Peter O'Toole Biography

(Stage and Film Actor)

Birthday: August 2, 1932 (Leo)

Born In: Leeds, England

Peter Seamus O'Toole was a British-Irish stage and film actor. He was one of Hollywood’s highly respected actors. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and began working in the theatre, gaining recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic and with the English Stage Company, before making his film debut in 1959. He was best known for playing T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. He continued successfully in artistically rich films as well as less artistic but commercially rewarding projects. He received Academy Award nominations for seven different films. During 1970s, severe medical problems threatened to destroy his career and life but he survived by giving up alcohol and, after serious medical treatment, returned to films with triumphant performances. He retired from acting in 2012. He died in London at the age of 81.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In August

Also Known As: Peter Seamus O'Toole

Died At Age: 81


Spouse/Ex-: Karen Brown, Siân Phillips

father: Patrick Joseph O'Toole

mother: Constance Jane Ferguson

children: Kate O'Toole, Lorcan O'Toole, Patricia O'Toole

Born Country: England

Actors British Men

Died on: December 14, 2013

place of death: London, England

Ancestry: Scottish Irish

Cause of Death: Stomach Cancer

City: Leeds, England

More Facts

education: Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art

Childhood & Early Life
O’Toole was born on 2nd August 1932 in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. He grew up in Leeds, England. His father, Patrick worked as a race course bookmaker. He had an elder sister Patricia.
He attended St. Joseph’s secondary school in Leeds.
In his early teens, he left school and ended up working for the ‘Yorkshire Evening Post’ as trainee journalist and photographer. He held several positions at the newspaper before quitting journalism once for all.
After his stint in journalism, he was called by Royal Navy for his national service. He worked as a signaler in the navy.
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After completing his national service in the Royal Navy, O’Toole joined the famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1952 to 1954. His classmates there included Albert Finney and Alan Bates.
He began his career on the stage with the ‘Bristol Old Vic Theater’. Before long, he established himself as a gifted actor, he was especially known for his portrayal of the title character in Shakespeare's ‘Hamlet’.
He made it to the big screen in 1960, playing small roles in the films ‘The Savage Innocents’, ‘Kidnapped’ and ‘The Day They Robbed the Bank of England’.
In 1962, he was hired by director Sir David Lean to play the title character in the drama ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
The following year, O'Toole demonstrated his range as an actor with leading roles in ‘Lord Jim’, a drama based on the novel of the same name and the Woody Allen comedy ‘What's New Pussycat?’.
In 1968, O'Toole gave a stellar performance in a historical drama ‘Lion in Winter’. He played England's King Henry II in this movie, which earned him another Oscar nomination.
He fulfilled a lifetime ambition in 1970 when he performed on stage in Samuel Beckett's ‘Waiting for Godot’, at Dublin's Abbey Theatre.
The following year, O'Toole landed the lead role in a more contemporary yet equally acclaimed film, ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’, playing a shy teacher who becomes smitten with a showgirl. He was nominated for an ‘Academy Award’ as ‘Best Actor’.
In 1972, he played both Miguel de Cervantes and his fictional creation Don Quixote in ‘Man of La Mancha’, the motion picture adaptation of hit Broadway musical. The film was a commercial failure and was criticized for using mostly non-singing actors.
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O'Toole continued to show that he was clearly capable of great transformations on screen with 1972's ‘The Ruling Class’, in which he appeared as a mentally disturbed English aristocrat who believes that he is Jesus Christ.
When his career was at its peak, he had issues with heavy drinking. In 1975, he landed in hospital and subsequently underwent surgery. His stomach cancer was misdiagnosed as tumor resulting from his alcoholic excess. O'Toole underwent surgery in 1976 to have his pancreas and a large portion of his stomach removed, which resulted in insulin-dependent diabetes. Soon after, O'Toole quit drinking.
Before this incident, O'Toole's career had been a downward spiral. He made some poor choices, especially the gory and explicit Roman era flop ‘Caligula’. After some delay, the film was finally released in 1980 to scathing reviews.
O'Toole managed to overcome his personal challenges to return to top form as an actor. He starred in another Oscar-nominated role, as an egomaniacal director in ‘The Stunt Man’ in 1980, and again won rave reviews for his portrayal of a beloved and wild film star in ‘My Favorite Year’ in 1982.
