March 20, 2011

Peter to be honoured at TCM Film Festival

(from TCM press release)

Irish-Born Actor’s Hand and Footprints to be Enshrined in Concrete at Famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Celebration to Include Extensive Conversation with Robert Osborne, Plus Special Screening of O’Toole’s Oscar®-Nominated Performance in Becket (1964)
Legendary actor Peter O’Toole will be a special guest at the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival as attendees from around the globe join TCM in honoring the Irish-born actor’s extraordinary career. Several special events are planned for the celebration, including an in-depth conversation between O’Toole and TCM host Robert Osborne and a special screening of O’Toole’s Oscar®-nominated performance in Becket (1964).

The TCM Classic Film Festival will take place April 28 - May 1 in Hollywood. As part of the festival activities, O’Toole will place his hand and footprints in cement in front of the world-famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Saturday, April 30. “Caught at last. Forensics will have my dabs forever,” O’Toole said about the honor.

On Friday, April 29, Osborne will sit down with O’Toole for an extensive conversation about his life and career for a special live taping that will air later on TCM. The conversation will be recorded in front of a live audience of festival attendees at The Music Box, the newest venue to be added to the TCM Classic Film Festival.

Also on Friday, the celebration will include a screening of Becket (1964), which earned O’Toole the second of eight Best Actor Oscar® nominations. O’Toole will introduce the film, in which he plays England’s King Henry II, whose friendship with Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket turned into a power struggle that ended with Becket’s murder. Richard Burton, who plays the title role, joined his co-star and good friend on the list of 1964’s Best Actor Oscar nominees. O’Toole took on the visage of Henry II again four years later in The Lion in Winter (1968), which marked his third Oscar nomination.

“For more than five decades, Peter O’Toole has been a commanding presence on film with his impeccable talent and artistry, all of which has only grown stronger over time,” Osborne said. “We couldn’t be more pleased that he will be with us in person in Hollywood when we celebrate his life and career at the 2011 TCM Classic Film Festival. His being with us promises to be one of the highlights of an amazing and star-studded event.”

O’Toole was born in County Galway, Ireland, and grew up in Leeds, England, the son of a bookmaker father and a Scottish-born nurse mother. After service in the Royal Navy, he became interested in theatre and acting and was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

O’Toole was in repertory at the Bristol Old Vic for three years. Followed by work at the Royal Court with the other so-called ‘angries’ and then at Stratford playing Shakespeare where, at the age of 27, his ‘Shylock’ was hailed by press and public as the finest of his generation, perhaps even of the century. Prior to Stratford he had played in a film called The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960). This film was seen by David Lean who telephoned O’Toole in Stratford. They met in London. Lean offered O’Toole the part of T.E.L. in Lawrence of Arabia. In the first major screen role of O’Toole’s career, the golden-haired, blue-eyed actor made a powerful impact on audiences as the conflicted British liaison officer caught at the center of an Arab revolt. The film also marked O’Toole’s first Oscar nomination.

Over the next 10 years, he would garner a string of nominations for performances in Becket and The Lion in Winter (1968), as well as the musical version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) and the wildly offbeat comedy The Ruling Class (1972).

O’Toole garnered his sixth Oscar nomination as a tyrannical director in The Stunt Man (1980). Two years later, he received a seventh nomination for his funny-yet-touching performance in the nostalgic My Favorite Year (1982), in which he plays a former screen idol brought out of the woodwork to guest-star on a live television comedy show in the 1950s. Since then, he has co-starred in a wide range of films, including Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winning film The Last Emperor (1987), the comedy hit King Ralph (1991) and the epic blockbuster Troy (2004).

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on O’Toole in 2003. Four years later, he was back at the Oscars with his eighth Best Actor nomination for the May-December romance Venus (2006). He continues to be extremely active, with such recent credits as Ratatouille (2007), Stardust (2007), Dean Spanley (2008), Christmas Cottage (2008) and the popular television series The Tudors.

Throughout his film career O’Toole has continued his theatre work, averaging a play every two years. He retired from the stage in 1999.

November 21, 2010

Lovely interview with Peter from 22nd Galway Film Festival 2010 - it's an audio interview, worth a listen!

August 17, 2010

Peter during filming of Cristiada

Thanks to Gina for sending me a link to a photo of Peter taken during the filming of "Cristiada", currently in production in Mexico.


Here's a link to the Facebook Group for Cristiada as well.!/pages/Cristiada/313576978430?v=info

May 18, 2010

Peter O'Toole Boards "The Swan Boat"


Veteran Irish actor Peter O’Toole (Venus, Goodbye Mr. Chips) and Geraldine Chaplin (Doctor Zhivago, Chaplin) will headline ‘Jennifer and the Swan Boat’, a new feature film from Palancar Company Ltd which will explore the unlikely friendship between a former ballet star and a gifted albeit mute orphan.

O’Toole will play a former ballet star who strikes up a friendship with an orphan before tutoring her to stardom. The film will be principally set in Paris’ Opera House where Geraldine Chaplin’s Marianne manages the ballet company. Casting is still underway to find the actress who will play the part of the young ballet dancing orphan.

The film is set to shoot in March 2011 for eight weeks in Paris’ Opera House, the city itself and the bordering areas. Three-time Academy Award winner Michel LeGrand (The Thomas Crown Affair) will score the film and Claude Bessy, former prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet, will play herself and choreograph the dance sequences. The other cast members involved include Larrio Ekson (Aurore), Brigitte Maoti (Tony Zoreil), Daniel Downing and Jeanne Manson.

Michael Beyer (All in One Hand: The Pianist Paul Wittgenstein) will direct the film which is written by David Amory Lown (The Man Who Couldn’t Sleep) who also produces alongside Patricia Twohill Lown who tells IFTN that the funding for the film has come from Région Ile-de-France and private sources. The film’s director of photography and the film’s release date are TBC.

With regards Peter O’Toole’s role in the film producer Twohill Lown is full of praise for the Irish actor, telling us “when Peter read the script, he immediately fell in love with it. As you can imagine, Peter O'Toole does not need to audition - David did not have him in mind when he wrote it, but he is a perfect fit.”

Both David Amory Lown and Patricia Twohill Lown will be in attendance at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to discuss ‘Jennifer and the Swan Boat’.

August 08, 2009

Iron Road 2-part miniseries debuts tomorrow; O'Toole plays Relic


"a story of disguise and forbidden love,
set against the building of the railroad"

Peter stars as the character Relic in a Canadian-produced miniseries, 'Iron Road', which debuts tomorrow night (Sunday August 9, 2009) on CBC television.

Relic is "an alcoholic recruiting agent who teaches English to the kid, Little Tiger, and tries to dissuade him from his dream of going across the ocean to build a railroad."

July 31, 2009

Upcoming film work for Peter

A quick check over at IMDB shows that Peter O'Toole is on-staff for two films in production: God's Spy (2009-announced) and Mary Mother of Christ is now in production (see entry below).

Peter plays Simeon in Mary Mother of Christ, along with Jessica Lange, Al Pacino and Jonathan Rhys-Myers.

Not much in the casting details dept for God's Spy other than that Josh Lucas is in it, and the plot synopsis is "A Jesuit priest working undercover as a Wall Street trader becomes caught up in a political and financial conspiracy involving the Vatican Bank, the CIA, the Mafia, and Masonic Lodge P2" - sounds intriguing! More details as they come to light.

April 27, 2009

Review of Dean Spanley DVD Release (Apr 24 - Guardian)

Nice capsule review of Dean Spanley for the DVD release, here:
...and at the Telegraph:

February 26, 2009

Dean Spanley review

“I HAVE heard it said that remarkable events often have ordinary beginnings. Never was this more true than of my Thursday.”
This opening line to Dean Spanley is actually a very accurate description of this film’s pace and narrative.

Directed by Toa Fraser, Dean Spanley is set in 1904 and stars Jeremy Northam as Henslowe Fisk, who decides to take his ailing father (Peter O’Toole) to a lecture on reincarnation, where they meet an enthusiastic Australian named Wrather (Bryan Brown).

Whilst attending the lecture, they become fascinated with Dean Spanley (Sam Neill) and when they meet again, they ask him to dinner, enticing him with a rare Hungarian wine named Imperial Tokay.

Over the course of the dinner, Spanley begins to recount what appear to be strange recollections of a past life. However, as his stories unfold, it becomes clear that Spanley and Fisk may share a closer connection than either of them realised.

It’s best to see Dean Spanley knowing as little about it as possible, since giving away any detail would ruin the film’s surprises.

The fantastically witty script takes a decidedly unexpected turn towards the end and that the payoff is both funny and emotionally moving.

Neill is exciting in the lead role (one of his best in years), delivering a performance that borders on the absurd, to the point where you can’t quite believe what you’re hearing.

Northam anchors the film with a typically solid performance, while there’s scene-stealing support from Brown and yet another powerfully moving performance from O’Toole.

Whilst watching Dean Spanley, you’re constantly waiting for something to happen, but you won’t quite believe it when it does.

To that end, the script crackles with great dialogue and layers in several lines and moments that will reward further viewings.

In short, Dean Spanley is funny, clever and generally moving. It’s also totally unlike any film you may have seen for quite some time.

O'Toole to play Symeon in film adaptation of "Mary, Mother of Christ"

Only two days after it was revealed that Al Pacino is to play King Lear in a new big-screen version of the play, Variety reports he is also in talks to play King Herod in the biblical tale Mary, Mother of Christ.

The project looks set to attract a high-profile cast, with Jessica Lange also considering the role of Anna the Prophetess. Peter O'Toole has already signed to play the elder, Symeon, while Jonathan Rhys Meyers will play both Gabriel and Lucifer.

Camille Belle, last seen battling anachronistic sabre-toothed tigers in Roland Emmerich's 10,000 BC, will take the title role. Argentine director Alejandro Agresti, who shot 2002's Valentin and 2006's The Lake House, is directing the film, which starts production in Morocco in May.

Film-makers such as Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ) have found huge success in recent years by producing films which capture the hearts and minds of religiously minded middle America, and Mary, Mother of Christ appears to be aimed at a similar target audience; studio MGM is planning to release the film in time for Good Friday, 2010.

November 06, 2008

Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage comes to DVD next week!


O'Toole fans will be glad to hear that his 2008 film, "Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage" is being released on DVD next week.

"A look at the inspiration behind Thomas Kinkade's painting The Christmas Cottage, and how the artist was motivated to begin his career after discovering his mother was in danger of losing their family home."

Peter stars in the film as Glen Wessler, the artist who inspired Kinkade to create his famous painting.

Stay tuned for a contest to be announced soon!

September 11, 2008

O'Toole no-show at TIFF; Reviews of Dean Spanley

So unfortunately Peter did not attend the TIFF screening of his latest film, "Dean Spanley" - the local publicist for the film cited his health - he is reluctant to travel in general, let alone for a media run.

That said, notices for the film are good and people are once again touting "Oscar nom for O'Toole" in the supporting actor category. He's (as usual) the best thing about the film.

