabia' Actor, Peter O'Toole, Dies at 81

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.
Actor Peter O'Toole, who shot to instant stardom in Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, died Saturday at the age of 81. O'Toole's agent said the actor died at a London hospital following a long illness.
 
Born in 1932 and raised in England, O'Toole, the son of an Irish bookmaker, first established himself as a stage actor in the late 1950s. It was not until 1962 that he got his big break in the movies, starring in director David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia.
 
O'Toole played British army officer T.E. Lawrence, who helped to lead an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War II. The role earned O'Toole the first of eight Oscar nominations for Best Actor.

  • Peter O'Toole is shown in an undated photograph.
  • Peter O'Toole is seen in this undated photograph.
  • Peter O'Toole speaks to film director Otto Preminger during shooting of "Rosebud" in Paris, July 27, 1974.
  • Peter O'Toole smokes during an interview at his London home, Dec. 23, 1980.
  • Peter O'Toole accepts his honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during the 75th annual Academy Awards telecast in Los Angeles, March 23, 2003.
  • Peter O'Toole arrives for the British premiere of the film 'Venus' in central London, Jan. 22, 2007.
  • Peter O’Toole places his handprints in cement as he is honored during the TCM Classic Film Festival at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, April 11, 2011.

The film begins with a depiction of Lawrence of Arabia's death in 1935, followed by a memorial service in London where a fictional American journalist Jackson Bentley gives his opinion of the man.
 
“He was a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior. He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum and Bailey,” Bentley says.
 
From those recollections, the film becomes a giant flashback of Lawrence's life. Bentley follows Lawrence through the Arab world to record the officer's exploits.
 
O'Toole earned his second Oscar nomination for the 1964 film Becket, in which he plays King Henry II, the drunken and womanizing ruler of 12th century England.
 
Henry appoints his friend and adviser Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury in a bid to control the church, but the scheme backfires when Becket the priest opposes the king's interference.
 
Becket flees England and then returns, only to be killed by Henry's men when the king impulsively calls for the elimination of the meddlesome cleric. Stricken with guilt, Henry grants Becket a posthumous honor, naming him a saint and martyr and calling for him to be prayed to throughout the kingdom.
 
O'Toole received six more Oscar nominations in a movie career spanning more than 40 years, making him the most nominated male actor never to win. His last nomination came for playing an elderly actor in the 2006 film Venus.
 
However, the veteran star still managed to get his hands on a coveted Oscar statuette when the U.S. film industry gave him an honorary Academy Award in 2003.
 
In a 2001 interview, O'Toole spoke about how he interpreted a script writer's vision for his various roles, detailing the process through which characters come off the page and onto the screen.
 
“With all good scripts there's this extraordinary alchemy of - you look at the ink on the page, the ink goes into the eye, into the mind, and then comes out the mouth. I found [that] with all fine works, they live on the page, for an actor - for an actor's sensibilities," O’Toole said.



O'Toole also struggled with health problems for decades. He had a reputation as a chain smoker and heavy drinker, but gave up alcohol in 1975 after surviving stomach cancer.
 
Just before he turned 80 last year, O'Toole announced his retirement. He expressed gratitude for the companions with whom he shared what he called "the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.''

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”