Peter O’Toole, star of Lawrence of Arabia, dies aged 81

The actor Peter O’Toole who found stardom in David Lean’s masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia, has died aged 81, his family has annouced.

The acclaimed leading man who overcame stomach cancer in the 1970s passed away at the Wellington hospital in London following a long illness.

His daughter Kate O’Toole said: “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.”

O’Toole announced last year he was stopping acting saying: “I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”

He said his career on stage and screen fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing him together “with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.”

The president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, was among the first to pay tribute: “Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.”

“In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor,” Higgins said. “He had a deep interest in literature and a love of Shakespearean sonnets in particular. While he was nominated as best actor for an Oscar eight times, and received a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film, he was deeply committed to the stage. Those who saw him play leading roles on the screen from Lawrence in 1962, or through the role of Henry II in Becket, and The Lion in Winter, or through the dozens of films, will recognise a lifetime devoted to the artform of the camera.

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