Some reviews:

Gold Derby's review in the LA Times review

May 20, 2008

Last man standing: How Peter O'Toole outlived cinema's biggest hellraisers


Another excerpt here:

As a teenager, Peter O'Toole scribbled a pledge in his notebook: "I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony."

How right he was. Now 75 and still going strong, even he could surely never have predicted quite how uncommon his life would prove to be, or how churned up those smooth sands might become.

A natural eccentric, Peter O'Toole's legendary love of drinking only accentuated his off-beat behaviour, leaving the world agog at his escapades when fame threw a spotlight on them.

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Two of a kind: O'Toole as a legendary drinker Jeffrey Bernard

Born to raise hell: The reckless passion that drove four of Britain's most extraordinary film stars on
This was a man who travelled the world yet never wore a watch or carried a wallet. Nor, on leaving his house, did he ever take his keys with him.

"I just hope some bastard's in," he'd say.

More than once, when someone was not in, O'Toole found himself having to explain to the police why he was breaking into his own property.

Peter O'Toole was born in 1932 in Connemara, Ireland, for which he retained a lifelong affection, although he moved to Leeds at the age of just one.

The neighbourhood where O'Toole grew up was rough, and three of his playmates were later hanged for murder. "I'm not from the working class," O'Toole liked to say. "I'm from the criminal class."

Although it was his mother, Connie, who instilled in O'Toole a strong sense of literature, by far the biggest influence in his young life was his father, Patrick, a bookie who was often drunk.

One day, Patrick stood his young son up on the mantelpiece and said: "Jump, boy. I'll catch you. Trust me."

When O'Toole jumped, his father withdrew his arms, leaving the boy splattered on the hard stone floor. The lesson, said his father, was "never trust any bastard".

Later, father and son often got plastered together, such as the occasion in London when Patrick came down from Leeds in 1959.

The O'Tooles got slaughtered and as everyone retired to bed, Peter lay spread-eagled on the floor, "not asleep, but crucified", as he later said.

Patrick tried lifting his flagging son to his feet, but to no avail. Instead he opened another bottle and joined him on the floor. That's where the pair were found the following afternoon.

O'Toole's childhood was dogged by ill health, and although he could read by the age of three, he did not attend school regularly until he was 11.

He left two years later with no qualifications and one ambition: to sell second-hand Jaguars.

When this failed to materialise, he landed a job on his local newspaper, the Yorkshire Evening News.

Starting as a tea boy, O'Toole did a stint as a reporter, covering stories with the likes of future columnist Keith Waterhouse and author Barbara Taylor Bradford.

He quickly concluded, however, that this was not the career for him, a view shared by his editor.

"I soon found out that, rather than chronicling events, I wanted to be the event," he said.

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Hellraisers to the end: Richard Harris with Peter O'Toole

To help achieve this, he landed a scholarship at RADA in a class that include future stars Alan Bates and Albert Finney.

In 1959, O'Toole was cast as a Cockney sergeant in the play The Long And The Short And The Tall at the Royal Court Theatre.

His understudy was a young Michael Caine, and one Saturday night after the show O'Toole invited him to a restaurant he knew.

Eating a plate of egg and chips was the last thing Caine remembered, until he woke up in broad daylight in a strange flat.

"What time is it?" he inquired. "Never mind what time it is," said O'Toole. "What f***ing day is it?"

It turned out that it was five o'clock in the afternoon two days later. Curtain-up was at eight.

Back at the theatre, the stage manager was waiting for them with the news that the restaurant owner had been in and banned them from his establishment for life.

Caine was about to ask what they'd done when O'Toole whispered: "Never ask what you did. It's better not to know."

Most evenings after the show, O'Toole would enjoy a long walk around Covent Garden. Sometimes if he was in the mood, he'd scale the wall of Lloyds bank.

The first time he took his future wife, the actress Sian Phillips, on one of these nocturnal jaunts, she was startled when he began his ascent of the north face of the building.

But after a few nights she came to accept that, by O'Toole's standards anyway, it was quite normal.

It was the sheer unpredictability of the man that had attracted her to him in the first place.

He once showed up in a sports car yelling: "Get your passport, we're off!" Heading for Rome, they took a wrong turning and ended up in Yugoslavia.

By the end of the trip, Sian's nerves were in shreds as a result of O'Toole's manic driving.

After he'd once taken a friend to Amsterdam, the unfortunate woman later confided to Sian: "He should never drive anything. He's lovely, but I thought we were going to die."

Over the years, cars and O'Toole have never been the best of friends. One woman who accepted a lift from him swore afterwards that she would never do so again.

During the journey, he had ignored a Keep Left sign on the grounds that it was "silly", and also narrowly avoided driving down a flight of steps.

O'Toole's first proper film credit was a small role in Walt Disney's 1959 movie Kidnapped. Amazingly, on his very first day he overslept, and the angry film company had to phone the home of the actor Kenneth Griffith, where O'Toole was staying, to find out where he was.

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Extraordinary quartet: Richard Burton, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole

Griffith popped his head round O'Toole's bedroom door - he was fast asleep. "O'Toole," he shouted. "You're 45 minutes late."

Lifting his bedraggled head off the pillow, O'Toole asked if his car had arrived.

"No," said Griffith. O'Toole's head crashed back onto the pillow. "No car, no me," he said.

"From that day to this, there has been a Rolls-Royce waiting for him," Griffith once revealed. Even on his first day, O'Toole was behaving like the star he would later become.

The star of Kidnapped was the Australian actor Peter Finch, a mighty drinker. Not surprisingly, he and O'Toole became great friends.

During one of their legendary boozing sessions in Ireland in the Sixties they were refused a drink because it was after closing time.

Both stars decided that the only course of action was to buy the pub, so they wrote out a cheque for it.

The following morning, after sobering up, the pair rushed back to the scene of the crime. Luckily the landlord hadn't cashed the cheque and disaster was averted.

O'Toole and Finch remained friends with the pub owner, and when he died his wife invited them to his funeral.

Both knelt at the graveside as the coffin was lowered in, sobbing noisily. When Finch turned away, unable to stand it any more, O'Toole saw his friend's face change from a look of sorrow to one of total astonishment.

They were at the wrong funeral; their friend was being buried 100 yards away.

In his late 20s, O'Toole became the youngest leading man ever at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, where he took the opportunity to seal his growing reputation as a hellraiser.

At one after-show party O'Toole held court on stage sitting on a throne, sustained by two pedal bins on either side of him, one full of beer, the other containing hard liquor into which he would alternately scoop two pint mugs.

But his tearaway existence was taking its toll, and O'Toole's doctors warned him that he needed to cut out the booze.

For the rest of the season, O'Toole made a great show of downing large quantities of milk, although he remained sceptical.

"I get drunk and disorderly and all that, but I don't think it's true that there is any danger of me destroying myself," he said.

When director David Lean was casting the lead in Lawrence Of Arabia in 1959, he favoured O'Toole, but producer Sam Spiegel had reservations because of his reputation.

Having seen his screen test, however, he had to admit they'd found their Lawrence.

Lawrence Of Arabia occupied O'Toole for two years, filming in seven different countries.

By the end of it, he'd lost 2st, received third-degree burns, sprained both ankles, torn ligaments in both his hip and thigh, dislocated his spine, broken his thumb, sprained his neck and been concussed twice.

But his extraordinary performance made him a star. Lawrence Of Arabia was a world-wide smash when it opened in 1962 and was hailed as one of cinema's true masterpieces.

"I woke up one morning to find I was famous," he said. "I bought a white Rolls-Royce and drove down Sunset Boulevard, wearing dark specs and a white suit, waving like the Queen Mum.

"Nobody took any f***ing notice, but I thoroughly enjoyed it."

His family life, however, was suffering. When one of his daughters was ill, he paid her a visit in the nursery. Days later, the child asked Sian: "You know that man who came to see me, Mummy - who is he?"

After that, Sian made a point of pinning up stills of O'Toole's current film or stage guises to avoid any misunderstandings.

The filming of the 1968 historical drama The Lion In Winter, in which O'Toole starred with Katharine Hepburn, was notable for a series of bizarre incidents.

Shooting a scene on a lake one day, O'Toole trapped his finger between two boats. "Bloody agony it was," he said. "Took the top right off."

O'Toole carried the tip of his finger back to shore, dipped it into a glass of brandy to sterilise it and then pushed it back on, wrapping it in a poultice.

Three weeks later he unwrapped it and there it was, all crooked and bent.

"I'd put it back the wrong way, probably because of the brandy, which I drank," explained O'Toole.

Another time, he awoke at 4am to discover that his bed was on fire.

"At first I tried to put the thing out myself, but I couldn't read the small print on the fire extinguisher," he said.

"By the time the first fireman arrived, I was so glad to see him I kissed him."

O'Toole didn't have much luck with fires. During a cottage holiday in Wales with Sian, he had decided to cook, although she had never seen him do so before.

"I can make the best French toast," he told her. Minutes later the stove exploded into flames.

They tried to extinguish the fire, but it was impossible, and they were driven out into the garden, where they watched in the rain as the kitchen burnt down.

Meanwhile, O'Toole's film career was hardly going from strength to strength. One of his commercial flops was the 1968 movie The Great Catherine, a moribund historical effort that hardly got a cinema run.

During filming, O'Toole's habit was to go back to his dressing room when not required, ostensibly to rest and learn his lines.

In reality, he opened a bottle of champagne and chatted to his minder, who drove him around and got him home safely after a night on the sauce.

One afternoon, director Gordon Fleming sent an assistant to fetch O'Toole.

The assistant found the dressing room empty, with a TV showing horse-racing from Sandown Park, not far from the studio.

Suddenly, the TV camera zoomed in and there, in the crowd, was O'Toole cheering on the horses.

A car was dispatched to bring the errant actor back to the studio. O'Toole arrived all smiles, thinking it was one big joke.

During the Sixties, O'Toole had blazed a mighty trail of hell-raising, but as the decade came to a close he was approaching his 40s and some wondered if he was getting tired of lugging around his reputation as a drunkard and general crank.

"The damage has been done," he lamented. "There is a legend, there is a myth: to protest is daft."

In 1975, when he was 43, matters were taken out of his hands. An abdominal irregularity he'd persistently ignored (he hated doctors) finally erupted and he was rushed into hospital for a major operation.

For years, O'Toole refused to say what the problem was. "My plumbing is no one's business but my own," he said.

In fact, O'Toole came as close to dying as you can without doing so. "It was a photo-finish, the surgeons said," he said.

There was so little of his digestive system left that any amount of alcohol could prove fatal. Having come so close to death, O'Toole was determined to live each day to the full.

"The time has come to stop roaming," he said. "The pirate ship has berthed. I can still make whoopee, but now I do it sober."

That was more than 30 years ago. Now, in his mid-70s, Peter O'Toole has outlived all his fellow hellraisers and is still very much in the game.

In 2004, he played Priam in the epic Troy, which also starred Orlando Bloom, Brad Pitt and Sean Bean, a self-confessed O'Toole aficionado.

"The first time I met him on the set," recalled Bean, "he was in a robe with a cigarette holder and he said: 'Sean, how are you, dear boy?' He was just how I imagined him to be."

