Peter O'Toole


1932-2013. Connemara, County Galway, Ireland

This lauded Irish thespian studied at RADA alongside the likes of Albert Finney and his lifelong friend (and frequent drinking partner) Richard Harris before debuting on the London stage. But movies were where blue-eyed stunner O'Toole became a star. With only a few TV and film parts on his résumé, O'Toole won the title role in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, though he was not the first choice; myriad actors had turned down the part, including Finney. Yet as writer/adventurer/warrior T.E. Lawrence, O'Toole was magnetic and magnificent, earning his first Academy Award nomination for best actor. For the rest of the decade, he remained a mega movie star, appearing in projects both prestigious (as King Henry II in both Becket and The Lion in Winter, garnering him two more Oscar nods) and popular (the caper How to Steal a Million, the comedy What's New, Pussycat?). He even tackled a musical, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, earning yet another Oscar nomination. But in the '70s, despite a nod for his turn as an insane nobleman in the satire The Ruling Class, O'Toole's hard off-screen life began to catch up with him. Although married to actress Siân Phillips with two children, he was a notorious ladies' man and heavy drinker. His career and health began to suffer, and doctors eventually had to remove parts of his stomach and intestines. O'Toole nearly died, but went on to make a full recovery. In the '80s, after some low-profile projects and a divorce, he made a comeback with a pair of Oscar-nominated turns: a manipulative director in the thriller Stunt Man and a washed-up, alcoholic movie star in the comedy My Favorite Year. While O'Toole continued to work steadily, he often signed on to projects of dubious quality (Supergirl, Club Paradise, King Ralph) seemingly just for the paycheck. In 2003, having been nominated for---but never winning---seven acting Oscars (a record he shared with buddy Richard Burton), he finally took home an honorary statuette. However, O'Toole was initially hesitant to accept it, and wrote a note to the Academy stating that despite his advanced age, he was "still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright." In 2006, he proved that wasn't an empty boast when he was nominated for an eighth Oscar for his work as an elderly actor involved with a teen in Venus. A couple years later, O'Toole accepted a rare recurring TV role, playing Pope Paul III on the second season of Showtime period drama The Tudors; but he continued to remain active on the big screen, which had always been where his talents truly shone---Oscar or no Oscar.

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