Peter O’Toole has died aged 81, his agent, Steve Kenis, has confirmed.
The actor – who found fame playing the lead in David Lean’s 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia – had announced last year that he planned to retire from acting, stating: “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell”.
But O’Toole – who overcame pancreatitis in the 1970s – appeared to have reconsidered his decision just last month when he appeared in a new trailer for forthcoming film, Katherine of Alexandria. It is understood he plays Cornelius Gallus, a palace orator, in the film which is due to be released next year.
The veteran actor’s other notable films included Goodbye Mr Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, Venus and My Favourite Year. He was nominated for an Academy Award eight times but never won, eventually receiving an honorary statuette in 2003 in recognition of a 60-year career which also saw him receive four Golden Globes, a Bafta and an Emmy.
He had considered turning the Oscar statuette down and asked the Academy to hold off as “I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright”. However he finally accepted, saying: “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot”.
Another notable role came in the 1990s playing the irascible and usually drunk journalist Jeffrey Bernard in Keith Waterhouse’s stage play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell.
Kenis confirmed the news O’Toole had died on Saturday at the Wellington Hospital in London following a long illness, adding that he was “one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field”.
O’Toole is survived by two daughters, Pat and Kate O’Toole, from former wife Sian Phillips, and a son, Lorcan O’Toole, by Karen Brown.
Kate O’Toole released the following statement earlier today: “His family are very appreciative and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts.
“In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished. We will be happy to speak to you all then but in the meantime if you could give Peter O’Toole the respect he deserves and allow us to grieve privately we’d appreciate it.
“Thank you all again for your beautiful tributes – keep them coming.”