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Peter O’Toole, Iconic for Role in ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ Dies at 81

Peter O'Toole  was nominated for Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in 1962's 'Lawrence of Arabia.'

Peter O’Toole was nominated for Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of T.E. Lawrence in 1962’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’

Peter O’Toole, one of the greatest actors of his time, who galvanized audiences in the 1962 film “Lawrence of Arabia” and lived a life as epic as his career, died in London Saturday (Dec. 14). He was 81.

O’Toole passed away at Wellington Hospital in London, following a long illness, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Despite his numerous stage and screen roles over the years, O’Toole will always be known as T.E. Lawrence.

Lawrence was a British soldier, who became a Messianic leader of an Arab revolt that threw off Turkish rule in the Middle East during World War I. O’Toole forever defined the character in a four-hour epic film directed by David Lean.

His portrayal was so memorable, it was featured in Ridley Scott’s 2013 sci-fi movie “Prometheus.” The film was a favorite of David, a sociopathic android who watched it repeatedly while tending to the ship on its two-year voyage to a distant planet.

The film launched O’Toole as a major actor, but his flamboyance, out-outspokenness and his penchant for high living worked against him throughout his career.

Although he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar eight times, he never won. And, he never hesitated to express his distaste for the Hollywood power structure.

He was nominated for such films roles as King Henry II (twice) in 1964’s “Becket” and 1968’s “The Lion in Winter.” He was also nominated for his role in 1969’s “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and “The Ruling Class” in 1972.

In 2003 he finally received an honorary Academy Award for his overall film work. His last nomination came for his portrayal of Maurice in the 2006 film “Venus.”

A classically trained British actor, O’Toole also made a mark in theater in plays like Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and more than a dozen Shakespeare plays from King Lear and Othello to A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice.

Born Peter Seamus Lorcan O’Toole in August 1932, he was irrepressibly Irish, although he grew up in England. His father was a working man, but was best known as racecourse bookie. O’Toole could recall spending his youth at various racecourses as his father worked the circuit.

He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art after a stint in the Royal Navy and started acting in regional theater.

He underwent surgery for cancer in 1976. His pancreas and part of his stomach were removed and he recovered. He announced his retirement from acting last July in poor health.

He’s survived by two daughters, Pat O’Toole and Kate O’Toole, from his marriage to actress Siân Phillips, and a son, Lorcan Patrick O’Toole, born in 1983 to his girlfriend Karen Brown.

“His family are very appreciative and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts,” Kate O’Toole said in a statement.

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