Here's new contributor Diana Drumm to talk about a man who will surely win pride of place in Oscar's In Memoriam a week from Sunday.
Crazy eights, ice-skating tricks, the infinity symbol standing upright, 8 is a fun number... unless you’re the late legendary actor Peter O’Toole. Yes, the man who won the hearts (but not the majority) of Academy voters in his film debut as the titular Lawrence of Arabia, held his own in a televised Shakespeare discussion with Orson Welles, and bounded on and offscreen to various degrees of liquid courage would falter slightly, nay merely pause, at the mention of eight and Oscar in the same sentence.
Your instructions: Read the following paragraph aloud or in your head with all of the O’Toole-ian gravitas you can muster, in the style of the opening of his “My Life” speech from The Lion in Winter (1968), which garnered him a third nomination for Best Actor...
His life, as it has been written, reads no better, possibly far worse, than it lived. Peter James O’Toole, first Hamlet at the British National Royal Theatre, an Oscar nominee at 30, the ablest actor of an able time. He led productions well, he cared for the written and spoken word (with a wee dram thrown in here and there for good measure), for fifty years, with a career as great as any Barrymore, Booth or Burton. He worked out of love, with an offscreen persona out of legend. Coming out of Ireland, or Leeds, or some other unspecified location on the Anglo-Irish isles, never has there been such a filmography -- playing pope, king, prince and Caesar; actor, director and movie star; knight errant and madman; working with Hepburn both Katharine and Audrey. It garnered him many nominations. But no Oscar wins. O’Toole had no wins. He had one whiskered Honorary Award, but he rejected it, then accepted it, then was nominated again a mere four years later, only to lose yet again, for the eighth time.
As every single one of his obituaries noted late last year (frequently within the first line), O’Toole received a grand total of 8 nominations over the course of his 81 years roaming the earth, but never officially won. Yes, he was awarded an honorary Lifetime Achievement award in 2003, but that doesn't count... at least in the way he wanted it to. On the initial announcement, the man himself declined the award in a handwritten letter (the same mode in which he would announce his retirement a decade later) and writing that he was “still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright.” Sure enough, he was nominated yet again for his close-to-life performance as an aged actor in My Favorite Year Venus (2006).
Can you name the eight? We’ll give you a second… Got them sorted? State your answers... Caligula (1979)? Well… Man of La Mancha (1972)? What the what? He was dubbed for half of that… King Ralph (1991)? No, just no. How dare you? We kid, not really…
But seriously, read this roster of films and try not to swoon: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982), and finally Venus (2006). Which of those performances do you think deserved the Oscar? Or a better question, who would you have pulled a Kanye on? Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Rex Harrison for My Fair Lady (1964), Cliff Robertson for Charly (1968), John Wayne for True Grit (1969), Marlon Brando for The Godfather (1972), Robert De Niro for Raging Bull (1980), Ben Kingsley for Gandhi (1982), or Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (2006)?
If you want to hear O’Toole’s voice bellow through cavernous castle stone hallways or watch him storm the Ed Sullivan Theater on camelback, or… well, scroll below for a bordering-on-excessive amount of clips (okay, eight) of O’Toole-ian mayhem, madness and majesty…
Delivering lines plainly beneath him - Spice Girls edition!
Peter O'Toole and Orson Welles discussing Hamlet
A heated scene in Becket (1964)
A botched Cyrano in What's New Pussycat? (1965)
He sings (!) in The Ruling Class (1972)
Drunk on Johnny Carson
His famous camel ride on David Letterman
"Shall i compare thee to a summer's day?" in Venus (2006)