Actor Peter O'Toole, 81
LONDON - Actor Peter O'Toole, 81, who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, died Saturday after a long illness, his agent Steve Kenis said Sunday.
In the same statement, the actor's daughter Kate said, "In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished."
Mr. O'Toole got his first nomination in 1962, for Lawrence of Arabia, his last in 2006, for Venus, setting the record for most nominations without a win, though he received an honorary Oscar in 2003.
A reformed but unrepentant hell-raiser, Mr O'Toole long suffered ill health. But nothing diminished his flamboyance and candor. "If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it," he once said. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle."
Seamus Peter O'Toole was born Aug. 2, 1932, the son of Irish bookie Patrick "Spats" O'Toole and his wife Constance.
After a teenage foray into journalism and service with the navy, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won a scholarship. He began his career as one of the most exciting young talents on the British stage. His 1955 Hamlet, at the Bristol Old Vic, was critically acclaimed.
International stardom came in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia. Mr. O'Toole was unknown to most moviegoers when they first saw him as T.E. Lawrence, the mythic British World War I soldier and scholar who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks. His sensitive portrayal garnered him his first Oscar nomination.
In 1964's Becket, Mr. O'Toole played King Henry II to Richard Burton's Thomas Becket, winning another Oscar nomination. He played Henry again in 1968 in The Lion in Winter, opposite Katharine Hepburn, for his third nomination.
Five more followed: in 1968 for Goodbye, Mr. Chips; in 1971 for The Ruling Class; in 1980 for The Stunt Man; in 1982 for My Favorite Year; and in 2006, his last, for Venus.
The image of the renegade hell-raiser stayed with Mr. O'Toole for decades, though he gave up drinking in 1975. He did not, however, give up smoking unfiltered Gauloises in an ebony holder. That and his penchant for green socks, voluminous coats, and trailing scarves lent him a rakish air.
A month before his 80th birthday in 2012, Mr. O'Toole announced his retirement, saying he would focus on the third volume of his memoirs.
Good parts could be few and far between, but "I take whatever good part comes along," he told the Independent on Sunday newspaper in 1990. "Money is always a pressure. And waiting for the right part - you could wait forever. So I turn up and do the best I can."
The 1980 Macbeth in which he starred was a critical disaster of heroic proportions. But it played to sellout audiences, largely because the savaging by the critics brought out the curiosity seekers.
In 1989, however, he had a big stage success with Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, a comedy about his old drinking buddy, the legendary layabout and ladies' man who wrote the Spectator magazine's weekly "Low Life" column when sober enough to do so.
The honorary Oscar came 20 years after his seventh nomination, for My Favorite Year. "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot," he quipped as he held his honorary statuette.
In addition to his daughter Kate, he leaves another daughter, Pat, and a son, Lorcan.