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Sunday 26 May 2019

President leads tributes to Peter O'Toole, a legend fiercely proud of his Irish heritage

Peter O'Toole in 'Lawrence Of Arabia'
Peter O'Toole in 'Lawrence Of Arabia'
Sian phillips with Peter O'Toole and their daughters Pat, left, and Kate during the making of the film Caligula in Italy in 1976.
Peter O'Toole, Diane Kruger (R) and Rose Byrne pose at the premiere of the movie 'Troy' in New York May 10, 2004.
Actors Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren in 2007
Actor Peter O'Toole ,a native of Roundstone in Co Galway on his 52nd birthday pictured with one of his Connemara ponies at his home on the Sky Road, Clifden,Co.Galway.Picture: Tom Burke
Peter O'Toole as Pope Paul III in BBC series The Tudors
A young Peter O’Toole during the opening night of ‘Hamlet’ at the Old Vic in 1963
Peter O'Toole with daughter Kate and son Lorcan in 2011
John Meagher

John Meagher

BRITISH by birth, but Irish at heart, Peter O'Toole has died aged 81.

One of the greatest actors of the last century, he died peacefully having battled stomach cancer for the last 18 months.

O'Toole -- who held an Irish passport -- came to international prominence thanks to his starring role in David Lean's epic 1962 film, 'Lawrence of Arabia'.

President Higgins led tributes, saying: "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.

"Sabina and I and our children will miss him, as will all those who saw him on screen or stage or had the privilege, as I had, of enjoying his friendship and humour."

In 1979, O'Toole agreed to play Jim Larkin in RTE's 'Strumpet City', about the 1913 Lockout.

Actor Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia 1968 (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Actor Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia 1968 (Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O'Toole, circa 1975. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O?Toole at a Manchester press conference for his play 'Man and Superman' being presented at the Palace Theatre before its London showing. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O'Toole, 5th September 1980. (Photo by John Downing/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O'Toole wearing a straw boater and bow tie, circa 1970. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
Actor Peter O'Toole attends the 79th Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 25, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
Actor Peter O'Toole arrives at the pre-screening drinks reception for "Venus" at The National Gallery on October 19, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Peter O'Toole poses for a portrait at the Ritz Hotel in London, England on January 24, 1989. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Actor Peter O'Toole wearing a sharp suit and smoking a cigarette in a holder, London 1976. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
British actor Peter O'Toole kissing his actress wife Sian Phillips while holding drink in hand. (Photo by Horst Tappe/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Welsh actress Sian Phillips arrivies at London Airport with her husband Peter O'Toole 1964 (Photo by Cleland Rimmer/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Actor Peter O'Toole as Alan Swann on set of the MGM/UA Entertainment movie "My Favorite Year" in 1982. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O'Toole as Murphy in 'Murphy's War', directed by Peter Yates, 1971. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O'Toole, circa 1985. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Irish actor Peter O'Toole bare chasted looking in the distance in the film The Bible: In the Beginning. 1966 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Peter O'Toole poses as his hand and footprints are enshrined in concrete at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on April 30, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
Peter O'Toole in a publicity portrait issued for the film, 'Lord Jim', 1965. The adventure film, adapted from the novel by Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) and directed by Richard Brooks (1912-1992), starred O'Toole as 'Lord Jim'. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Actor Peter O'Toole in New York City during the filming of the movie 'My Favourite Year', September 1981. (Photo by Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Peter O'Toole (Photo by Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Peter O'Toole & Rod Steiger during 33rd Annual Emmy Awards Rehearsals at Pasadena Civic Center in Pasadena, CA, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Fair City star Bryan Murray, who appeared in the acclaimed RTE series, recalled the excitement when O'Toole walked on set. "In the series you see the workers electrified by Jim Larkin, but it's Peter O'Toole they were reacting to," he said.

"He was the biggest star on the planet and the buzz was phenomenal.

"As for his performance, all I can say is that you didn't have to do much acting opposite Peter O'Toole."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said "his performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning", while O'Toole's agent, Steve Kenis, said, "he was one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field".

Comedian Stephen Fry said: "Oh what terrible news. Farewell Peter O'Toole. I had the honour of directing him in a scene. Monster, scholar, lover of life, genius."

Actor Gabriel Byrne said he was "one of the most elegant, graceful and charismatic actors of all time".

Comedian David Walliams recalled when he and acting partner Matt Lucas had drinks with O'Toole in Los Angeles.

"He was hugely entertaining. The greatest company. A legend on screen and off."

Despite the large number of nominations he received throughout his 50-year career, O'Toole would never win an Oscar. He was, however, given an honorary Academy Award in 2003, which he initially refused, saying he was "still in the game" and would like more time to "win the lovely bugger outright".

He was born Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole on August 2, 1932. For many years, he said he hailed from Ireland although he listed both Connemara and Leeds as possible places of birth in his memoir. It was later reported that his birth had been registered in the Yorkshire city.

His bookmaker father was from Galway and O'Toole was fiercely proud of his roots.

He would spend much of his life with his family in Connemara, which he considered a refuge from Hollywood's pressures.

A blond, blue-eyed six-footer, the young O'Toole was famed for his good looks. 'Lawrence' helped land him several major historical parts. He twice portrayed King Henry II: first opposite Richard Burton in 'Becket'; then with Katherine Hepburn in 'The Lion in Winter'.

O'Toole was cinema's great hellraiser, whose appetite for drink and debauchery in his 1960s heyday was only matched by that of his friends and rivals Oliver Reed, Richard Harris and Richard Burton. He claimed to have squandered most of his 'Lawrence' earnings with co-star Omar Sharif at casinos in Beirut and Casablanca.

He retired in July 2012 after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, although last month it was announced he had accepted a part in the historical epic 'Katherine of Alexandria', which is due to be released next year.

He is survived by two daughters, Kate and Patricia, and a son, Lorcan.

Kate O'Toole said that "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."

Irish Independent

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