Last year, O'Toole notched up his eighth Oscar nomination for his performance in Venus, the story of an almost wholly platonic romance between an elderly thespian and a 21-year-old girl.

O'Toole was delighted at the script and at his casting.

"No one better for a dirty old man who falls for a sluttish young woman," he said. Sadly, the coveted Oscar still eludes him, although he remains hopeful.

So O'Toole is the last surviving British reprobate. "The common denominator of all my friends is that they're dead," he said.

"There was a time when I felt like a perpendicular cuckoo clock, popping up and down in pulpits saying: 'Fear no more the heat o' the sun.' They were dying like flies."

But like all the other hellraisers, he has never once regretted the mistakes he made.

"I loved the drinking, and waking up in the morning to find I was in Mexico," he said. "It was part and parcel of being an idiot." Long may he continue.

EXTRACTED from Hellraisers: The Life And Times Of Burton, Harris, O'Toole & Reed by Robert Sellers, published by Preface on May 29 at £16.99. To order a copy for £15.30 (p&p free), call 0845 606 4206.

March 22, 2008

O'Toole to appear on The Tonight Show March 24th

Peter will be appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote his role as Pope Paul III in the March 30th episode of "The Tudors". I'll tape the appearance and post it here.

Update: Here's the interview in Quicktime .mov and .m4v formats.

February 01, 2008

"The Last Emperor" gets the Criterion treatment

Bertolucci's masterpiece biopic, "The Last Emperor", in which Peter O'Toole starred as the young emperor Pu Yi's tutor, is due to be re-released in a 4-disc Criterion Collection edition at the end of February. This is one of my favourite of O'Toole's many roles, I'll definitely be picking this one up!

See for more details.

January 31, 2008

O'Toole filming "Dean Spanley" in New Zealand

(from the New Zealand Herald)
Following on from 2006's critically acclaimed film No. 2, local director Toa Fraser has turned his hand to another high-profile project, Dean Spanley.

Based on the 1936 novel by Lord Dusanay, the film will star eight-time Oscar nominee Peter O'Toole and New Zealand's own Sam Neill.

Cast and crew are in New Zealand filming the final portion of the picture, after spending six weeks filming in Norfolk, England.

Set in the Edwardian era, the comedy looks at the relationship between master and dog, father and son.

Mark Vette, of TV One's The Funny Farm fame, is helping with the shoot, wrangling the film's furry stars. The New Zealand-British co-production is set for release later this year.

December 09, 2007

O'Toole featured in "Hellraisers" book about Wild brit actors of the 60's


Marie-Noelle informs us that "Hellraisers: The Inebriated Life and Times of Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed" is due to be released. (from amazon:)

"This highly entertaining biography of four charismatic and much loved actors follows them through five decades of boozing, brawling and braggadocio.

At their career peaks, these four controversial actors had the whole world at their feet and lived through some of the wildest exploits Hollywood has ever seen. But all that fame had a price; Richard Burton’s liver was shot by the time he was 50, Richard Harris’s film career stalled for over a decade. Peter O’Toole’s drinking almost put him in the grave before his 43rd birthday, and Oliver Reed ended up dying prematurely.

This is the story of four of the greatest thespian boozers who ever walked — or staggered — off a film set into a pub. It’s a story of drunken binges of near biblical proportions, parties and orgies, broken marriages, drugs, riots and wanton sexual conquests. And yet these piss-artists were seemingly immune from the law. They got away with it because of their extraordinary acting talent and because the public loved them. They were truly the last of a breed, the last of the movie hellraisers.

About the Author
Robert Sellers is a former stand-up comedian and the author of biographies of Sting, Tom Cruise, two appreciations of the work of Sean Connery, and the definitive book on the Pythons: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Thanks, Marie-Noelle!

October 31, 2007

O'Toole to star in "My Talks with Dean Spanley"

Reader Malcolm informs me that Peter is shooting a new film this November called "My Talks with Dean Spanley"... produced by Alan Harris and Matthew Metcalfe, and directed by Toa Fraser. Not much in the way of details yet - I'll update as I get them.

Peter's got a busy year coming up! According to he's involved in at least 5 films that are slated for 2007-2008 release.

Update: Accoridng to the Hollywood Reporter, The castlist for Spanley includes Jeremy Northam and Sam Neill... The film will be set in Edwardian England, "where upper lips are always stiff and men from the Colonies are not entirely to be trusted, [the film] reveals just how deep an Englishman's love for his dog can go."

October 23, 2007

New O'Toole Biography Coming

Peter O'Toole - Hellraiser - The Biography is due to be released soon in the UK. Written by Carolyn Soutar, who has also penned bios of comedian Dave Allen, ballet star Rudolph Nureyev, this is an unofficial account of O'Toole's life - no doubt because O'Toole himself isn't finished with living and is apparently spending part of this year completing the long-awaited third volume of his memoirs, "Loitering with Intent". I've ordered a copy of Hellraiser and I'll post a review when it comes in.

* side note I wonder if they will change the title of the book for the North American release (if any) due to the title being the same as the successful horror film series "Hellraiser".

September 04, 2007

Masada to be re-released on DVD


September 18th will see the re-release of MASADA, the epic mini-series, in which Peter starred Silva, a Roman general.

August 28, 2007

A new role for Peter!


O'Toole Handed the Baton
(from this article at filmstew)

Back in the 1960’s in Abington, Pennsylvania, the local high school relay team was celebrated for having won a prestigious relay championship. Doesn’t really sound like the kind of material that might overlap with the talents of eight-time Oscar nominee Peter O’Toole, does it? Be that as it may, O’Toole is indeed on board as one of the co-stars of Baton, a fictitious tale taking its cue from that time period; it begins filming in Abington next week and is being associate produced by local boy Jay Staats, a 1963 graduate of Abington High. The drama leaves the Pennsylvania locales when its young protagonist Sean (Thomas Easley) travels to Montreal to live with the leader of the World Peace Organization, played by O’Toole. All against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. The now 75-year-old actor (his birthday was last week, August 2nd) has remained extremely busy since he was in the running for Best Actor with Venus. In addition to voicing the food critic in Ratatouille and playing a king in this week’s new fantasy film release Stardust, he’s got close to half a dozen things in the works or in the can, including an episode of Showtime's The Tudors and the CBC Canadian miniseries Iron Road. O’Toole’s part is no doubt a small one, but still, it is impressive that this indie production was able to score such a name. The film marks the directorial debut of Jeff January, a veteran First Assistant Director, and also co-stars James Brolin.

Religion a key part of portfolio for actor

(from this article at the Columbus dispatch - reprinted from the New York Times) August 1 2007

By Anita Gates

DUBLIN, Ireland -- On a typically drizzly Irish day, protected by a huge green umbrella, Peter O'Toole crossed a movie-studio lot.

He looked elegant in white papal robes and a red cape, with a characteristic glint in his world-famous eyes.

Spotting a new acquaintance, he called out: "Did you see Page 8 of The Irish Times?"

He proceeded to read aloud a report about Protestant leader Ian Paisley and his criticism of Pope Benedict XVI.

O'Toole, 74, had just finished filming his portrayal of a 16th-century pope, Paul III, in the much-discussed Showtime series The Tudors, to begin a second season in the spring.

Even out of character, he seemed happy to discuss religion.

"I am a retired Christian," he announced playfully, relaxing in his trailer at the end of the day.

His costume had been replaced by pants, a sweater, a jacket and an ascot.

Six decades after his altar-boy childhood and subsequent loss of faith, O'Toole said, he looked elsewhere for guidance.

"I suggest that an education and reading and facts aren't bad things on which to ponder a few notions," he said.

Yet he acknowledged a "very strong and very real" spiritual side.

"No one can take Jesus away from me," he said, having just expressed an affection for the Sermon on the Mount ("Blessed are the meek . . .").

"There's no doubt there was a historical figure of tremendous importance with enormous notions -- such as peace."

The character O'Toole plays will spend most of next season in an epistolary battle with Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) over the king's insistence on a divorce from Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn.

(Some dramatic license was taken: The real pope at the time was Clement VII, played in last season's brief papal scenes by Ian McElhinney; when O'Toole came aboard, producers made him Clement's successor, Paul III, but by that time, Boleyn was dead.)

Few of The Tudors' actors have scenes with O'Toole because the pope is in Rome, but they were on the set to be photographed with him or simply shake his hand.

"He's the only poster I've ever had on my wall," said Meyers, recalling his youthful adulation after seeing Lawrence of Arabia for the first time. "I just hope that I can hold up against him."

Michael Hirst, who has written every episode of the series so far, said he was delighted to have O'Toole speaking his dialogue.

"The pope was extremely cynical, so what I wanted was to hear the character of a man who is spiritual but also worldly," Hirst said. "He says something about, 'The French king has guns and soldiers, whereas we must make do with truth and beauty.' "

Over a glass of wine, O'Toole chatted about past roles, which have included a cardinal in the TV production Joan of Arc, angels in The Bible and a British lord who thinks he is Jesus in The Ruling Class.

He recalled also having played a pope before, onstage when he was 24, filling in at the last minute for an older actor.

Although he reluctantly accepted an honorary Oscar in 2003, O'Toole has never won a competitive Academy Award despite eight nominations.

O'Toole smiled, got up to retrieve a small spiral notebook and revealed inside a tiny, Oscar-shaped piece of golden paper: a bit of confetti, he said, from a party after this year's ceremony.

"So," he said pleasantly, "I've got my own, thank you very much indeed."

July 26, 2007

Papal Robes, and Deference, Fit O'Toole Snugly


(from the July 26th New York Times)

Papal Robes, and Deference, Fit O’Toole Snugly

DUBLIN — On a typically drizzly Irish day Peter O’Toole crossed a movie studio lot, protected by a huge green umbrella. He was elegant in white papal robes and red cape, with a characteristic glint in his world-famous eyes.

Spotting a new acquaintance, he called out, “Did you see Page 8 of The Irish Times?” He proceeded to read aloud the report about the Protestant leader Ian Paisley’s criticism of Pope Benedict XVI for the “excommunication of all Christendom” by endorsing a Vatican declaration that Roman Catholicism was the only true church.

Mr. O’Toole, 74, had just completed filming his portrayal of the 16th-century pope Paul III in Showtime’s much-talked-about series “The Tudors,” which returns for its second season next spring. Even out of character he seemed happy to discuss religion.

“I am a retired Christian,” he announced playfully, relaxing in his trailer at the end of a hard workday. His costume had been replaced by sweater, jacket, pants and an ascot.

Six decades after his altar-boy childhood and subsequent loss of faith, Mr. O’Toole said he looked elsewhere for life guidance. “I suggest that an education and reading and facts aren’t bad things on which to ponder a few notions,” he said. But he acknowledged a “very strong and very real” spiritual side to his nature.

“No one can take Jesus away from me,” he said, having just expressed an affection for the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the meek,” etc.). “There’s no doubt there was a historical figure of tremendous importance, with enormous notions. Such as peace.”

