Categories: FILM

A Short Word for Peter O’Toole and His Top 5 Best Moments

August 2, 1932 – December  14, 2013

Peter Seamus O’Toole passed away yesterday in London after battling a long illness shortly after announcing his retirement from acting. Not Sir Peter O’Toole. Just Peter O’Toole. Such a great was, indeed, offered a knighthood decades ago, but he declined it. He didn’t want his legacy to be contained in a simple word shared by many, that word being “Sir”. He wanted his work to speak for itself, as it very well did against the Academy. O’Toole was the most nominated actor to have never won (eight nominations in total), and this was rarely seen as funny and mostly as an absolute travesty. With performances that have changed both acting and cinema permanently since, Peter O’Toole was a legend and a game changer. He ruled the stage and the screen and was one of the most respected actors out there. His work in Lawrence of Arabia is considered one of the best, if not the best, of all time, and it was his breakthrough movie role (as he was picked up as a bit of an unknown). Well, unknown he isn’t anymore. With work spanning decades, ranging from period pieces, dark comedies, dramas, animated films, musicals and more, O’Toole was a diverse actor that could pull off anything.

In memory of this gifted actor, of whom brought our own perseverance out and made us look deeper into our own selves, here are my personal five favorite Peter O’Toole moments; Moments that I have held dear to me for years and will continue to do so permanently.


5. The “Jesus Christ” scene from The Stunt Man

If you love movies, then you will find magic within films about filmmaking. The dark comedy The Stunt Man is just that, as well as being a movie that pokes fun at the higher ups within the industry. Peter O’Toole plays a crazy director who will risk the lives of anyone just to “get that shot”. That one shot of which can potentially kill someone. When he dances, sings, and smiles over unsafe ideas to put his actors through, and as he floats around on a crane-held director’s chair, we needed a good scene to bring some levels to this otherwise unstoppable monster. This scene is one of those scenes. We finally get a close up to his face, some real emotions, and an indirect admittance that he is not the perfect man he wishes he was. This is revealed through a joke that fits his character perfectly. We may laugh a little bit, but we are still taken aback at a rare moment where a “god” can accept being faulty.

4. The beach scene in Venus

In one of Peter O’Toole’s final performances back in 2006, he played an old actor slowly withering away from cancer. He falls in love with a young girl as he hangs onto the last bits of youth. In the final moments of the film, he waddles his way with Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) holding him up towards the sea. Without giving anything away, we are given a truly touching moment that feels all too real. We see a man appreciating life and the little things within it despite his situation. We see someone come full circle. We see kindness, and we see admiration. Throughout the film, O’Toole is charming, funny and alive. It is this scene that helped us remember that he is simply one of us, and that you don’t need to be bubbly to be able to enjoy living no matter what the circumstances are.

3. King Henry II’s monologue in The Lion in Winter

O’Toole played King Henry II twice: Once in 1964’s Becket, and again in 1968’s The Lion in Winter. The latter is a dramatic film of personal grief starring other acting greats like Katherine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins in his very first role. Off the bat, you know the chemistry will be strong. An example of this is this powerful scene, one of many where King Henry II loses control of his emotions (but perhaps the best instance of it). This is perhaps a breaking point for King Henry II, and Peter O’Toole depicts it perfectly. You can count every individual stage of his coping with the situation: He’s calm, he’s stern, he has a tantrum, and he ends off being depressed. Each stage is transitioned to and from with such natural ease, and this is a very real moment from a character who rarely lets others bring him down.

2. The lemonade scene in Lawrence of Arabia

In one of the best performances in the history of acting (I’ve always called this performance my second favorite after Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot), Peter O’Toole made T.E. Lawrence a multi dimensional and evolving hero. He starts the film off as a bit of a reckless goof who then turns that silliness into unnerving courage and boldness. In the middle of the film, Lawrence arrives back to his base with a boy who offered himself to be Lawrence’s servant (Lawrence ended up making him more of a friend than a slave). Lawrence’s body shakes from thirst, tiredness, and anger. His thought process can be heard through his words, especially when he explains his previous travels and how to word them. This scene, amongst many in the film, are clear examples of acting that has yet to be matched.

1. The speech at end of Ratatouille

This speech at the end of Ratatouille, Pixar’s best film (to me, anyways), is a touching monologue about criticism, industries, and one’s own talents, from Anton Ego (Peter O’Toole): A harsh and spiteful food critic. This is spoken by an acting legend well into his career, having seen the changes in the world of cinema. Here, he is talking about cooking. You can tell, however, that he is talking about acting as well. Having been some “unknown” picked up to be the face of T.E. Lawrence, Peter O’Toole is that “anybody” of whom can cook. His wisdom, experience, and self reflection all resonate through each and every word, and this powerful speech of humility is my all time favorite Peter O’Toole moment.

Andreas Babiolakis

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.

Published by
Andreas Babiolakis

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