Peter O’Toole reported dead
Steely blue eyes.
That’s not just a color. There was an impenetrability to Peter O’Toole’s eyes. In a close-up in his most famous role, Lawrence of Arabia, you do feel what he feels…but there was always a sense for me that he never let you into his inner being.
That is, arguably, an odd quality for an actor.
I think it may help to explain why, although he was nominated for eight acting Oscars in four different decades, the only Oscar he received was an honorary one.
His characters tended to be very sure of themselves: Sherlock Holmes; Svengali; Eli Cross (in The Stunt Man).
He was not opposed to fun roles…although his was the kind of sense of mischief that you felt might turn deadly. From What’s New Pussycat to the James Bond spoof, Casino Royale to The Ruling Class to his brilliant performance in My Favorite Year, he showed that we needn’t always take him seriously (although in his presence, I think we all would have).
His significant geek-friendly roles tended to come later in his more than half-century film career:
- The King in Stardust (based on a Neil Gaiman work)
- Anton Ego, the food critic in Ratatouille
- The Manor
- Phantoms (based on the Dean R. Koontz novel)
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in FairyTale: A True Story (based on the Cottingley Fairy affair), opposite Harvey Keitel as Harry Houdini
- The Emperor of Lilliput in the TV production of Gulliver’s Travels (with Ted Danson as Gulliver)
- Pantaloon in The Nutcracker Prince (an animated version, with Kiefer Sutherland as the Prince)
- High Spirits (written by The Crying Game’s Neil Jordan)
- The Ray Bradbury Theatre (in an episode about a banshee)
- Creator (overtly science fiction, with O’Toole’s character a scientist trying to clone his dead wife)
- Four animated movies as Sherlock Holmes
- Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha
Good-bye, Peter O’Toole…the world is less aristocratic without you.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.