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Actor Peter O'Toole dies, aged 81

The star, best known for 'Lawrence of Arabia', won eight Oscar nominations before receiving an honourary award.

Last updated: 16 Dec 2013 03:35
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Actor Peter O'Toole, who shot to international fame in the blockbuster movie "Lawrence of Arabia", has died aged 81 in London after a long illness, his agent said. 

O'Toole died in a London hospital on Saturday after battling a long illness.

If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it. If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt.

Peter O'Toole

O'Toole's family said it was overwhelmed "by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time."

"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished," O'Toole's daughter, Kate, said in the statement.

Seamus Peter O'Toole was born on August 2, 1932, the son of Irish bookie
Patrick "Spats" O'Toole and his wife Constance. There is some question
about whether he was born in Connemara, Ireland, or in Leeds, northern
England, where he grew up.

He began his acting career as one of the most exciting talents on the British stage, but his big break came when he was cast in the lead role in 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia", a performance that garnered him his first Oscar nomination.

Playwright Noel Coward reportedly once said that if O'Toole had been any prettier in the film, they would have had to call the movie "Florence of Arabia".

O'Toole would eventually receive eight Oscars nominations, and with that, he set the record for most nominations without ever winning. He was finally given an honorary Oscar in 2003.

A reformed but unrepentant "hell-raiser", O'Toole long suffered from ill health, as years of heavy drinking and chain-smoking took their toll.

Ireland pays tribute

But nothing diminished his flamboyant manner and candor.

Toronto-based film critic Norm Wilner, who writes for NOW magazine, talks to Al Jazeera about the actor's film legacy.

"If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it,'' O'Toole once said. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt."

O'Toole gave up drinking in 1975 following serious health problems and major surgery.

But he didn't give up smoking unfiltered Gauloises cigarettes in an ebony holder. That and his penchant for green socks, voluminous overcoats and trailing scarves suited his fondness for drama.

A month before his 80th birthday in 2012, O'Toole announced his retirement from a career that he said had fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing "me together with fine people, good companions with whom I've shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits".

Irish President Michael D Higgins said it was "with great sadness" that he heard of O'Toole's death. "Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre," he said in a statement.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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