Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole, RIP

Last year, legendary actor Peter O'Toole announced his retirement from the beloved craft that had defined his entire life, saying, "The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back." For a man like O'Toole, Oscar-nominated for his title turn in 1962's David Lean's timeless epic Lawrence of Arabia, who was well known in the industry for working hard and living even harder, I can only imagine that this realization was as difficult for him to arrive at as it was for those of us who admired his work to believe. Thus, while today's word that O'Toole has passed away at age 81 following a long illness isn't especially surprising, it's sad news all the same for everything it represents.

While his Lawrence role is the unquestionable highlight of a long, distinguished career, the stage-trained O'Toole had the kind of run that few actors achieve, appearing onscreen nearly every year from his debut on a 1956 TV production of The Scarlet Pimpernel to this year's Katherine of Alexandria (for which he briefly broke his brief retirement). In between, he did everything from mentoring Helen Slater as one of the few bright spots in the otherwise execrable Supergirl (1984), to leveraging his considerable accrued gravitas as King Priam in 2004's Troy. More than anything, his passing marks yet another loss in the increasingly shallow pool of larger-than-life talent from Hollywood's bygone era of larger-than-life epics.

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