A look at the life of the Lawrence of Arabia star and legendary hellraiser Peter O'Toole, with archive footage exploring the story of his colourful career.
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"I will not be a common man," Peter O'Toole once said.
"I will stir the smooth sands of monotony."
And over an acting career spanning over 50 years, this he surely did.
Charismatic, unpredictable and with those strikingly
unconventional good looks, Peter O'Toole was one of cinema's greats.
When he was on the screen, you couldn't take your eyes off him.
Born in Ireland but brought up in Leeds, O'Toole decided he had
to act after seeing Sir Michael Redgrave performing King Lear.
He joined RADA in 1952, at the same time as Albert Finney
and Alan Bates. And as one of the theatre's bright, young things,
built a reputation as a stage actor of unique presence and strength.
Small roles in television inevitably followed.
And then in 1960, at the age of 30,
he won the role that would define his career forever.
It was, of course, Lawrence of Arabia.
And we join O'Toole,
here in the 1962 programme about the film and its making.
We wanted to know what his approach had been to Lawrence,
which of the many interpretations he'd adopted.
He talked with Kenneth Griffith, the actor,
and a friend of O'Toole's on the balcony of his Almeria villa.
I hate to define...
particularly when I'm working on a character,
because I find this embalms him...
..and it becomes an immortal rather than a living thing.
I came to it by a great deal of research, study,
but without any conscious...
I'm taken to task a lot about this,
that I should synthesise,
but I won't and I can't.
I'll give an example of how I came to it.
sitting in a black tent in a place called Al Jafa...
..and we were talking about Lawrence to a lot of Arabs.
And someone said, "Oh, Abdi would know better."
And they shouted for this man and in clanked
a huge Sudanese gentleman of about 80.
And he was a slave, a now freed slave,
whom Auda Abu Tai, who was one of Lawrence's chief warriors,
gave to Lawrence to look after him.
And someone said, "What did Lawrence look like?"
He pointed at me and said, "Him."
Well, needless to say, I grabbed him,
and we talked and talked and talked and he worked on the picture.
He made the coffee, in fact. And...one day I was playing a scene
and he said...
I was talking to someone and being rather remote
and looking all over the place, and he said, "A battle, a hero...
"..doesn't look here or there, or up or down.
"He gives someone the plane of his face."
I remember two things I'd read.
One, Graves told me, that Lawrence apparently never looked at anybody.
He made a sort of inventory of everyone's clothes.
But Kennington, the sculptor who sculpted him
and did all the illustrations for Seven Pillars,
said this remarkable thing which I'd never understood before...
which was that Lawrence reminded him of a middleweight boxer.
And at that moment, something very important clicked
and I knew exactly what Abdi meant by the plane of his face...
which was this.
And the eyes didn't travel over the clothes, but they were
aware of the hands and aware of everything that was going on.
And it was at once withdrawn, as a boxer must be,
and at the same time, very penetrating. And this one physical
thing really clicked and it made a whole difference to the way
I played him. This is the way I work.
I can't work with... It's not an exact science.
What about his height, Peter?
He was a very short man and you're a very tall man.
Do you make any effort as an actor to think like a small man?
No, uh, no, no.
I've always said, when anyone's asked me about Lawrence's inches,
I always say it's a question for his tailor, not his interpreter,
and that's probably a bit flip, but there's nothing I can do.
I don't think it's really all that important anyway.
And I'm certainly sure he never thought he was a small man.
And I happen to be 8' 5", as you clearly implied,
and I can't chop off my legs and run around on bloody stumps,
so I really had to disregard it.
What were some of the things that you heard and read that were
important to you about deciding which way you were going to go?
Well, there's so many, many things.
I remember speaking to a sheikh in Oman.
The first Arab I met who knew him...
..and I'd given up asking questions like, "What was he like?
"How was he?" I used to try sort of tricky things.
And I said to him, "Did he ever tell jokes?"
At which point, he went into a great stream of Arabic,
with tears trickling down his face.
Laughing like a drain, and I hadn't the faintest idea what he said,
but clearly Lawrence had been very, very funny at one point.
And I kept on finding more and more evidence of this.
He was a great humorist.
One of them told me about the time that he questioned him
for hours about camel grazing in Piccadilly and Lawrence gave a very
solemn reply to all this, whether Oxfordshire was a desert country.
And then again, on another level,
his descriptions of some of the things in Seven Pillars
he did, like the killing of a man, the execution of a man.
He had to execute him to keep two tribes from warring with each other,
and would split up the whole thing and ruin the whole venture.
So he chose, because he had no tribe
and wouldn't offend anybody, to shoot the man.
He describes it very coldly in Seven Pillars.
Now, I met a man who was with him
when he did it and said that indeed, he did do it very coldly,
and very methodically, and it was very terrible
because the man was down a well and he kept on missing him.
And then he went out for a drive in the desert afterwards
and went for a walk. And this man,
they were very worried about, went to look for him,
and found him behind a rock...
..crouched like a two-year-old baby
in the most terrible state of emotion.
Now, that could colour my killing of this man in the film.
I could imply what would happen afterwards...
without stating it.
Lawrence was a sensation.
"I woke up one morning to find I was famous", O'Toole once said.
"I bought a white Rolls-Royce and drove down Sunset Boulevard,
"wearing dark specs and a white suit, waving like the Queen Mum."
Fame and his excesses did indeed fit him, just like a suit...
but acting was always the priority.
The '60s saw him nominated for four leading man Oscars
for Lawrence of Arabia, Goodbye, Mr Chips, Becket
and The Lion In Winter,
two films in which he played the same role - Henry II.
He was a true international superstar,
but despite that status, a chat show would reduce him to jelly,
or so he told Michael Parkinson in this appearance from 1972.
Good evening and welcome.
My special guest tonight is unique in that he's the only man
I know who's been nominated for an Academy Award and also holds
the speed record for drinking beer at the Dirty Duck Pub in Dublin.
That apart, he's one who shares with Olivier
and Burton the distinction of being a superstar on stage and screen.
He first made his name on stage, notably in Willis Hall's play,
The Long And The Short And The Tall.
His big break in films came in this movie.
The actor and my guest tonight, Peter O'Toole.
Delighted to have you with me tonight.
Doubly delighted because, in fact,
you don't do these things very often, do you?
Why is that? You get very nervous, don't you, of television?
-Well, it isn't nerves. It's total panic.
I mean, it's not a question of butterflies in the st...
I've got crows flapping around.
-Yeah, that's as good a word as any.
In fact, you did one of these, I was reading in your cutting,
you did one of these in America.
The last talk show you did, which had rather disastrous results, didn't it?
Oh, my God, yes. Uh... I don't know the name of the gentleman.
-It was Johnny Carson.
-Was it really?
-My name is Mike Parkinson.
-I know, Mr Parkinson.
I don't think I even know my name.
Well, I'd done that ridiculous trip from Japan to New York,
which means you leave Japan on Tuesday
and get to New York on Monday...
..and this compounded with terror or whatever.
I went in, did one of those jobs.
Incidentally, my wife always thinks it's called Moon River, that tune.
Said hello, listened to the first question, I answered it.
I don't know what I said, not the faintest idea.
I don't know what I'm saying now.
Listened to the second question, I didn't answer it,
but I woke up in a dressing room, my glasses broke, I'd fainted.
-And I was replaced by a talking dog.
What really fascinates me, though, about talking to somebody
like you or say, Albert Finn, he was one of your contemporaries at RADA...
-And people from this background, this very,
very working class background that you came from is how on earth
you ever got the notion to be an actor. Because, I mean,
you lived in Hunslet, I was brought up near you.
And if I'd have said I was going to be an actor, they would have
thought there was something a bit decidedly wrong about me,
a bit pansy.
Well, not only was I from Hunslet, I didn't have a
Yorkshire accent. I also had blonde, curly hair
and I was known as "Bubbles".
And that cost me a lot of lumps.
Acting came, really...
You absorb it, I suppose.
There's no immediate process in it. It's an accumulation of things.
I left my little warehouse, where I'd started work,
and went to work on a newspaper.
Newspaper led to...
That sounds very posh.
In fact, I was fetching the horse meat for the photographer.
-Yeah, yes. We used to eat horse meat then, do you remember?
Well, I'm older than you, yes. Well, he ate horse meat.
