The actor’s 1962 portrayal of an English ally of embattled Arabs is a high water mark of cinema. Long after overcoming stomach cancer in the 1970s, Peter O’Toole died in a London hospital following an illness.
O’Toole stopped acting last year, saying, “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.” He said his career in movies and on stage fulfilled him emotionally and financially, connecting him “with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.”
The president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, was among the first to pay tribute: “Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.”
“In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor,” Higgins said. “He had a deep interest in literature and a love of Shakespearean sonnets in particular. While he was nominated as best actor for an Oscar eight times, and received a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film, he was deeply committed to the stage. Those who saw him play leading roles on the screen from Lawrence in 1962, or through the role of Henry II in Becket, and The Lion in Winter, or through the dozens of films, will recognise a lifetime devoted to the artform of the camera.
Higgins, who knew O’Toole as a friend since 1969, said “all of us who knew him in the west will miss his warm humour and generous friendship.