Mr. O’Toole’s character will spend most of next season in an epistolary battle with Henry VIII (the equally blue-eyed Jonathan Rhys Meyers) over the king’s insistence on a divorce from Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn. The real pope at the time was Clement VII, but in last season’s brief papal scenes Clement was played by Ian McElhinney. So when Mr. O’Toole came on board, the series made him Clement’s successor, Paul III, instead. (Actually, by Paul III’s time, Anne was already in her grave. But what’s a little dramatic license among friends?

The “Tudors” set can look a bit like the Island of Lost Handsome British Actors. Besides Mr. Rhys Meyers (who turns 30 on July 27 and plays a particularly young, fit Henry), there are, among others, Jeremy Northam as Thomas More, James Frain as Thomas Cromwell and the newcomer Henry Cavill as Henry’s hunky brother-in-law Charles Brandon.

But the presence of Mr. O’Toole caused a stir. Few of the actors have scenes with him because the pope is in Rome, but several managed to be on the set to be photographed with him or simply shake his hand.

“He’s the only poster I’ve ever had on my wall,” Mr. Rhys Meyers said, recalling his youthful adulation after seeing “Lawrence of Arabia” for the first time. “I just hope that I can hold up against him.”

But Mr. Rhys Meyers quickly regained his kingly attitude. “I’d love to have had a scene with Peter,” he said over tea in his own trailer. “It would have been war. It’s war anyway.”

Michael Hirst, who has written every episode of the series so far, said he was delighted to have Mr. O’Toole speaking his dialogue. “The pope was extremely cynical, so what I wanted was to hear the character of a man who is spiritual but also worldly,” Mr. Hirst said. “He says something about, ‘The French king has guns and soldiers, whereas we must make do with truth and beauty.’ ”

Mr. Hirst mentioned another cherished line. It was part of a discussion of Henry’s infatuation with the cunning Anne Boleyn, and it reflected the past of Paul III, who had mistresses and children.

“You and I have done well to escape the craft of women,” the pope tells Cardinal Campeggio (John Kavanagh). “Celibacy is an immense relief.”

Mr. O’Toole, who was married to the British actress Sian Phillips for 20 years (they divorced in 1979), recited the same line during his interview, which ended with a couple of glasses of red wine (a Margaux), one of his current drinks of choice. (The other is whisky.)

He chatted about other subjects: his lifelong avoidance of physical exercise but enjoyment of sports (he professed to be taking up archery), his background (born in Connemara, reared in Leeds, England, the son of a racetrack bookmaker), training (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London) and past roles, which have included a cardinal in a television “Joan of Arc,” angels in “The Bible” and a British lord convinced he is Jesus in “The Ruling Class.”

He recalled having played a pope before, onstage when he was 24 and filled in at the last minute for an older actor. (In “Becket” he was on the other side, playing a king, Henry II, who ordered the murder of the archbishop.)

Ultimately the subject of the Oscar was broached. Although he reluctantly accepted an honorary one in 2003, Mr. O’Toole has never won an American Academy Award and has surpassed the record of his old friend Richard Burton as the actor nominated most often (eight times, most recently for the 2006 film “Venus”) without ever winning.

Mr. O’Toole smiled, got up to retrieve a small spiral notebook and revealed inside a tiny, Oscar-shaped piece of golden paper: a bit of confetti, he said, from a party after this year’s ceremony.

“So,” he said pleasantly, “I’ve got my own, thank you very much indeed.”

July 11, 2007

O'Toole's son Lorcan to appear in thiller film with Joan Plowright

Hamish's Note: Lorcan has worked with Joan Plowright before, as Desmond in last year's "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont"

Hickox thriller rolls in England
LONDON — Brit thesp Nathalie Press will take the lead in psychological thriller "Knife Edge." Anthony Hickox's pic is about a Wall Street trader whose efforts to settle in a rural English idyll with her young son are wrecked by nightmarish visions.

Hugh Bonneville plays a family lawyer whose involvement with Press's character goes beyond the professional.

Also appearing are Joan Plowright, Matthieu Boujenah, Tamsin Egerton, Jamie Harris, Lorcan O'Toole and newcomer Miles Ronayne.

Press came to the fore in 2004's "My Summer of Love" and turned heads last year in Andrea Arnold's critically acclaimed drama "Red Road."

Pippa Cross ("Shooting Dogs") is producing alongside Janette Day and Fee Combe. Exec producing is Shelagh Miller, Peter Graham and Stephen Hays.

The chiller is from an original screenplay by Hickox, Robin Squire and Combe.

"Knife Edge" is a Seven Arts presentation in association with 120dB Films of a Knife Edge Films production. Seven Arts is handling worldwide sales, including the German, Russian and Eastern European rights, acquired by Telepool.

June 14, 2007

O'Toole to Play Pope Paul III in 'The Tudors'

Peter O'Toole will join the cast of Showtime's 'The Tudors' in the second season of the cable television drama. He's booked for seven(!) episodes, filming in Ireland later this year and airing next spring. He will play Pope Paul III in a recounting of the 16th century showdown with Henry VIII, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers - PPIII excommunicated the King over his divorce from first wife Catherine of Aragon, resulting in the historic break between England and the Roman Catholic Church. This should be interesting viewing, not just because of the talent Peter will no doubt bring to the role, but also because of his history of negativity toward the Catholic school system he was brought up in.

(Post Chronicle) (cinematical)

May 18, 2007

Venus arrives on DVD; Review by Jeff Swindoll

Longtime reader Jeff Swindoll has provided a nice review of the (US) DVD release of Venus over at

I'm impotent, of course, but I can still take a theoretical interest.

Continue reading "Venus arrives on DVD; Review by Jeff Swindoll" »

April 25, 2007

Ryan Gosling quips about O'Toole at Academy Awards

(from this story)

"Ultimately, the surprise nominee did not turn out to be the surprise winner – The Last King of Scotland's Forest Whitaker took home the golden statuette instead, beating Gosling, Peter O'Toole, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith.

But Gosling got his golden memory.

"I had a great moment with Peter O'Toole, though it's not like he mentioned my film or anything," Gosling says.

"We were both waiting for our cars in the parking lot. He bent down and picked up a piece of Oscar confetti, gave it to me and said, 'I'd like to present you with your Academy Award'," Gosling laughs.

"Then he said 'I have mine' and shook his little Oscar confetti piece in his hand.

"And I thought that was probably the best thing. If that's my only experience of the Oscars, it's the greatest. There's nothing better than losing with Peter O'Toole. I can't think of anything cooler than that.""

April 09, 2007

O'Toole in "Stardust" this August.


Peter will star as King of Stormhold in the fantasy film, "Stardust", due to be released this August. Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro also star.

O'Toole filming "Iron Road" in China, Canada

Peter is signed on with a new film, "Iron Road", about the building of the transcontinental railway. He stars in the film with Sam Neill, Filming in China from April to May, then moving to Vancouver. The film is directed by David Wu. O'Toole plays a character named "Relic". Very few details beyond this at this point. Thanks ERIC!

April 05, 2007

O'Toole to star in "The Christmas Cottage"


(photo from
O'Toole puts Kinkade film on his palette
Hollywood Reporter, April 5, 2007

Peter O'Toole is in final negotiations to star in Lionsgate's "The
Christmas Cottage," a feature based on the Thomas Kinkade painting.

The film will be directed by Michael Campus, and production is
scheduled to begin this month in Vancouver and Whistler.

"Cottage" is said to be partly biographical and based on events that
led American painter Kinkade to become an artist. O'Toole will play a
painter named Glen Weissler, based on one of Kinkade's mentors.

"Cottage" also will be produced by the Firm and Kinkade's Birch label.
Producers are the Firm's Julie Yorn, Michael and Arla Dietz Campus as
well as Thomas and Nanette Kinkade. A holiday release is planned for
the film, which is part of a production deal between Lionsgate and

O'Toole recently was nominated for his eighth Academy Award for his
performance in "Venus."

(thanks Kevin & Ric for the heads up!)

March 21, 2007

Becket Re-Released on DVD


By Barry Paris
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

T.S. Eliot called it "Murder in the Cathedral." Jean Anouilh called it "Becket." Shakespeare would have called it "Henry II."

By any name, in any season, the epic struggle between a 12th-century English king and a courtier-turned-conscience of his realm makes for a majestic movie, currently -- and thankfully-- being re-released for the first time in 40-plus years.

The time: less than a century after the Norman conquest (of 1066). The problem: high-spirited Henry II (Peter O'Toole) is having trouble with still-restive Saxons and church officials. Of great aid in both matters is his beloved drinking-and-wenching pal, Thomas Becket (Richard Burton), a wiser and cooler head than Henry's crowned one. When the troublesome archbishop of Canterbury finally does him the favor of dying, Henry's bright idea for his replacement is Becket, a confidant loyal to Henry, not Rome.

But to the king's chagrin, Becket takes God and the job seriously.

Edward Anhalt took home the 1964 Oscar for best screenplay adaptation for "Becket" and deserved it. His script captures the full power of Anouilh's play, whose language is declaimed by Burton and O'Toole with mesmerizing eloquence.

"I have something far worse than a sin on my conscience," says Henry, with a perfect pause before, "... a mistake."

Few plays have been turned into films with such a love of words intact. Originally produced on Broadway in 1959 with Laurence Olivier as Becket and Anthony Quinn as King Henry, "Becket" contains one significant factual error: Contrary to one of its main plot lines, the real Thomas was a Norman, not a Saxon -- something Anouilh said he discovered only after finishing the play.

But never mind. It brings history to life with magnificent performances by the most exciting actors of the day. Of the two principals, it is O'Toole's dynamic rage rather than Burton's piety that is more riveting. Equally fine in support are John Gielgud as foppish Louis XII of France, along with Martita Hunt as Henry's mother and Pamela Brown as his carping wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, a pair of queens constantly beaten by the king's royal flush.

"Who are you?" shouts the king to his cowering young son.

"Henry III," the boy answers.

"Not YET!" the father retorts, later addressing the boy as "you witless baboon!"

Suffice to say, this is not the most functional of royal families.

"Becket" and its historical circumstances foreshadow the bigger case -- and church-state split -- to come, six Henrys later, with another Thomas immortalized in another epic film. Fred Zinnemann's "A Man for All Seasons" (1966) would pit Henry VIII against Sir Thomas More. Two years later, "The Lion in Winter" (1968) allowed O'Toole to reprise Henry II opposite Katharine Hepburn as a much more formidable Eleanor.

If there's a better British-history trilogy than this trio, I can't name it. It's one of many things to thank the much-maligned '60s for.

While we're doling out retro-thanks, let's thank the gorgeous Panavision cinematography of Geoffrey Unsworth for the look of "Becket." The chance to enjoy it on a big screen again is well worth sharing with your kids. Its 2-1/2 hours fly by, although you'll miss the nicety of an intermission, which was de riguer back in those salad days of its theatrical release.

Director Peter Glenville was a London and New York stage director whose precious few films included a dull 1967 rendering of Graham Greene's "The Comedians," which inspired Bosley Crowther's shortest, cruelest, funniest review: "'The Comedians': Ha ha." After notices like that, you could see why Grenville swore off moviemaking. But "Becket" is the (one and only) gem in his diadem.