Well, maybe he was a betting man. I don't know. Anyway...
And that led to, again, night school, my need to improve myself.
Free tickets to the theatre.
-I saw Laurel and Hardy, would you believe? On stage, yes.
Flogging around doing a thing called The Old Timers.
No audience. Nice people. Well, the fat one was.
I didn't like the other one.
-You actually met them?
-Did you, really?
-What, you went back stage and met them?
Well, I was... Part of the job, you know, going round.
-As a journalist?
Then, bit by bit, I got involved in local amateur things and...
Oh, by 16 or 17, I was onions deep in theatre.
How did you get the part, in fact, for Lawrence?
Because that was the thing that really established you or made
you as a film star, wasn't it?
-How did that come about?
-Was it chance or good friends or...?
Er, well, I'd made a film before that called
-The Day They Robbed The Bank Of England...
-I remember that.
-..with my partner now, Jules Buck...
..we've been friends ever since.
In which I was, of course, invited to play the Irish tearaway.
I've always carefully avoided playing Irishmen if I could.
And I played a guard's officer, and a friend of David Lean,
an Indian gentleman, had seen it, rung up David and said, "Lawrence
"is on the screen." And David went...
David has told me this story.
He went and saw it and rang me up and said,
"You're Lawrence of Arabia."
-Amazing. Did Mr Spiegel take any convincing?
Well, you see, I'd met Mr Spiegel before.
-If the memory's painful...
It's not painful for me. I think it's a little painful for Samuel.
He'd asked me to...
It's very funny because I went to his office and the phone rang...
They're all the same to me, Abe and Mike and Spike and Ike and whatever.
And... Would I go and see him?
I went, and I'd just been clearing my dressing room
and I had half a bottle of whisky in my pocket,
and I went in the door and took off the coat,
and the bottle of whisky fell out and smashed on the floor.
Now, what the idea of meeting him was,
was to replace a rather unreliable actor in a film he was making.
And I did some sort of test for him and I made a joke, alas,
and he didn't think it was very funny.
He nearly died when David said he wanted me to play Lawrence
because he wanted... Oh, he had everybody -
Albert Finney, Marlon Brando... I was one of a long, long line.
-That's right, Brando was actually in line for it.
-All sorts of folk.
-Let's have a look at it now.
CROWD CHANTS: Lawrence! Lawrence! Lawrence!
Bend your legs! Yes, sir, that's my baby.
He was, of course, he was a fascinating and controversial figure,
Lawrence, wasn't he? What conclusions did you come to about him, Peter,
when you researched him?
-If I ever met him, I'd run 100 miles.
-I don't know.
He's probably most...
..attractive. I mean that not in its ordinary sense.
He had a... Don't forget that he was probably
the first 20th century super spy
and he was picked at the age of 16 in Oxford, specifically to be a spy.
He wrote his thesis, he got a double first.
Riding a bike through all the crusader's castles -
he called it Crusader Castles.
It's published now, but it was, in fact, his history thesis.
At the same time, he was doing maps for the British Government
of Aqaba, of the whole of the Jordan Strip of Marne and Syria,
-making contacts with the northern Arab leader as a student.
A couple of things about the clip,
the Lawrence clip you showed on the...
-Do you mind me being a little irreverent?
-No, not at all.
Crashing around on the train, I had letters from lip readers,
but I had no dialogue on the train at all.
They're all shouting, "Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence,"
and I was saying, "Too kind, most loyal...
"..everybody very good and gracious",
which is apparently a royalty answer.
Can we have a look at a film you made with Richard Burton, which is
-a particular favourite of mine, Becket?
Shall we roll it now?
I think this is one of the best sequences in the movie.
You never loved me, did you, Thomas?
In so far as I was capable of love, yes, I did.
Did you start to love God?
YOU MULE! Answer a simple question!
Yes, I started to love...
..the honour of God.
I should never have seen you.
-It hurts to watch.
-Now! Now pity. Dirty.
This is the last time I shall come begging to you. Go back to England.
Farewell, my prince. I sail tomorrow.
I know that I shall never see you again.
How dare you say that to me when I've given you my royal word!
Do you take me for a traitor?!
Why do you particularly like that, Peter?
To give an idea of how we got on, Richard and I,
we pulled a terrible thing together. We used to...
He used to go and watch my rushes and I would go and watch his.
And because neither of us particularly like seeing ourselves
on the screen, and we got into an awful scrape
because we used to toss up to see what wine we'd have,
toss up to see who would do what scene and, you know...
And he had his hands full... Oh, blimey, there's a slip.
I was going to say, "His hands full with a little bit of..."
At the time.
He was having his problems at the time and...
one day, we were hiding
in a pub at lunch and he said, "Let's do Hamlet." I said, "No, no.
"Never. I've done it. So have you." He said, "Let's do it, again,
"just to be perverse."
I said, "Oh, no, no. It's the worst play in the world! I won't do it."
He said, "Go on!" Oh, I don't know, I'd had too much red ink...
We tossed coins.
We decided that what we'd do, we'd have Olivier
and John Gielgud to direct.
And we tossed up to see who would get John Gielgud
and who would get Larry Olivier.
And we'd tossed up who'd get New York and who'd get London.
I got Larry Olivier in London, he got Gielgud in New...
-And we did it!
-It's a kind of insanity that...
What was that like? I mean, it must be daunting.
I went up to do the "To be or not to be" from the bowls one night
and I was "To be-ing or not to be-ing."
I could hear slight titters.
It was an afternoon performance. I thought,
"What are they laughing at?"
And of course, when you do that silly look
everybody knows it, so they all join in any way.
It's like an old song.
-Should lower a song sheet.
-All together now.
But I'm not used to too many titters. By this time,
I was feeling much better with the way things were going and...
I don't know. I did some fine gesture and, God,
-I was wearing my bloody glasses...
..because I'd be down below with the stage hands picking out winners.
I just sort of trudged through as far as I could and thought,
"How do I get rid of these?"
I was wearing horn rims. "How do I get...?"
The only thing I could do was to sling them at Ophelia.
The same year, O'Toole found himself in the interview hot seat again.
He had just finished filming the Don Quixote musical
Man of La Mancha, but began this encounter with Sheridan Morely
discussing The Ruling Class,
a black comedy that would go on to earn him his fifth Oscar nomination.
What first attracted you to the idea of doing it?
Uh, well, I read it and...
I found it to be the funniest and the most vital piece of work
I'd encountered for a long, long, long, long time.
In fact, I remember reading it and trying to say what it was,
you know, which category it came into.
And I'd out-Poloniused Polonius, you know, historical
comical, tragical, pastoral, hyperbolical, theological...
and did about 25 somersaults
and finished up on my metaphysical bum, and it was The rolling Class.
And I just thought it was so savagely funny...
..and lent itself so easily to a film
without being self-consciously filmic
because of the fantasy in it.
And that I could get round me a group of, you know,
smashing Jonsonian actors and do it, and we did it.
In old days, the executioner kept the common herd in order.
When he stood on its gallows, you knew God was in his head
and all right with the world.
Punishment for blaspheming was to be broken on the wheel.
First the fibula - crack! Then the tibula, patella and femur - crack,
crack, crack! And the corpus, ulna and radius - crack!
# Disconnect dem bones, them dry bones
# Disconnect dem bones, them dry bones
# Disconnect dem bones, them dry bones
# Oh, hear the word of the Lord
# Well your head bone's connected to your neck bone
# Your neck bone's connected to your shoulder bone
# Your shoulder bone's connected to your back bone
# Your back bone's connected to your hip bone
# Your hip bone's connected to your thigh bone
# Oh, hear the word of the Lord
# Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
# Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
# Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
# Now hear the word of the Lord
# Connect dem bones, dem dry bones
# Connect dem bones, dem dry bones
# Connect dem bones, dem dry bones
# Now hear the word of the Lord. #
But apart from the influence you had in the casting of it,
once you got into the shooting,
did you have an influence on the studio floor in the way it went?
Oh, only in the normal way,
bullying and pleading and blackmailing and kicking
and hypocrisy and tears -
the normal things that one does in making a film or a play.
Turning, then, from The Ruling Class to your last completed,
but not yet released film, Man Of La Mancha.
What led you into that?
Er... Yes, well...
A desire to play Don Quixote, obviously,
which I've always wanted to do...
Peter Glenville, and a new book of the musical by John Hopkins.
