Born in Connemara, Co Galway in 1932, Peter O’Toole was one of Hollywood’s most highly regarded actors. O’Toole’s rise to stardom began in 1962, when he played T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. He went on to appear in such critically heralded films as Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968), with Richard Burton and Katharine Hepburn, respectively. Later successes include My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). O’Toole announced his retirement from acting in 2012. After battling a long illness, O’Toole died peacefully at the age of 81 in a London hospital on this date in 2013. Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins released a statement about O’Toole’s passing: ‘Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.’
O’Toole grew up in Leeds, England. There, his father, Patrick, often worked as a bookmaker. As O’Toole told writer Gay Talese in an interview published in Esquire, ‘When my father would come home from the track after a good day, the whole room would light up; it was fairyland. But when he lost, it was black. In our house, it was always a wake … or a wedding.’
After his death his ashes were brought back to Ireland by his daughter, Kate, where they are held in safe keeping by President Michael D Higgins in his official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin, until he can be laid to rest in Connemara. The ashes will be scattered near O’Toole’s hilltop home, which overlooks the Eyrephort peninsula.
On 18 May 2014, a new prize was launched in memory of Peter O’Toole at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School; this includes an annual award given to two young actors from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, including a professional contract at Bristol Old Vic Theatre.
On 21 April 2017, the Harry Ransom Center announced that Kate O’Toole had placed her father’s archive at the humanities research centre. The collection includes O’Toole’s scripts, extensive published and unpublished writings, props, photographs, letters, medical records, and more. It joins the archives of several of O’Toole’s collaborators and friends including Donald Wolfit, Eli Wallach, Peter Glenville, Sir Tom Stoppard, and Dame Edith Evans.
Featured photo: O’Toole’s Memorial Plaque in St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden