The world lost an acting icon and legend Saturday when Peter James O’Toole finally succumbed to a long illness at the age of 81. He was 8-time nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, he sadly never won until the Academy gave him an honorary award in 2003. But who can deny his tremendous acting ability, wit and exuberant personality. He was one of the first great actors I knew growing up watching such un-classics of his like Supergirl, High Spirits and Club Paradise. It wasn’t until I really got into film that I realized how awesome he is in such outstanding movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, The Lion in Winter and My Favorite Year (my personal favorite). Sure, Lawrence of Arabia is 6 hours long but I did actually watch it twice in my life (so far) and I will and can watch it again, it’s that good. I recently saw The Stunt Man and regrettably, didn’t love it like I thought I would but maybe I should give it another shot. Despite my not liking it though, O’Toole was as cunning and devious as usual. To me that is/was his greatest acting attribute; his ability to smile and still be the villain. Even as the heroic T.E. Lawrence he had a shiftiness to his character to unite the Arabs together to fight the Turks in WWI. His portrayal of King Henry II in The Lion in Winter arguing and fighting his wife and manipulating his sons is as villainous and devilish, if not more so, as any Darth Vader or Dracula in all Hollywood history.
There’s a ton of Peter O’Toole movies I have yet to see but I will be adding them to my Netflix queue right away so I further see how a great actor works and makes good movies into great art. I’m glad he lived a fruitful long life and despite him not winning a silly Academy trophy, in most of the cinematic and stage communities, he was one-of-a-kind and is a legend and he will be sorely missed. If there is an afterlife, I’m sure he’s in a dark, dank Irish pub laughing, singing and sharing many libations with his chums; Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Peter Finch.