However, those ingredients were removed, I'm afraid,
before I did the film...
and that's what led me into it.
It's, of course, your second musical, counting Goodbye, Mr Chips,
-but can you in fact sing?
-I don't really think so.
I mean, I could wail some griever's ballad about some dying
mother McCrea somewhere, you know, which any Irishman can.
What a lot of flowers.
What a lot of sunshine.
What a lot of beauty.
# In the world today
# What a world of colour
# Just beyond my window
# Flowers ever colour of the rainbow
# Red roses, orange marigolds, yellow buttercups, green leaves
# Blue cornflowers, indigo lilacs and violets, violets
# My happy eye perceives. #
But in terms of films, one thinks of your career as
starting with Lawrence, although of course there were films before that.
-Indeed there were.
-And yet somehow they disappeared in the great
-publicity for Lawrence, which...
-Yeah, yeah. Yes, well, yes.
I think the idea was to discover me.
They were very funny days -
and I still don't know a great deal about what goes on -
but I remember the first time I was on a film set ever.
And in theatre, as you remember, the producer was what is now called
the director and I didn't know which was a camera,
or if the boom was a camera, or the fella twiddling the knobs was
a cameraman, or the chap with the light meter...
And I assumed that the man I had been speaking to,
who was the producer was, in fact, the director.
And I couldn't understand why this little fella kept on speaking to me,
telling me to do things, because I was listening to the other one.
And I never knew where anything was and I remember...
Finchy, Peter Finch, he conned me into it because he'd said,
"There is only one man I know who can play the bagpipes",
and that was me, and he wanted someone
to do a scene with him playing the bagpipes.
-A thing called Kidnapped, a Walt Disney thing.
Finchy was playing the swashbuckler and I was Rob Roy MacGregor's son.
That's no' very bad, Mr Stuart,
but you show a poor device in your warblers.
Me? I'll give you the lie!
You own yourself beaten at the pipes
that you seek to change them for the sword?
Well said, Mr MacGregor. That's why I'll appeal to Donald.
You need appeal to no-one, sir,
for it's the God's truth you're a creditable piper...
for a Stuart.
But were you still as innocent when it came to Lawrence?
Yes, I was. And then I had the hardest master of them all,
David Lean, for two years...
..who is a hard bastard, by God, he is,
but he knows his game absolutely backwards.
One may disapprove of his subjects, or even his treatment of his
subjects, but what he doesn't know about cinema is not worth knowing.
And he would make me look through the... "Look through here, Pete.
"This is a 75 and that's a 22" or whatever. And shot by shot by
shot by shot, and even the cutting. I sat with him doing the cutting.
You made two films in the '60s,
which, to me, stand out far away from the rest of your work,
and in both of them you played the same character.
-I'm thinking of...
-And The Lion In Winter.
Are those the two that stick out in your mind also as being the best of the bunch?
I was speaking to my wife this morning.
I was saying, "Look, I'm absolutely terrified.
"I don't know what to do or what to say on television.
"I really just don't."
And she said, "Well, if they ask you what your favourite thing is,
"what will you say?" And I said, "Well, I don't know actually.
"I should say Bristol and those happy three years there."
She said, "No, no." And it is, of course, Henry II.
I could cheerfully, probably and may even come to that,
play Henry II for the rest of my life. I mean, I love him.
And there's plenty of material. Irving died, didn't he?
We were talking about that. Playing Becket, there's Tenison's Becket.
There's a play about Eleanor, there's Christopher Fry's Curtmantle
and the... I could make a repertoire of about five or six
plays of Henry II and just flog them round forever.
And then make films of them all, television or whatever.
Quite cheerfully I could play... I adore playing Henry II.
Outside of your working life, as you say,
one doesn't very often find you on television programmes or
promoting pop records or selling yourself generally.
Is that because you do really believe in a kind of privacy
-for an actor or...?
-Yes, I do.
I feel that my job begins and ends with the curtain going up
and coming down.
Yes, that is so, but I am placed in this position
and off I go in my suit.
Coming back then to your working life and your last film,
Man of La Mancha, are you entirely happy with the way it's turned out?
Oh, how do I know?
I mean, I was on a carthorse a few days ago in Tarquinia...
covered in bald heads and things.
