Sunday 18 February 2018

Wayne was lined up to play role that 'made' O'Toole

STAR PART: Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia
STAR PART: Peter O’Toole as Lawrence of Arabia

Lynsey Bews

HIS name may be synonymous with American westerns, but new research has revealed that John Wayne was once lined up to play British Army officer Lawrence of Arabia in the epic film of the same name.

The lead role, which was eventually made famous by Peter O'Toole in 1962, was offered to Wayne almost a decade earlier, according to film historian Brian Hannan.

Trade papers uncovered by Mr Hannan as he researched a book about the making of the film revealed that Wayne was announced to play the hero in January 1953, in a version to be made by Cinerama, the three-screen sensation of the 1950s.

It was to be produced by Lowell Thomas, the former journalist who shaped the legend of Lawrence of Arabia in 1919 with a lecture tour that attracted more than five million people in the US and Britain.

"John Wayne was the biggest male action star of the day," said Mr Hannan. "He was huge, and in those days studios needed a big star to draw the crowds.

"Dozens of actors were up for the role over the years, but the last person I would have expected to find was the Duke.

"But at the time, people had woken up to the fact that he could actually act – he had just been Oscar-nominated for Sands Of Iwo Jima and had received rave reviews for John Ford's Fort Apache and Howard Hawks' Red River."

Scottish-born Mr Hannan, who is launching his book, The Making of Lawrence of Arabia, this weekend, said the Cinerama version failed to materialise and had suffered from a lack of funding.

Over the years actors including Richard Burton and Gregory Peck were considered for the role before it was offered to Marlon Brando, who turned it down in favour of Mutiny On The Bounty.

Eventually the part was given to O'Toole, who was relatively unknown at the time.

Irish Independent

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