Irish actor Peter O’Toole, who was renowned for his appearances on stage and screen, has died at the age of 81. He died peacefully at London’s Wellington Hospital on Saturday following a long illness.
The multi award-winning actor, who was best known for his starring role in Lawrence Of Arabia, began his professional stage career in 1956, when he took on the title role of King Lear at the Bristol Old Vic.
Numerous leading roles at the venue followed, before O’Toole made his London stage debut at the Royal Court in 1959’s The Long And The Short And The Tall. Four years later, Laurence Olivier directed O’Toole in Hamlet, the National Theatre’s first ever production, which took place at the company’s original home at the Old Vic.
The career that followed saw O’Toole star in numerous productions in the West End, including Macbeth at the Old Vic, Pygmalion at the Shaftesbury, The Apple Cart at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and Our Song at the Apollo. He also took his talent across the Atlantic, where he appeared in productions including Uncle Vanya, Present Laughter and Caligula.
O’Toole enjoyed similar success on screen. Following his Academy Award nomination for David Lean’s influential film, the actor received a further seven nominations for pictures including Becket, The Lion In Winter, Goodbye Mr Chips and My Favorite Year. In 2003 he was finally recognised at the prestigious ceremony, taking home an Honorary Academy Award for his contribution to the big screen.
Following the announcement of his death, the National Theatre released a statement, saying, “We are very sorry to hear of Peter O’Toole’s death, particularly coming so soon after the National’s 50th anniversary prompted widespread recollection of his memorable performance as Hamlet in the NT’s opening production at the Old Vic in 1963.”
Actors and friends have also been taking to Twitter to pay their respects to the internationally renowned performer. Actor and presenter Stephen Fry said: “I had the honour of directing him in a scene. Monster, scholar, lover of life, genius,” while Michael Gambon, who appeared alongside O’Toole in the National Theatre’s inaugural production, deemed him “a great actor [who] was great fun to be with”.