Peter O'Toole, a last question,
-do you have any plans beyond Man of La Mancha?
-Yes, I do,
to do absolutely nothing.
And if you've got any offers or suggestions, I'll take them up.
-I'll do that.
O'Toole was half true to his word.
He didn't make another film for several years,
focusing instead on the theatre,
including a notorious production of Macbeth that was so savaged by
the critics that audiences flocked to see if it was as bad as claimed.
His comeback film, in contrast, was a critical triumph.
The Stunt Man saw him playing a movie director,
a performance he had claimed he had based on David Lean.
It won rave reviews and would lead to this appearance
on the Russell Harty programme in 1980.
Strange history about The Stunt Man, which you've made some years ago.
-Well, not that many years ago, but some years ago.
-But the film's been made for two or three years.
-Yeah, three years.
And now, all of a sudden, it's beginning to lift off the ground.
Well, it didn't... It hasn't been released.
It's escaped and...
-It is a brilliant work, as you've seen.
-I saw it.
-It's a very dotty movie, Mr O'Toole.
-It is a bit potty.
And you're at the centre of it.
Let's tell people what it's about first.
-It's about a director.
-It's about a young fugitive on the run...
..and we know he's a very violent young man.
He does a deed of appalling violence that involved crossing
a little bridge, and he sees a very funny old-fashioned car
approaching, assumes it's yet more terror in his life,
aims a brick at it,
succeeds, and the car cheerfully pops over, there's a lot of bubbles.
Nothing left. He's in yet more shtook and sees a helicopter...
-With you in it.
-With me in it. And what is going on?
And finally finds out that it's in fact part of a film.
It was a stunt. And the deal is made that
if the young man, who is an escaped fugitive,
will take on the role of the stunt man who is dead
-at the bottom of the river...
-You will get him out of trouble.
I will get him out of trouble if he will get me out of trouble
because I have three days to complete my film.
Well, now, let's look at the first bit where you're on a wonderful
kind of machine. You have a fairground machine that you sit on.
-What is it called?
-A crane. And you sit on this...
..directing the movie and shouting orders at people,
and here you are whizzing up on the crane, or down.
-Good evening. Want a lift?
-Oh, Christ, Eli.
Palm trees, yet more palm trees.
Who had the audacity to put palm trees there?!
They will be in every shot.
And what are palm trees doing waving around on a battlefield
in Europe during the First World War? Answer me that.
Nina, the actor so fair who fancied a man with blonde hair.
But Raymond discovers, as he lifts up the covers that his double,
young Lucky, is there.
It's gotten to the point where I have to check under the stopper
in the bathtub when I take a shower to make sure I have some privacy!
Thank you, one and all, and good night.
Step right up, folks.
Ride the ride of the century on Eli's killer crane.
I don't know whether you enjoyed it. Did you?
Because you seemed to be giving a kind of flashy,
outgoing performance throughout the whole movie.
Well, it's a Mercutio role. It's dashing braggadocio.
Certainly, I relished it.
You said an interesting thing just before we started
the programme that it is a film with peculiar grammar,
its own grammar, its own syntax.
Well, Richard is in a bit of rush.
He calls it daft and he calls it all sorts of things,
and all these things are accurate. It is...
-I'm being complementary.
-Indeed. It's also a very, very good film.
-It's a brilliant film.
-You were a stuntman yourself in long past.
Well, before stunts were organised
and went into a proper profession, yes.
They would advertise for tall, young men who could speak a word
and ride a horse. These are the days of Ivanhoe and television specials.
-You were in the Scarlet Pimpernel.
-The Scarlet Pimpernel, that's right!
-What were you? A Scarlet or a Pimpernel?
-I was a writer.
-You were a writer.
-I had a wonderful line in it -
"You have to make the acquaintance of Madame Guillotine."
-And you rode your own camels in Lawrence Of Arabia.
-I did, yes.
One of the funny things in the days of...
as Bob Fitzsimmons and co will tell you,
when they advertised for riders, invariably jockeys would turn up.
So you would find these wonderfully impressive chain mail figures
and when they got up, you'd see bandy legs.
-And about that high?
-Where did you learn to fight?
Were you a rough kid?