The story's only "weak" point is a matter of historical accuracy: That catalytic issue on which Becket took his stand _ a jurisdictional dispute between ecclesiastical vs. civil-court authority _ strikes us as not so terribly compelling in today's world of fast-and-loose creative judicial solutions. Why didn't Henry just declare Becket an anti-crown combatant and let him rot in the Tower of Londtanamo?

Becket and Henry represented nearly identical willfulness on opposite ends of the spectrum. "Humility is the most difficult of the virtues to achieve," wrote T.S. Eliot. "Nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself."

Becket will be released on May 15th. You can pre-order it at the usual venues.

March 06, 2007

Lots of little updates


Peter dances with his daughter Kate after the Academy Awards. (photo credit wireimage)

O'Toole Flashed By Fan
Peter had an enjoyable experience in New York City recently, when a female fan flashed him. The acting veteran, 74, was in a hotel lift when a young lady showed him her breasts. He says, "I said, 'My dear, I thank you. But although I still have the desire, I lack the device.'" (from

Another interesting bit of news is that the upcoming Pixar film, "Ratattouile", will feature O'Toole's voice for the part of Anton Ego the food critic. The film is to be released on June 29th. (

Peter is also listed in the cast for the 2007 film, "Stardust", based on the Neil Gaiman graphic novel by the same name.

A lot of good work has been done to Peter's Wikipedia entry.. go check it out!

"The Unfinished Epic of Peter O'Toole" - interesting and well-written blog article at

pressarchive has a good interview with O'Toole from 2004.


February 27, 2007

Jennifer Garner has mad crush on Peter O'Toole

PR-Inside reports that Alias/Elektra star Jennifer Garner met Peter O'Toole at the Miramax pre-Oscar party last Thursday night in New York City and "found him very attractive."

When asked what she thought about 'Venus' Jennifer said: 'You couldn't imagine that someone would pitch this and the studio would say, 'Yes, let's make this movie about a young girl who is hit on by the man she's taking care of.' 'It sounds so perverse, but they turned it into such a human and real story. 'And he's a very sexy guy.' But Ben didn't appear to be jealous about his wife's secret crush. He spent the evening in deep conversation with the veteran star, laughing and joking. When asked about his preparations for the party, Peter replied: 'I cleaned my teeth, had a wash, put on a shirt, and here I am, baby.'

February 26, 2007

Peter O'Toole Breaks Richard Burton's Record!

In an evening of strange clothes, over-the-top music and back-lit mimes, the question was asked, can O'Toole pull it off? Can he carry the weight? Can he overcome an obstacle that has blocked his path for so many years? And here, tonight, he did it with aplomb. Reese Witherspoon opened the envelope and revealed the answer. Finally, Peter has beaten Sir Richard Burton! Eight Academy Award nominations and no wins. No one else has done it, no one else could do so with the style and flair that Peter O'Toole musters in a fingertip gesture.

Ah well. It was a good go, wasn't it? I'm pleased he was nominated but the juggernaut of Forest Whitaker's incredible performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland deserved to win. I'm just sorry we didn't get to hear Peter's acceptance speech.

Now, we look forward to the third volume of Loitering with Intent. Peter is devoting much time this year to focus on finishing work on the memoir, which he said will comprise 'the meat' of his career - stage and screen acting. I'm rubbing my hands together in anticipation!

February 25, 2007

O'Toole Arrives at the Oscars

Peter O'Toole arrives at the Academy Awards with his son Lorcan and daughter Kate.
(photo credit: A.M.P.A.S.)

February 23, 2007

Odds on for O'Toole at Oscars

Punters like long odds and a big payoff for O'Toole at the Oscars - Brit bookies William Hills are taking 10/3 odds on O'Toole winning Best Actor just behind Forest Whitaker who's backed at 1/5. Another link.

SkyNews: Is it Chips for O'Toole?

Continue reading "Odds on for O'Toole at Oscars" »

Biggest Oscar Upset: Peter O'Toole will win, after all


Photo by Terry O'Neill

Gold Derby: The Envelope: Biggest Oscar upset: Peter O'Toole will win, after all.

Check the link to see all the comments! Jump link below to see the article.

Continue reading "Biggest Oscar Upset: Peter O'Toole will win, after all" »

February 20, 2007

"The Venus Experience"

Reader Erin Schultz forwarded this to me today... she wrote an awesome story about her experience of seeing Venus for the first time. Thank you, Erin! If you like this story please think about sending me your own story - post it in the guestbook, even! Read on...

Continue reading ""The Venus Experience"" »

February 19, 2007

O'Toole interviews on NPR

Peter was interviewed back in January on NPR's "All Things Considered." The clips are archived on the NPR website.

Reader Susan pointed me to the NPR piece as well as to an archival interview from April, 1993. Check it out!

February 14, 2007

NYT features O'Toole in Oscar Nom Portrait Series

The New York Times has a really nice portrait of Peter in their Oscar Nominee portrait series for this year's Academy Awards.

Photo by Gareth McConnell

February 09, 2007

O'Toole: I win even if I lose the Oscar

Gold Derby: Peter O'Toole: I win even if I lose the Oscar

otoole.jpg"If you haven't read it yet, I recommend to you checking out Susan King's "lovely" chat with Peter O'Toole here at The Envelope — (see below). Most curious: at the end of it, Susan asks the seven-time loser if he'll have an acceptance speech ready in case he actually pulls off a victory this time."My expectations are low," he concedes. "It would be silly for me if I haven't learned from my experience [of losing] But it's fun, dear. It really is fun. I would be delighted to win. If not, I will be the record holder for the one who never won one."Peter's suggestion that he triumphs in an odd way even if he loses again shows a fine appreciation for the nature of his biz — of telling stories about losers struggling with foiled quests to succeed. That's the essence of almost every film, every stage play he's starred in. If Peter fails again in real life to achieve the approval of his peers and ends up reigning for decades ahead as Oscar's biggest loser, the irony is rich. And he ends up winning anyway, because he'll hold a highly notable place in the Oscar history books."


Eight-time nominee Peter O'Toole on "Venus," his early theater days and working with Katharine Hepburn.
Susan King
Contender Q&A
February 8, 2007

Will the eighth time be the charm for Peter O'Toole?The veteran actor, 74, received his eighth Oscar nod for his poignant performance in "Venus" as Maurice, a dying British actor who becomes besotted with a beautiful free spirit (Jodie Whittaker) -- the grand-niece of an actor friend.

O'Toole's released his reaction to the nomination in a simple, funny statement: "You fail the first time, try try try try try try try again. Yoicks!"

The tall, lanky blue-eyed Irish actor received his first Academy Award nomination 44 years ago for his indelible portrait of T.E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia." He's also received nominations for 1964's "Becket," 1969's "The Lion in Winter," 1969's "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," 1972's "The Ruling Class," 1980's "The Stuntman" and 1982's "My Favorite Year."Four years ago, O'Toole received an honorary Oscar for memorable work.On Feb. 5, the Academy held their annual nominees' luncheon and O'Toole, who was in attendance, received a rousing response from the steller crowd.

It was so lovely to see such a warm standing ovation for you at the Academy Awards luncheon.

Having somewhat presumptuously saying I was still in the game some time ago and to find out I still am in the game and to have been dealt a really lovely hand, I am going to play it for what it's worth, my darling, that is what I am going to doYou and newcomer Jodie Whittaker have such a wonderful chemistry in "Venus."Jodie is a delight and an accomplished young woman. She had such boldness and she was brave. And above all, she was beautifully prepared and we got on. Listen, if you got a good actress and a good part, those are the ingredients you need. I have been more than fortunate in my life with the parts I have had. Good parts make good actors . . .

With just your Oscar nominations -- you have had eight extremely good parts.Some people would love to have one of them.

I saw you on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and you talked about the fact that Katharine Hepburn was your favorite leading lady. Didn't you have nicknames for each other?

She called me "Pig" or "'Henry" depending on her mood. And I called her "Old Nags."

You did "The Lion in Winter" together shortly after Spencer Tracy died.

The script came my way -- "The Lion in Winter" -- and I was thinking who on earth could possibly play Eleanor. And I could see when I was reading it, Kate all the way through. I had known Kate since the 1950s. She was very kind to me since I was a young actor.

When you were doing theater?

That's right. She was a great encouragement to me. She made of point of telling people to come to see me do things ... Spencer had died and I knew she was alone on Martha's Vineyard. I thought if she wants to do it or not, it might cheer her up. So I sent her the script and about 10 days or so later, the phone rang. It was Kate and she said "Do it before I die." So we did it before she died. Long before she died. She went on over another 30 years,

Is it true that Eric Porter was the actor who influenced you the most? I remember him on the classic BBC TV series, "The Forsyte Saga."

He was the leading man at the Old Vic when I was at the Theater Royal, Bristol [The Bristol Old Vic]. It was my first job. He played Volpone, King Lear and Uncle Vanya. I was his understudy. Here was this young man who was 29. He was only a few years older than I was, but he had fire in his belly.

He had these wonderful black eyes, tall and splendid and this amazing, rapid voice -- that diction! And he was absolutely ruthless [to other performers]. He'd say "she'll never make an actress." "'You're a female impersonator" -- he would say to some actresses. But he took a shine to me and he took a shine to my friend Edward Hardwicke.

Did you ever go on for Porter?

No, I didn't, but I nearly did. You reminded me of something quite terrifying. I was playing Cornwall [in 'King Lear']. And I had done my best to learn [the role of ] Lear, but I was a 23-year-old kid -- what did I know?I was in the dressing room with Edward and I was making up as Cornwall and in comes the manager and he said, "Mr. Porter isn't here and this is the half hour [before curtain]. I think you better come down [to Porter's dressing room]."I sat in his dressing room and I had a little red Temple Shakespeare [version of 'Lear']. I was sitting there putting on the robes, the whiskers and the hair and what was I going to do? Go on and read it? Imagine the storm scene with a child reading fa little book. I was petrified. Suddenly, the door opened. There had been a car crash, but he was fine and he came crashing in just in time. My life was saved.

It must have been amazing to be involved in the theater in England in the 1950s because so much was changing -- new playwrights, directors ...We were no longer at war. We were no longer being bombed. We were children during the war and suddenly we were young men with a little education and we decided to get on with her lives and enjoy it.

Maurice, your character in 'Venus," would have been one of those post-war actors.

He finds his reason to live is not only this girl, which is very important, but he loves acting. He knows he's going [to die]. So he does something he loves, which is to act and he earns a few schillings for it, and he takes a pretty girl to the seaside and buys her champagne and oysters and his life is rounded.

Wasn't the seaside scene the last you shot in the film?

It was.

It must have been freezing.

Oh baby, it was cold.

You made such a lovely acceptance speech when you received your honorary Oscar four years ago. Are you working on another one if you win?

My exceptions are low. It would be silly for me if I haven't learned from my experience [of losing] But it's fun, dear. It really is fun. I would be delighted to win. If not, I will be the record holder for the one who never won one.

Copyright © 2007, Los Angeles Times.

O'Toole Blasts Hollywood Beauties reports "O'Toole Blasts Hollywood Beauties":

Oscar nominee PETER O'TOOLE has criticised Hollywood actresses for their "vacant" personas, comparing them to "unlit lampposts".The veteran actor stars alongside British newcomer JODIE WHITTAKER in new movie VENUS, and has lavished praised on his young co-star.But O'Toole believes the majority of Tinseltown beauties are incapable of having any real depth of character - and would have struggled to fill Whittaker's shoes.He says, "You look into their eyes and there's no one at home."Oh God help us! It's like looking at an unlit lamppost."

In other news, Amelia sent me a link to Liz Smith's recent column in the New York Post where she mentions that Peter is staying in L.A. as the guest of Michael & Jane Eisner, and he did watch the SuperBowl last Sunday (he declined to name a favourite team if he had one). Thanks Amelia!

February 05, 2007

O'Toole in L.A.? Yes!


Lots of stuff to talk about today.

We have a report in the guestbook from user Doah that Peter is in L.A. - he was spotted attending the Oscar Luncheon today at the Beverly Hilton. The image above is from his arrival. You can see many more recent shots of O'Toole at various Venus-related functions recently on (search "Peter O'Toole").

Peter is slated to appear on Nightline on Wednesday, Feb 7 and The Ellen Degeneres show on Feb 13... set your PVR! I'll try and get clips online if the appearances do occur. Since he's in LA doing press, he may do Leno as well... keep an eye out - if you see a listing for an appearance I haven't listed here, let me know!

Marie-Noëlle wrote to inform us that Becket has finally been given the star treatment on DVD release. There's even a comprehensive website! Thanks, Marie-Noëlle!

Newsweek has an article on Venus... User Jeff sent us along a PDF scan! Thanks, Jeff!

January 27, 2007

Official UK Site for Venus - check it out!

Amo was nice enough to inform me that the website for the UK release of "Venus" is online here. It looks great! Check it out.

January 26, 2007

O'Toole may skip Oscars... :( ?

Peter has not yet decided whether he will attend the Oscars yet due to his fragile health. "The romantic in me wants to go with my children and have a ball, but the realist thinks it wouldn't be a good idea." Oohh, we all want you to GO, Peter!!! (WENN)

January 23, 2007

Oscar Noms today; O'Toole for Best Actor: "Doesn't mean a sausage!"

The nominations for the 79th Academy Awards were announced this morning. As expected, Peter is nominated as Best Actor in a Leading Role for his Maurice in "Venus." He's up against Leo Dicaprio, Ryan Gosling, Will Smith and Forest Whitaker.

When pressed about his Oscar potential at the London premiere for 'Venus' last night, O'Toole was his usual self, responding, "Are nominations tomorrow? I better start getting excited. A nomination wouldn't mean a sausage, though. If I won the fucker, great. If I don't, then tant pis [too bad]. I shan't lurch around in agony and despair." [London Evening Standard]

The Oscar telecast begins 8pm EST, February 25th.

Last of the Hellraisers (London Evening Standard)

Peter O'Toole shuffles into a suite at The Connaught, a grey but immaculate ghost in raffish attire, the 6ft 3in frame somewhat stooped now he's 74, his blue eyes watery but still startling.

"I'm whirligigging," mutters the veteran actor, drinker and icon of ruination. "Film publicity! My body left New York yesterday but my brain and my soul are still scraping the sh** of Nova Scotia off their heels." He gives a great, hacking laugh.

The film that has him haring back and forth across the Atlantic is Venus, which had its premiere last night in Chelsea.

It is a disconcerting but beguiling London-set study of the relationship between a dying actor, Maurice, and newcomer Jodie Whittaker's chavvy, exploiting Jessie.

Written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell, this tender, funny examination of elderly, thwarted sexual desire provides O'Toole with his first leading film role for 24 years.

The most charismatic classical actor of a generation that included the Richards Harris and Burton, Alan Bates and Albert Finney, O'Toole became a matinee idol in 1962 in Lawrence of Arabia, which won him the first of seven inconclusive Oscar nominations (a cruel record he shares with Burton).

But since the late Seventies, when he lost most of his digestive tract to pancreatitis exacerbated by drinking and when his 19-year marriage to Sian Phillips finally broke up, he's mostly been hammy in cameos, apart from honourable exceptions such as My Favourite Year and The Last Emperor.

Venus is a return to form which may, when the nominations are announced later today, put O'Toole in the running to win a Best Actor statuette to go with the honorary Oscar he was awarded in 2003.

"I loved the notion of a dirty old man and a sluttish young woman having a romance," he says, in the voice that critic David Thomson memorably described as "a rapier used to stir cream", "and Hanif and Roger have produced an examination of those sort of casual bloody platitudes that are flung out about oldies and youngies, that touches on age, youth, beauty - all those fine things."

He sounds like he's talking from experience. "Anarchic, arbitrary sexual urges overwhelm every man and woman on this bloody earth, and you have to master them or, if you are very lucky, find an outlet for them," he twinkles.

Maurice is impotent but O'Toole, apparently, is not. "In New York a woman on a chat show asked if I could imagine myself with a 20-year-old girl. I said, I hope I could do more than imagine," he adds wickedly. "Does that answer the question?"

He wasn't looking for a big role. "I really didn't want the burden of a leading part on me again - the hours, the concentration needed to be at concert pitch at five f***ing thirty in the morning is asking a lot - and didn't expect one at my age.

But here it was, not only a leading role for a septuagenarian but a bloody good part in a bloody good script. God, what more could I hope for?"

There were other pleasures. O'Toole is lavish in his praise of Whittaker, of co-star Leslie Phillips and of Vanessa Redgrave, who contributes a moving cameo as Maurice's estranged wife: "So professional and beautifully prepared, Vanessa. Although she could scare the life out of anyone, including me."

I suggest there must have been sly delight, too, in playing a character so close to himself.

Maurice is a drinker and a philanderer, a wreck of his former handsome self whose regular scanning of the obituary columns for dead contemporaries raises the spectre of the fellow hellraisers and Rada contemporaries whom O'Toole inexplicably outlived.

On their first date, Maurice and Jessie walk out of the Royal Court, a theatre O'Toole railed against last year, and on their second he quotes Macbeth, surely a reference to O'Toole's infamous stab at the Scottish play in 1980.

It almost feels like he's bidding farewell to his own career.

This suggestion provokes a sigh that sounds like a death rattle. "Maurice and I do the same job so there is a superficial similarity," he says, "but actors - proper actors, of whom there are few - do not rely on 'experience'. We draw on our well of emotion.

"And this film is not a valediction. When we revived Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell [in which he masterfully played his friend, the titular alcoholic journalist] at the Old Vic in 1999, I could tell on the first night it was going extremely well, and when I took my bow, I was thinking, over and over again, it is now time to say goodbye to the theatre.

"You are never, ever going to get another part which requires such energy and discipline and diction and movement, all the things you used to be good at, and you will not be any good at any more.

"I have no wish to shuffle on as butlers. But I'll carry on doing my films and telly things. I like to work. I'll go on. I'm available."

Venus did bring intimations of mortality, though. On a low-budget £3 million shoot involving lots of London exteriors, whip-thin O'Toole was "permanently bloody freezing", so the producers supplied him with a pup tent with a heater to which he could retire between takes.

Then, on Boxing Day, O'Toole broke his hip. This disgusts him as he claims to have got fit for the first time in his life last year.

"I had the usual thing, doctors and stethoscopes and finger-wagging and so forth, so I signed on at Lord's and trained for six months with professional cricketers, doing the same regime they did," he says.

"So I was fit over Christmas. Normally, waking up on Boxing Day is a gruesome and a horrible time, I'm nasty and I cough, and I move very, very carefully and awfully and horribly towards the bathroom.

But this Boxing Day I jumped out of bed quite cheerfully and tripped over a pair of f***ing shoes and bust my hip! So now I've got a tin one, but I was up and walking again within 48 hours."

He still likes a drink - the pancreatitis "just slowed me down a bit, that's all" - but has finally given up smoking after 60 years. Throughout our talk he pats his pockets, looking for absent fags.

"If I ever get the word that I'm on the way out, the first thing I shall do is light up again," he grimaces. But there's still time for an Oscar. Does he feel cheated at never having won?

"Not cheated, no," he says. "It's a fivehorse race, and the whole history of the Academy Awards is rooted in the culture of Los Angeles, and I've never lived there, unlike my friend Michael Caine, who did win one. And of course I'm desirous of winning.

"To be considered is okay, but it's not enough: it's winning the bloody thing that matters. So if I win the bugger, great. If I don't, then tant pis. I shan't lurch around in agony and despair."

Instead, he'll be spending time with his children - daughters Kate and Pat from his marriage to Sian Phillips and son Lorcan (that's Lawrence in Gaelic) from a brief relationship with model Karen Brown - reading, and watching films, theatre ("on the very rare occasion that it's any bloody good") and sport.

But, looking back, there's little that he'd do differently. "I'm not a French chanteuse," he snorts. "There are things that are regrettable, but to hold a regret? To pick a scab off an old wound? No thank you."

This includes the demon drink. "I do not regret one drop. What is never understood about us so-called hellraisers is that booze for us was simply a fuel for other things."

He mentions the time he went for a drink in Paris and woke up in Corsica; the time John Huston took him hunting, inebriated, in their night clothes in Ireland, and fell off his horse and broke his arm; the wheelbarrow races he and Jeffrey Bernard had through crowded Covent Garden.

"Our idea of Roman gladiatorial sport. That's what it's all about, baby."

This surely, is the point of O'Toole. Not that he's a ruin, but that he's a magnificent one. If Venus, which celebrates the life force and a refusal to go gentle into that good night, proves to be the cap on his career, it will be a fitting one.

Other stories:

CBS News Online: Will Peter O'Toole Finally Win an Oscar?

January 22, 2007

More Reviews for Venus

Cheerful Rebel

Peter O'Toole emerged during Hollywood's glittering golden age - acting, and partying wildly, alongside legends Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Now, at 74, his performance as a lecherous old actor in Venus has placed him among the favourites to win the Oscar he has been denied seven times.

Gaby Wood Sunday January 21, 2007
The Observer

Peter O'Toole is feeling rather fragile, he tells me as he hobbles into a smart New York hotel room, unzipping one of several jumpers he is wearing. He is 74, but that's not the problem. No, no, it's just that he went out last night with friends, and they took him to some 'wretched place' and made him have red wine. Just like old times, you might think, only most of his drinking pals are dead now - 'wretchedly inconsiderate' of them - and ... Suddenly, O'Toole looks up with a comically vacant stare, followed by a broad, cavalier smile. 'Am I boring you with all these tales of mortality?' he says.

The last of a generation of hell-raising, gut-wrenching Shakespearean actors who made it in the movies, O'Toole has had more comebacks than a phoenix with repetitive strain injury. In the critic David Thomson's expression, death's door is one of his regular residences. More than 30 years ago, O'Toole had so soured his stomach with drink that he very nearly went ungently, yet he's managed to tot up nominations for seven Oscars. Along with his late friend Richard Burton, he holds the record for the most nominations without a win, and when the Academy offered him a Lifetime Achievement Award four years ago, he famously quipped (before accepting it anyway) that he ought to turn it down because he still hoped to 'win the lovely bugger outright'.

