Lawrence of Arabia Star Peter O’Toole Has Died; Triumphed on Stage in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell

The legendary actor was 81 years old.

Peter O'Toole in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.
Peter O'Toole in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.

Peter O’Toole, the eight-time Academy Award-winning screen and stage actor whose credits range from Lawrence of Arabia to Man of La Mancha, has died at the age of 81. He had been battling a long illness at Wellington Hospital in London and had announced his retirement from the world of acting in 2012.

Starting out on stage, O’Toole was a student in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in the 1950s, where his classmates included notables like Albert Finney, Alan Bates, and Richard Harris. At age 24, he played Hamlet at the Bristol Old Vic and appeared as Jimmy Porter in the landmark drama Look Back in Anger in 1956. His many stage credits before film included the war drama The Long and the Short and the Tall.

In 1962, O’Toole shot to fame when he starred in the film Lawrence of Arabia, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. Seven others followed, for the pictures Becket; The Lion in Winter; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; The Ruling Class; The Stunt Man; My Favorite Year; and Venus. He holds the record for the most Academy Award acting nominations without a single win. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary Oscar for his contributions to the cinema.

O’Toole was never away from the stage for long. He appeared in the classic dramas Macbeth (a colossal flop), Man and Superman, Pygmalion (which played Broadway), and The Apple Cart. His greatest theatrical success was in Ned Sherrin’s production of Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse, in which he played the title role. He first played the part in 1989, and repeated it ten years later in a sold-out revival at the Old Vic. The performance was captured on video and can be watched below in its entirety.

O’Toole was married for 20 years to the actress Siân Phillips and is survived by their daughter, actress Kate O’Toole, and his son Lorcan, from his second marriage to Karen Brown.