Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole, RIP

Except for Ratatouille and playing Sherlock Holmes in a British animated series, he had little to do with animation. Still in all, a giant.

Actor Peter O'Toole, who starred in Sir David Lean's 1962 film classic Lawrence of Arabia, died on Saturday aged 81, his agent has said.

He was being treated at London's Wellington hospital after a long illness, his agent added.

O'Toole's daughter Kate said the family was overwhelmed "by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us".

He received an honorary Oscar in 2003, having initially turned it down.

In a letter the actor asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to delay it until he was 80, saying he was "still in the game and might win the bugger outright".

But when he finally clasped his statuette, he said: "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot." ...

One of my vivid film memories of Peter O'Toole is seeing Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, when it was playing in road show release*. Lawrence was awe-inspiring then, and is awe-inspiring now. O'Toole was riveting, and carried the film. But he was pretty much riveting in everything he did, whether the movie was high-quality or drek.

My other vivid memory is listening to fellow Brit Barrie Ingham spin O'Toole stories at lunch in-between recording sessions for The Great Mouse Detective. Ingham recounted how Peter O'Toole broke almost every convention when he was a new-comer, once telling a television producer who'd hired him, "You can stuff this!" then flinging a script O'Toole (apparently) disliked into the producer's office.

The result of this outrage? The producer upped newcomer O'Toole's salary.

Rest well, Mr. O'Toole, you've earned it.

* Road show movies, if you don't know, were high-profile, big-budget spectaculars that were initially released in one theater with reserved seating ... and often played in that one theater for a year or more. That method of film distribution has gone the way of the passenger pigeon.


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