Many think that might happen in the coming weeks, with his performance in Hanif Kureishi and Roger Michell's film Venus. The film, which documents the aged droolings of a thespy lothario over a sulky teenage girl, wasn't written for O'Toole, but it couldn't have survived anyone else. He rescues the script with his dastardly gentleman's charm, and offers one of the great performances of his life, partly because it might be about his life, or about one parallel and less successful. Throughout the film, a trio of retired actors regularly meets up in a greasy spoon in north London; they call each other 'Dear', utter words like 'Antigone' and 'Temazepam' in the same laboriously drawn breath, and measure the column inches in their friends' death notices. (When O'Toole tells his ex-wife - played by Vanessa Redgrave - that he's been given a role as a corpse in a TV drama, she says: 'Typecast again?')

You can't help feeling, on leaving the cinema, that Venus is intended as a memorial to O'Toole himself: the Old Vic grandee, the skittish playboy of What's New, Pussycat?, the Arabian adventurer, the drenched and unwell hack Jeffrey Bernard.

His face lights up at the mention of What's New, Pussycat?, a madcap caper which was Woody Allen's first script and (depending on your sense of humour) possibly O'Toole's most appealing role. He is as proud of his comic roles as he is of his epic, tormented heroes. 'There's a line I had to say in a film once,' he grins: '"Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." Which had been said by Edmund Kean. And it is, it's bloody difficult to get it right. I've never known a good actor who couldn't play comedy, and I've never known any actor who found it easy.'

He speaks in a purring, plummy voice, his diction elegantly clear yet fluid enough to suggest the years of nocturnal slurring to which it must have been subjected. He is dapper yet mischievous, a silk cravat tucked into the collar of his white shirt, the electric white wisps of his hair fighting the smoothness of their renowned style. He is charming, but not shy of correcting you with a glowering, sidelong look, or of swearing his heart out to punctuate a point. When he laughs, it is a hoarse, chesty laugh from which you imagine he might not mind if he didn't recover: however frail he says he feels, he approaches every tale with aplomb.

There is something mysterious about O'Toole: from this vantage point, he seems to have been an old-school successor to Gielgud or Olivier, yet when he first came on the scene he was lauded as the embodiment of a new, gritty realism. I ask him whether, when he was at the Bristol Old Vic or at the Royal Court in the 1950s, he was aiming to shatter a tradition or defend one. The response comes slowly, deliberately, accompanied by dramatically hooded eyes.

'One of the enduring myths of our time,' says O'Toole, 'is the Fucking Royal Court. George Devine was a third-rate mummer who couldn't act for toffee. He was a nice old stick, George, but surrounded by these bloody gruesome young amateurs. I found it deeply overrated, but the myth continues. The revivals of Look Back in Anger have been execrated. Well, it was never very good. I went to see it - dreary little production, drearily done. It's all PR. A PR put out a flyer and referred to John Osborne as an "angry young man". It was one of those phrases, everybody used it - I was called an "angry young actor". God!'

Weren't you a rebel? 'I had a rebellious nature, of course. But I wasn't particularly angry about anything. I was quite cheerful!'

O'Toole's first London success was The Long and the Short and the Tall, a Second World War play put on at the Royal Court in 1959 (the part had been written for Albert Finney, a classmate of his at Rada, but Finney developed appendicitis during rehearsals). The all-male cast made such a habit of sitting in the pub all possible hours that a line had to be rigged up from the theatre so the stage manager's 10-minute call could be heard at the bar. It was partly their carousing offstage behaviour, and partly the fact that most of these new young actors had come from the provinces (they were the unwealthy beneficiaries of Clement Attlee's postwar reforms), that made them right for the kitchen-sink age.

Yet O'Toole was always a traditional actor - the fact that he's listed alongside Finney, who kept his northern accent, Richard Burton, always inalienably Welsh, the Irishman Richard Harris and the famously cockney Michael Caine, is perhaps an accident of timing more than a true description of his impact. O'Toole was brought up in wartime Leeds with an Irish bookie father ('I'm not working-class,' the self-described 'slum Mick' once said, 'I come from the criminal classes.'); but he was not on stage to flaunt his lower-class roots, and on film he lived up to the aristocracy of his breathtaking looks.

The looks themselves, though, were a kind of mask: in 1960, after a stunning few years at the Bristol Old Vic and that run in London, O'Toole was advised by certain film-makers to fix his nose (Joseph Losey was against it, Nicholas Ray was in favour). The nose, which was then long and - O'Toole claimed - wonky as a result of a rugby game during National Service in the Navy, was surgically straightened in time for a film called The Day They Robbed the Bank of England. ('I thought, well, fuck it, at least I'll get the thing gathered into a tidy little heap,' he later said.) It was this picture that David Lean saw when he was casting Lawrence of Arabia

There were those who said the pretty boy we have come to know was a sell-out compared to the rugged man of the stage. But he went on to give some historic performances in the theatre - as Shylock at Stratford that same year, as Hamlet in the National Theatre's inaugural production in 1963, in Waiting for Godot in Dublin in 1970 (Beckett once told him he thought no decent film could be made with dialogue - it had all been downhill since the silent era). And he more than made up for the prettiness with his behaviour: there was an undercurrent of (as was said of his character, TE Lawrence) 'insubordination', a choice of brilliant, 'difficult' men as mentors, and a dashing flair for being banned from every drinking establishment he set his sights on.

Michael Caine was O'Toole's understudy in The Long and the Short and the Tall; considering he never went on stage, Caine later said, it was incredible he was so exhausted at the end of the run, but waiting anxiously in the wings every night as O'Toole swung in at the very last minute was enough to give any man a coronary. Once, the pair went out drinking and woke up in a strange flat. 'What time is it?' Caine asked. 'Never mind what time it is,' said O'Toole, 'What fucking day is it?' And sure enough, it was two days later, three hours before curtain up.

'I do not regret one drop,' O'Toole now says of his long nights, most famously spent with Richards Harris and Burton. 'We were young people who'd been children throughout the war - well, you can imagine what it felt like in 1945 to be free - not to be bombed, not to be rationed, not to be restricted. There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. We weren't solitary, boring drinkers, sipping vodka alone in a room. No, no, no: we went out on the town, baby, and we did our drinking in public!'

I wasn't wondering about the regrets so much as the pleasures, I explain, and urge him to recall particular nights. 'Oh, well there were so many, darling, so bloody many,' he replies, with a look of contented defeat. He claims he really did once go for a drink in Paris and wake up in Corsica.

What percentage of his life, would he say, has he woken up in places he didn't recognise? 'Oh,' O'Toole says, shaking his head at the incalculable number, 'the one to ask was Harris. He literally would say to Elizabeth, his third wife: I'm just going down to the corner to buy a packet of cigarettes. And a month later he didn't know where he'd been. But don't forget, we weren't morose. It was just a fuel, it was in addition to what we were doing, which was leaping and shrieking and saying: why not? It was a fuel for various adventures ...'

They would play snooker or watch rugby together; sometimes, in a jazz joint, O'Toole would find Burton draped over the bass player, beautifully chanting Shakespeare's sonnets to a picked out iambic accompaniment. Burton, he says, was 'bursting with life'. One of O'Toole's party pieces was climbing - climbing the wall of Lloyd's bank in Covent Garden, for instance, in the early hours, just for fun. Walls people now climb with ropes, he adds, they used to scale 'in our Sunday shoes'. Did they ever think they'd die? I ask. 'No,' he says with a smile, 'we enjoyed the climb.'

Meanwhile, he had a family in Hampstead. The actress Sian Phillips, to whom he was married for 20 years, has written of their relationship in terms that almost make it rival that of Burton and Taylor. O'Toole, a 'dangerous, disruptive human being' in her description, would disappear for days, or pick fights that quickly escalated to shattered glass. But, as with many of his onscreen incarnations, she suggested, he was so charismatic all was routinely forgiven. (The alcoholic matinee idol he plays in My Favourite Year has a line O'Toole delivers inimitably. Wandering into the wrong loo, he is reprimanded by a stern old woman. 'This is for ladies only!' she grumbles, to which he replies, unzipping his fly: 'So is this, Ma'am, but every now and again I have to run a little water through it.') In the end, it was Phillips who had an affair and left. They have two daughters, Kate O'Toole - named after Katharine Hepburn and now an actress herself - and Pat. O'Toole has a 23-year-old son, Lorcan, from a later relationship with an American model called Karen Brown (Lorcan is Lawrence in Gaelic). As a result of a very public custody battle some years ago, Lorcan primarily grew up with his father, and now he is an actor.

About many of his friends and acquaintances, O'Toole is discreet to the point of looking injured at the mention of their name. 'I don't want to be rude - if you don't mind,' he says when Elizabeth Taylor comes up in conversation. But assuming he's happy to offend the dead, I ask him about an incident in which he reportedly roughed up Kenneth Tynan, this newspaper's celebrated theatre critic. I imagine this to be just another entertaining brawl, a mythical, whisky-fuelled fistfight, but O'Toole seems terribly saddened by the memory.

'Oh, all right, since it's come up ...' he says, and tells the story. It was the summer of 1974. He was making a film in Paris with the noir master Otto Preminger, about a kidnap by Palestinian terrorists. He turned up to work one day and found a note in mirror writing in the apartment where they were filming: 'To Peter O'Toole, the so-called Irishman ... we have planted a bomb in the building.' It was signed by the IRA, and the terrified crew cleared out. 'This was the height of the bombings,' O'Toole says now, 'Bloody Friday, Bloody Sunday, my forebears were getting together and blowing things up. You had to take these things seriously.'

Eventually, word was sent that there had been a party in the apartment the night before and that the note had been written as a gag - by Tynan. O'Toole couldn't believe it; he marched off to find him. 'He was sitting in the room, looking un-Ken-like, smoking cigarettes over and over again. He said: "But I thought you'd see through it!" And' - a look of sweet regret comes over O'Toole's face - 'I'm afraid I punched him. Very hard.'

That was the last time they spoke, an awful result, since Tynan had been such a champion of O'Toole, whom he called an 'insomniac Celtic dynamo'. 'You'll find there's a bit cut out of Ken's diaries because I wouldn't tell the story,' O'Toole explains. 'Well, I didn't want to make him look too much of a twat! He claims I kicked him in the balls ... I may have done. And so that was the end.'

Ten years earlier, Tynan had interviewed O'Toole for Playboy magazine, and they'd had this wonderful exchange:

Tynan: 'Are you afraid of dying?'

O'Toole: 'Petrified.'

Tynan: 'Why?'

O'Toole: 'Because there's no future in it.'

Tynan: 'When did you last think you were about to die?'

O'Toole: 'About four o'clock this morning.'

O'Toole has said goodbye to certain things he loves - the drinking, of course, is dramatically reduced, and he no longer plays cricket, a game to which he has been devoted all his life, and which he also used to coach. He doesn't mind - he went out in style. His favourite cricket field is in Devon, a place near Dartmoor called Lustleigh, and that was where he batted for the last time, several years ago. 'The grounds are behind a church - they're beautiful - and there's a river. The thing to do at Lustleigh is to strike the ball into the river. I knew I was finished - I could hardly see the bloody ball - but I went bang! And the ball went boom, into the river, in my favourite little cricket field, and I said: Pedro, get out now. And I did.'

