Nationality: Irish. Born: Peter Seamus O'Toole in Connemara, Ireland, 2 August 1932; grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire. Education: Attended St. Anne's convent school, Leeds. Military Service: British Submarine Service, 1950–52: signalman and decoder. Family: Married 1) the actress Sian Phillips, 1959 (divorced 1979), daughters: Kate and Pat; 2) Karen Brown, 1983 (divorced), child: Lorcan. Career: Worked as journalist for Yorkshire Evening News ; 1952–54—attended Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London; 1954–58—member of the Bristol Old Vic company: debut in The Matchmaker , 1955; 1959—on West End stage in The Long and the Short and the Tall ; 1960—film debut in Kidnapped ; in repertory at Stratford-upon-Avon Royal Shakespeare Theatre; later stage work includes roles in Macbeth , London, 1980, and Man and Superman , London, 1982; appeared in TV mini-series Masada , 1981, and John Jakes' Heaven and Hell: North and South, Part III , 1994. Awards: Best British
Kidnapped (Stevenson) (as Robin MacGregor); The Savage Innocents ( Ombre Bianche ) (Nicholas Ray) (as 1st Trooper); The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (Guillermin) (as Captain Fitch)
Lawrence of Arabia (Lean) (title role)
Becket (Glenville) (as King Henry II)
What's New Pussycat? (Clive Donner) (as Michael James); Lord Jim (Richard Brooks) (title role); The Sandpiper (Minnelli) (as voice)
The Bible . . . in the Beginning ( The Bible ; La Bibbia ) (Huston) (as the Three Angels); How to Steal a Million (Wyler) (as Simon Dermott)
Night of the Generals (Litvak) (as General Tanz); Casino Royale (Huston and others) (as Piper)
Great Catherine (Flemyng) (as Captain Charles Edstaston); The Lion in Winter (Harvey) (as Henry II)
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Wood) (as Arthur Chipping); Country Dance ( Brotherly Love ) (J. Lee Thompson) (as Sir Charles Henry Arbuthnot Pinkerton Ferguson)
Murphy's War (Yates) (as Murphy)
The Ruling Class (Medak) (as Jack, 14th Earl of Gurney); Man of La Mancha (Hiller) (as Cervantes/Don Quixote)
Under Milk Wood (Sinclair) (as Captain Cat)
Man Friday (Gold) (as Robinson Crusoe); Rosebud (Preminger) (as Larry Martin); Foxtrot ( The Other Side of Paradise ) (Ripstein); Rogue Male (Clive Donner—for TV) (as The Earl)
Power Play (Burke) (as Col. Zeller)
Zulu Dawn (Hickox) (as Lord Chelmsford)
The Stunt Man (Rush) (as Eli Cross); Caligula (Brass—produced in 1977) (as Tiberius)
My Favorite Year (Benjamin) (as Alan Swann); The Antagonists (Sagal—for TV)
Svengali (Harvey—for TV); Pygmalion (Cooke—for TV) (as Henry Higgins)
Supergirl (Szwarc) (as Zaltar); Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse (Graham) (as voice); Kim (Davies—for TV)
Creator (Passer) (as Harry)
Club Paradise (Ramis) (as Gov. Anthony Croyden Hayes)
The Last Emperor (Bertolucci) (as Reginald Johnston)
High Spirits (Neil Jordan) (as Peter Plunkett)
In una notta di chiaro di luna ( On a Moonlit Night ) (Wertmüller); Dark Angel (Hammond—for TV)
Wings of Fame (Votocëk) (as Cesar Valentin); The Rainbow Thief (Jodorowsky) (as Prince Meleagre); Isabelle Eberhardt (Pringle) (as Major Lyautey); The Nutcracker Prince (Schibli) (as voice of Pantaloon); The Pied Piper ( Crossing to Freedom ) (Norman Stone—for TV) (as John Sidney Howard)
King Ralph (Ward) (as Willingham)
Rebecca's Daughters (Francis) (as Lord Sarn); The Seventh Coin (Soref) (as Emil Saber)
Gulliver's Travels (Sturridge—for TV) (as Emperor of Lilliput)
Fairy Tale: A True Story (Sturridge) (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Phantoms (Chappelle) (as Timothy Flyte); Coming Home (Giles Foster) (as Colonel Carey-Lewis)
The Manor (Berris) (as Mr. Ravenscroft); Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (Cox) (as William Williamson); Joan of Arc (Duguay—for TV) (Bishop Cauchon)
Loitering with Intent: The Child , London, 1992.
