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Peter O’Toole: Film and theatre icon dies at 81

Actor's agent confirms eight-time Oscar nominated star passed away in hospital after a long illness

Peter O’Toole, who gave an iconic performance in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia and received eight best actor Oscar nominations, has died, aged 81, after a long illness.

Born in County Galway in 1932, O’Toole wrote in a notebook as a boy: “I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.”

He went to Rada and became a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic. He rose to stardom in 1962 after David Lean cast him as the soldier T.E. Lawrence.

O’Toole would have a long and glittering screen and stage career. He starred as Hamlet in the first ever production at the National Theatre, and remained a stage actor until 1999, starring in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell.

He was nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards eight times for films including Becket, Goodbye, Mr Chips and Venus but left empty-handed each time, before receiving an honorary Oscar in 2003.

Off screen, O’Toole was part of a set, including close friends Richard Burton and Richard Harris, who were known for their drinking.

Michael Freedland, the author of Peter O’Toole: A Biography, told The Independent: “He was charismatic, even when he had lost his good looks and age had crept up on him. There was something about him. Whatever he did, people knew they were dealing with a star.”

Tributes poured in last night after news of his death. Stephen Fry described him as “monster, scholar, lover of life, genius”.  David Cameron said: “His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning.” The Irish actor Jason O’Mara described him as an “acting legend and a hell-raiser”.

O’Toole, who died in hospital on Saturday, is survived by two daughters and a son.