I realize this post should have been written a few weeks ago, but the holidays were a lot busier than I anticipated, so here we are.
Sir Peter O’Toole died December 14, 2013 at the age of 81. As I’ve looked through his filmography, I realized that I’ve seen quite a few movies he’s been in. However, I haven’t seen too many of the films that he received Academy Award nominations. Now Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion of Winter, and Venus are the three I’ve seen. He was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role 8 times, not winning one of them. Unfortunately for O’Toole, he was competing with fellow titans of the industry, from Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, John Wayne in True Grit, Ben Kingsley in Gandhi, Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull among others.
What stands out about O’Toole in my mind is his respect for acting as a profession and an art form. Acting, at least for Peter O’Toole, was and is something that can be done properly and with dignity and class. He had a tremendous amount of respect for the craft. When the Academy wanted to award him with an Academy Honorary Award in 2003, O’Toole sent them a letter saying he was “still in the game” and would like more time to “win the lovely bugger outright.” He eventually accepted the award, this is the video of that acceptance speech:
Venus, his final Lead Actor nomination, portrays Maurice, a retired stage actor who befriends a young woman, and I got the sense that it was more or less a send off role for O’Toole. Though it took me a couple of times to fully appreciate it, it was a tremendous send off for O’Toole, one of the last of a dying breed of actor.