Did you have to put your fists up to help yourself in your youth?
-From time to time.
-Where was that?
Did you ever win fights or did you invariably lose them?
There was a body at the end and it was quite often mine.
Were you prepared for the torrents or criticism that were
-thrown at your head after Macbeth?
-Um, no, I was not.
I was prepared to be criticised, yes, but not to that extent.
When did you realise that the whole thing had become "a cause celebre"?
Well, literally the following day. I mean, the house was besieged.
-You mean the ticket office was besieged?
-No, my house.
Oh, YOUR house? And the ticket office at the same time?
Lots of journalists jumping up and down.
You were sort of the theatrical Lady Diana Spencer for that moment,
-But you were.
-Yes. Flavour of the month.
And you say that reviews, today's reviews, are tomorrow's fish
and chip papers for wrapping...
so you've clearly emerged from all that kind of situation.
We've emerged with a good, professional,
very competent production, yes.
The following decades brought more successes like The Last Emperor
and My Favourite Year, a classic O'Toole performance that
saw him nominated for the best actor Oscar for the seventh time.
But he protested he was still in the game
and had time to win one outright.
That was a dream never fulfilled.
But the 2006 film Venus
did see him nominated for an amazing eighth time
and prompted this career retrospective from Newsnight.
Seven Oscar nominations and a towering reputation
as a stage actor - not bad -
but think what Peter O'Toole could have achieved
if he'd only persevered with his original profession, journalism.
I was adopted by the feature department
-and the sports department.
-To write. To sniff out yarns.
I was only a baby. I was only 16.
But I would much rather be reported than report.
I'd much rather be on the field than among the spectators.
Plus, I've always been as I've always felt.
That's why I didn't think I fitted in very well to newspapers.
I'd rather be the news.
-It had occurred to me that I wanted to be a poet.
-Were you any good?
-Really? Do you remember any of your couplets?
-Oh, I daren't even tell you. Later, perhaps.
What appealed to you about that? Was it just...?
Writing poetry and thinking about life,
and wondering around in a nice green...
-Cape. And like Mangan, with a funny big hat on.
-And the ladies like poets, of course.
-And the ladies adore poets, yes.
-What's not to like?
-Ah, yes, the ladies.
I can't do it with anyone I know watching.
-You've got to be professional, my dear.
-Mr Russell, if you don't mind?
In his new film, O'Toole plays a mature actor, or at least
an elderly one, in a winter/spring relationship with a wannabe model.
Everything all right?
There's a poignancy in seeing the 74-year-old O'Toole
as a leading man since he established himself
so indelibly the first time he took that role.
The extraordinary affect of being cast as Lawrence of Arabia
in David Lean's epic was to make O'Toole a star and somehow
to keep him there, despite more mixed fare thereafter.
Always I'm Lawrence. Always.
I woke up and found I was famous...
It was great!
It had bells on it! It was on toast.
It was foaming at the bathtub.
When writer Russell T Davies revisited the legend of Casanova
and the BBC were looking for someone to play the rake in old age,
you'll never guess whose agent they rang.
What's a burghermaster's daughter doing working in a kitchen?
He died last year, sir. There's not much provision for widows.
-And he had his debts.
I know nothing at all about women, nothing, not a sausage.
But is it fair to say you've made a fairly thorough study?
I've done the best I can under the limited circumstances.
Well, I think you're to be applauded for that.
-And what conclusions can you offer us?
-Not a sausage.
When you are beginning the business,
and you are in number seven dressing room at the
Theatre Royal Bristol, and you're looking at this face,
and you learn from a much older actor, and you learn it early
or you learn it never, THAT, that you're looking at, is the meat.
It's got nothing to do with whether it's good looking or bad
looking or big or little or whatever,
nothing. That's what you work with.
Venus would be O'Toole's final leading man role.
In 2012, he released a statement announcing his retirement
from acting, saying he bid the profession,
"A dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell."
When he died in 2013, aged 81, the eulogies spoke of him
as one of cinema's last great hell-raisers,
a mesmerising maverick and a true legend, on screen and off.
A look at the life of the Lawrence of Arabia star and legendary hellraiser Peter O'Toole, with rarely seen archive footage of his appearances on the BBC, exploring the story of his colourful career.