Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie “Florence of Arabia.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday the movie was his favorite film, calling O’Toole’s performance “stunning.”
In 1964’s “Becket,” O’Toole played King Henry II to Richard Burton’s Thomas Becket, and won another Oscar nomination. Burton shared O’Toole’s fondness for drinking, and their off-set carousing made headlines.
O’Toole played Henry again in 1968 in “The Lion in Winter,” opposite Katharine Hepburn, for his third Oscar nomination.
Four more nominations followed: in 1968 for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” in 1971 for “The Ruling Class,” in 1980 for “The Stunt Man,” and in 1982 for “My Favorite Year.”
It was almost a quarter-century before he received his eighth and last, for “Venus.”
Seamus Peter O’Toole was born Aug. 2, 1932, the son of Irish bookie Patrick “Spats” O’Toole and his wife Constance. There is some question about whether Peter was born in Connemara, Ireland, or in Leeds, northern England, where he grew up, but he maintained close links to Ireland, even befriending the country’s now-president, Michael D. Higgins.
Ireland and the world have “lost one of the giants of film and theater,” Higgins said in a statement.
After a teenage foray into journalism at the Yorkshire Evening Post and national military service with the navy, a young O’Toole auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won a scholarship.
He went from there to the Bristol Old Vic and soon was on his way to stardom, helped along by an early success in 1959 at London’s Royal Court Theatre in “The Long and The Short and The Tall.”
The image of the renegade hell-raiser stayed with O’Toole for decades, although he gave up drinking in 1975 following serious health problems and major surgery.