Peter O’Toole finally succumbed to a long-term illness at the weekend. He was aged 81. The sad news quickly changed to countless tributes proclaiming the death of an icon of cinema. Possibly the last of his kind.
Whilst constantly oozing style and class, O’Toole was arguably one of the least recognised actors of his generation, in terms of a major awards haul. He was famously acknowledged for being nominated for an Academy Award on eight separate occasions without winning a single one. In fact, it wasn’t until 2003 that he finally received an award from the Academy, in the form of an honorary recognition for a long, glittering career.
O’Toole was a master of his trade in that he could comfortably adapt himself to fit any genre or nature of the film required by the role. In acknowledgement of of the expansive career, and on the sad occasion of his death, let’s take a look at some of the most iconic roles of a giant of the acting world.
5. King Henry II – Becket
O’Toole’s career had truly began to rocket in the 1960s, as he successfully made the transition from stage to film, but it was the big screen adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s play Becket or the Honour of God which provided the immediate follow up to his major breakthrough.
In Becket, O’Toole played King Henry II, a role which he was due to play in the London stage production, but had to cancel due to being signed on to Lawrence Of Arabia. The film follows the collapsing of a close friendship between two roguish characters, the king and his friend and confidant, Becket. The latter rises to become the archbishop of Canterbury, and as such begins to be removed from Richard, creating a great deal of jealousy and a catastrophic rift from his king.
O’Toole was brave enough to play the part of an all-powerful ruler in a manner which brought forth a great deal of homosexual undercurrents. The relationship between the two men echoed one between a man and wife in terms of closeness, the likes of which was not commonly found on screen to be possible through two men. Richard was tempestuous, and his temper violent, but it was always carried off with a deeper sense of emotion by O’Toole; he simply sold you on a man who had been made to feel jilted by his closest friend, and used his power to exact a terrible revenge upon him.
This article was first posted on December 17, 2013