PETER O’TOOLE, the Irish actor who shot to fame in the Oscar-winning Lawrence of Arabia, has died aged 81.
O’Toole, who overcame stomach cancer in the 1970s, passed away yesterday at the Wellington hospital in London following a long illness, his agent Steve Kenis said today.
The Connemara actor had last year declared he was retiring from acting saying: “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”
However, last month it was reported he had been coaxed out of retirement to act in a film about ancient Rome called Katherine of Alexandria in which he would play Cornelius Gallus, a palace orator.
Among his key roles were Goodbye Mr Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man and My Favourite Year. He received an honorary Oscar in 2003 after receiving eight nominations and no wins – an unassailed record.
He is survived by his two daughters, Pat and Kate O’Toole, from his marriage to actress Siân Phillips, and his son, Lorcan O’Toole, by Karen Brown.
In a statement this evening, President Michael D Higgins said the world had lost one of the giants of film and theatre.
“In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor. He had a deep interest in literature and a love of Shakespearean sonnets in particular.
“While he was nominated as Best Actor for an Oscar eight times, and received a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film, he was deeply committed to the stage.”
Mr Higgins added: “Those who saw him play leading roles on the screen from Lawrence in 1962, or through the role of Henry II in Becket, and The Lion in Winter, or through the dozens of films, will recognise a lifetime especially devoted to the art form of film.
“I was privileged to know him as a friend since 1969. I spent part of 1979 in Clifden where we met almost daily and all of us who knew him in the West will miss his warm humour and generous friendship.”