Loitering with Intent: The Apprentice , New York, 1996.
"Interview: Peter O'Toole," in Playboy (Chicago), September 1965.
Interview with J. Buck, in Inter/View (New York), October 1972.
"O'Toole Ascending," interview with J. McBride, in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1981.
Freedland, Michael, Peter O'Toole: A Biography , New York, 1982.
Wapshott, Nicholas, Peter O'Toole: A Biography , Sevenoaks, Kent, 1983.
Current Biography 1968 , New York, 1968.
McGillivray, David, "Peter O'Toole," in Focus on Film (London), Summer 1972.
Houghton, M., "Slow Motion O'Toole," in Films in Review (New York), March 1985.
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Losing themselves in the hollows of Peter O'Toole's craggy face in piddling television escapism such as Gulliver's Travels , his fans can flash backward to the more salubrious time when he was a blond god capable of standing astride a David Lean epic. Reduced to appearing in stentorian show-and-tell cameos, O'Toole has become a sort of John Barrymore for the nineties.
A promising light on London's West End and a potential matinee idol in minor films, O'Toole beat out Brando and Albert Finney for the coveted role of Lawrence of Arabia and breathed magnetic life-force into that enigmatic figure. Burnished by the sun and bundled up smashingly in a burnoose, a star was born. Like a lover with a fixation on piercing blue eyes, the camera could not get enough of him, but the ravishing-looking O'Toole was never interested in stripped-to-the-waist love god superstardom.
Despite forays into the fading Hollywood studio system, O'Toole never seemed comfortable twinkling at leading ladies in What's New Pussycat? or How to Steal a Million . Only when he brought passion to a role did he seem like a star. A shockingly changeable Henry II in Becket was resoundingly more forceful than any of the Anouilh's stage play interpreters such as Olivier and Anthony Quinn; O'Toole followed this regal triumph with a robust revisit to the same king in The Lion in Winter , even if that stage comedy was misinterpreted on film as a melodrama. Oddly touching in two deteriorative musicals made bearable by his genius ( Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Man of La Mancha ), he compensated for commonplace flops in the seventies by balancing them with exemplary turns such as his perfectly nuanced hit man who just misses assassinating Der Fuhrer in Rogue Male , and as the nutty Earl of Gurney, who believes he is Christ but whose psychological cure transforms him into Jack the Ripper. Consummately hilarious and unsettling, this rabid satire is the movie Clockwork Orange pretends to be. A self-proclaimed vocational drinker as well as actor, O'Toole never set much store by his movie star visage and did not look back when character roles started rolling in. He superbly incarnated the concept of the film director as mini-God in the masterpiece, The Stunt Man , and was a comedic cyclone as the dipsomaniac has-been Alan Swann, pulling himself together for his biggest fan in the charming My Favorite Year .
Since that peak, the life seems to have been boiled out of him. As his physical decline became more and more pronounced, O'Toole retreated to self-parody which may be copacetic with Supergirl but certainly does not sit too well with Henry Higgins in Pygmalion . One still hopes inspiration will fire him up for more than showy displays of mellifluousness. Unapologetic about the way he has lived his life, the hell-raising Irishman may rebound with performances that do not rely on vocal tricks and mannerisms; after all, he is a man brave enough to have continued performing Macbeth after being savaged by the London critics. Even his ruined grandeur is spectacular and belongs to another risk-taking age when larger-than-life personalities ruled the stage and screen. Unfortunately, the nagging doubt persists that this flamboyant star's passion for acting may be as ravaged as his once-considerable physical beauty.