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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Border Crossings: A Great Big Worldi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    April 27, 2016 12:30 PM
    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."

    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."