He also appeared in 1987's ‘The Last Emperor’.
In 1989, he received mixed reviews for his performance in ‘Man and Superman’ and in ‘Pygmalion’, and won a ‘Laurence Olivier Award’ for his performance in ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’.
O'Toole won an Emmy Award in 1999 for his work on the television miniseries ‘Joan of Arc’.
In 2004, he played King Priam in the blockbuster movie ‘Troy’.
In 2005, he appeared on television as the older version of legendary 18th century Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova in drama serial ‘Casanova’.
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In 2006, O'Toole received Oscar nomination for his performance in ‘Venus’. He played a mature actor who develops a platonic relationship with a much younger woman.
O'Toole co-starred in the animated film ‘Ratatouille’ released in 2007.
The actor returned to the small screen in 2008, portraying Pope Paul III who excommunicates King Henry VIII from the church in the successful drama serial ‘The Tudors’. The same year he starred in New Zealand/British film ‘Dean Spanley’.
In 2012, after more than 50 years as an acclaimed actor, O'Toole announced his retirement.
O'Toole wrote two memoirs. ‘Loitering With Intent: The Child’ based on his childhood memories in the years leading up to World War II. His second, ‘Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice’, is about his years spent training with friends at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Major Works
In 1962, he was hired by director Sir David Lean to play the title character in the drama ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Making this critically praised project proved to be a physically and emotionally grueling process, as it took two years to film and was shot in seven different countries. But O'Toole's hard work paid off: He was nominated for an Academy Award in ‘Best actor’ category for his portrayal of ‘T.E. Lawrence’ in the film. Though he didn't win this honor, the movie took home the ‘Oscar for best picture’. The role introduced him to US audiences. T. E. Lawrence, portrayed by O'Toole, was selected in 2003 as the tenth-greatest hero in cinema history by the American Film Institute.
With the success of Lawrence of Arabia, O'Toole became an international film star. He picked up his second Oscar nomination for his turn as ‘King Henry II’ in ‘Becket’ (1964), in which Richard Burton played the title role. He also won Golden Globe Award for this role.
Awards & Achievements
In 1963, his performance in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ won him ‘Best British Actor’ award from BFATA.
He won Golden Globe Award in ‘Best Actor’ category in 1965 for his role in ‘Becket’. He won the same award for his role in ‘The Lion in Winter’ in 1969, followed by once again in 1970 for ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’.
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His portrayal of Bishop Pierre in ‘Joan of Arc’ brought him ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ in ‘Outstanding supporting actor’ in 1999.
His contribution to the field on acting was recognized by Academy Awards committee and he was given an ‘Honorary Award’ in 2003.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1959, he married Welsh actress Siân Phillips, with whom he had two daughters, Kate and Patricia. The couple got divorced in 1979.
O'Toole and his girlfriend, model Karen Brown had a son, Lorcan, who is also an actor.
After battling a long illness, O'Toole died at the age of 81 in a London hospital on December 14, 2013.
He was active opponent of Korean War and Vietnam War.
He knew all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets.
O'Toole played rugby league as a child and was also a lifelong player, coach and enthusiast of cricket.

Peter O'Toole Movies

1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

  (Adventure, War, Biography, Drama, History)

2. The Lion in Winter (1968)

  (History, Biography, Drama)

3. Becket (1964)

  (Drama, History, Biography)

4. How to Steal a Million (1966)

  (Comedy, Crime, Romance)

5. The Ruling Class (1972)

  (Musical, Drama, Comedy)

6. My Favorite Year (1982)


7. The Party's Over (1965)


8. The Night of the Generals (1967)

  (Mystery, Crime, War, Drama, Thriller)

9. The Last Emperor (1987)

  (History, Drama, Biography)

10. The Stunt Man (1980)

  (Thriller, Romance, Action, Comedy, Drama)


Golden Globe Awards
1970 Best Actor - Comedy or Musical Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
1969 Best Actor - Drama The Lion in Winter (1968)
1965 Best Actor - Drama Becket (1964)
1963 Most Promising Newcomer - Male Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1999 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Joan of Arc (1999)
BAFTA Awards
1963 Best British Actor Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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