All this has left time for other pursuits, however. One thing the bad-boy persona always veiled was a scholarly man of letters. Loitering With Intent, O'Toole's autobiography, of which he has published two volumes, is richly written and Irishly eloquent. He is working on a third volume now, and has a theory about Shakespeare's sonnets he may yet put to paper.

Reminiscing about his mentor, the renegade actor-film-maker Kenneth Griffith who died just six months ago, O'Toole tells me about an episode that cemented their friendship. In the mid-1950s, Griffith and O'Toole shared a dressing room in Manchester with George Formby. Formby, they found, kept two ukuleles, tuned to different keys, and they asked him if one was a spare. 'No,' said Formby, 'I find it very difficult to change key, so I don't bother. I just pick up another ukulele.' The phrase became a favourite - whenever anything would go wrong, they'd say: 'pick up another ukulele!' and roar with laughter, as if that were the solution to every problem in life. Even now, wheezing with pleasure in the telling, O'Toole gives the impression that his survival instinct is so strong he won't ever really disappear; he'll just shift into another key.


Vintage O'Toole
by Laura Emerick (Chicago Sun Times)

Behold "Venus," a meditation on longing and desire; youth and beauty; death ... and death. In what feels like his valedictory, Peter O'Toole, that still mellifluous but physically ravaged Lion in Winter, gives a tour de force that summons the glorious ghosts of performances past.

As an elderly thespian enjoying one last lark before the the final curtain descends, O'Toole reminds us of his own real-life dramatic triumphs: "Becket," "Lion in Winter," and of course, "Lawrence of Arabia." In "Venus," which trades on themes from "Pygmalion" and Lolita, he's the septuagenarian Maurice, who becomes infatuated with the 19-year-old grandniece of his equally doddering comrade Ian (British veteran Leslie Phillips). Maurice views the sullen, untutored yet somehow beguiling Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) as his last chance of recapturing his lost youth.

British icons Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Griffiths ("The History Boys") also appear in supporting roles, with Redgrave as Maurice's forgiving ex-wife Valerie and Griffiths as a fellow grumpy old thesp. Both are fabulous, as is Whittaker in her debut.

But "Venus" orbits around the splendor that is Peter O'Toole. Nominated seven times for the Oscar but never victorious, O'Toole deserves to take home the gold for "Venus." When he received an honorary Oscar in 2003, he almost refused it, claiming he'd like a chance to win "the lovely bugger outright." So far this season, O'Toole has picked up Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, and an eighth Oscar nod seems to be a lock. But will the Academy please give him his just reward -- before he goes to his own just reward?

Directed by Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") and written by Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Laundrette"), "Venus" might repel some viewers with its "dirty old man" mentality. Maurice, who admits that "here I am, near the end, and I realize I have no idea who I am," regards Jessie hungrily not so much out of lust but out of self-affirmation. Yes, he's randy yet harmless, because prostate surgery has rendered him impotent.

Though Ian regards Jessie as "pure evil," Maurice immediately decides to make her his reclamation project after she arrives in London to care for her ailing relative. They set out to see the sights, with stops at the Royal Court Theatre and the National Gallery, where Velasquez's "Rokeby Venus" is hung (and which inspires Maurice's nickname for Jessie). The Velasquez masterpiece comes to symbolize Maurice's and Jessie's growing bond. After all, as New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman noted in a recent review, "The writer Ortega y Gasset got it right. Velasquez's work 'isn't art. It is life itself perpetuated.' "

With her rough edges and tart manner, Jessie embues Maurice with her lifeforce. Though she initially manipulates him into giving her gifts and other material favors, she begins to appreciate his wisdom and worldly experience. Gradually, she allows Maurice a chaste kiss "as long as you don't slobber" and other limited physical liberties. When Maurice leaps at the chance to sniff her neck, his ardor for human contact surprises her. "There really isn't anything else," he responds.

Later, when "Venus" is at her bath, Maurice recites Shakespeare's 18th Sonnet ("Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?"), and the callow Jessie finally realizes the depth of his longing.

That scene and many others reaffirm O'Toole's stature as a giant of the cinema. Everything flows trippingly off the tongue, and his eloquence continues to disarm. Witness his appearance last week on "Late Night With David Letterman," when he flummoxed the usually garrulous host with his first line: "Congratulations on your ... Harry." The awestruck Letterman never regained his composure and just basked in O'Toole's magnificence.

Throughout "Venus," we catch glimpses of his former cinematic selves. There's his leering charm from "What's New, Pussycat?" (1965): "Pussycat from the sky, I can't resist you." The echoes of his grandiloquence in "The Ruling Class" (1972): "I am the electric messiah, the AC/DC God!" And reminders of his greatness, as "Orrence" admits in "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962): "All right! I'm extraordinary! What of it?"

Kureishi's witty, intelligent script gives O'Toole his best vehicle since "My Favorite Year" (1982), and he embraces it with every fiber of his being. He's the last of a dying breed, whose ranks included Richard Burton, Peter Finch and Richard Harris, and that bestows a special poignance upon "Venus."

In one scene, Ian and Maurice visit St. Paul's (aka the Actors' Church) and pay tribute to fallen comrades such as Robert Shaw and Laurence Harvey. Then they dance a slow waltz that serves as an elegy to and celebration of their existence.

Later, Maurice wanders out to an amphitheater where he once performed; while he reflects on his past, Michell fills the soundtrack with dialogue snippets of O'Toole's film roles as he pans the camera around the actor in a majestic yet funereal swoop. It's a moment of utter heartbreak.

Though death hangs over the movie, "Venus" does not believe in tears. Throughout, Michell relies on long shots and subdued lighting as if distancing the action from any hint of sentimentality. He also uses songs by British pop singer Corrine Bailey Rae, especially "Like a Star," to help strike the right emotional tone. Meanwhile, Kureishi's script offers brisk observations and clever asides, as when Ian confesses that "I cried like Antigone" so that Jessie would leave. Later, the always gloomy Ian tells Maurice: "I'm going to die." Maurice retorts: "God will be glad to see you. He liked your Polonius but he thought your Caesar was a bit ... fruity."

Still, intimations of mortality abound. As Maurice reminds Valerie (and Redgrave is luminous in this scene), "We won't live forever. This is my farewell to you."

His bittersweet resignation recalls the last lines from "The Lion in Winter":

Henry II: I hope we never die.

Eleanor: So do I.

Henry II: Do you think there's any chance of it?

With wonderful testaments like "Lawrence," "Lion" and now "Venus," O'Toole will always live on.

Peter O'Toole was nominated for the Academy Award for the following films:

The restored full-length version of David Lean's 1962 masterpiece is a great visionary epic. Peter O'Toole stars as the eccentric Lawrence, who led the desert tribes against the Turks with a combination of flamboyance and charisma. (PG) 4 stars Roger Ebert

Peter O'Toole stars in a tale about an alcoholic British matinee idol who is asked to accept the most terrifying challenge of his career -- an appearance on live television. O'Toole is completely charming, doomed, funny and pathetically invincible. (PG, 1982) 3 and a half stars Ebert

Grand historical drama set on a Christmas Eve when England's Henry II (Peter O'Toole), eager to choose his heir before he dies, calls a Christmas court. Peter O'Toole's performance is of Oscar quality. (PG, 1968) 4 stars Ebert

Critic's rating: 3 and a half stars
Tottering with a flourish
By Liam Lacey (Globe and Mail)

Starring Peter O'Toole, Jodie Whittaker and Vanessa Redgrave

Classification: 14A

By outlasting his peers, 74-year-old Peter O'Toole carries the torch for the whole blazing, hard-living, between-the-wars generation of British Isles actors. No doubt some of the praise for his performance in his latest movie, Venus, is for mere survival, but the part is also his best showcase in years. In what surely isn't a stretch, O'Toole plays Maurice, a rakish once-famous actor now frail and in declining health who can't resist the lure of a last chance at an erotic entanglement.

O'Toole is an actor who, no matter how ravaged, is still so dandyish and ironic he can even totter with a flourish. His performance is the centrepiece for one of those familiar English mentor comedies in the Pygmalion tradition (The History Boys and Driving Lessons are this past year's other examples) where the mentor gains vitality and courage, and the protégé learns about confidence and Art.

Aimed at crowd-pleasing, Venus is often funny, particularly when Maurice and two of his old acting colleagues (Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths) meet for lunch and bitchily count the obit columns for their various colleagues. Like similar English comedies, it also teeters on the mawkish, particularly when O'Toole's character visits an abbey where the actor's real-life former colleagues, Laurence Harvey and Robert Shaw, are buried.

Fortunately, there is also a secondary layer to Venus that is slightly more dangerous and disquieting. As you might expect from screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, The Mother), sex and power are also themes here. A girl, Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), has been kicked out of her home and sent to care for Maurice's friend Ian (Phillips), but they can't abide each other. She's common, lazy and ignorant, and steals his booze. But when Maurice catches a glimpse of her midriff as she licks the crumbs of a bag of potato chips from her fingers, he decides that he might be of assistance.

He uses not only his charm, but the imbalance of money and power to win her companionship. Now frail beyond his years, O'Toole looks rheumy-eyed, with grey skin and nicotine-stained teeth, and, no matter how sensual and self-mocking he is, there's something of the vampiric in watching him press his lips to this young woman's pink shoulder. Because Maurice is impotent from prostate surgery, Jessie is saved from further indignities, but he still negotiates which body parts he can touch, which he can kiss. As the balance of power teeters, she gets things -- presents, a job as a nude model and awe at the power of the old man's passion.

As the mythically inspired title suggests, this is a movie about those forces that are usually in capital letters: a late encounter with the force of Desire. Maurice takes the girl to the museum, to the theatre, and quotes Shakespeare to her. Through his gaze, she becomes gradually transformed from a non-entity into someone with a link to Beauty.

Maurice isn't completely exculpated by his late-in-life emotional generosity. In the movie's best scenes, he visits his former wife and mother of his three children, played by Vanessa Redgrave. He drops in periodically to give her a handful of cash, a tribute for having abandoned her and their three children years before. In a few economical moments of screen time, Redgrave shows, beneath Valerie's affectionate mockery, a lifetime of hurt and disappointments.

Venus is a movie that comes alive in its performances, and Redgrave's subtlety is its defining grace note, a turn that allows O'Toole's acting to shine that much brighter.

Other reviews:
Boston Herald: The ladies' man: O'Toole is master of his game in 'Venus'
Washington Post: O'Toole's 'Venus', a Romance for the Aged
Toronto Star: 'Venus': Still in the Game
San Francisco Chronicle: His favourite years behind him, a Don Juan refuses to act his age
National Post: Still in the Game

January 19, 2007

Video Clip: O'Toole on Charlie Rose (1 hour!)

Extending his years-long friendship with Charlie Rose, O'Toole appeared on Rose's programme on Wednesday. Here it is!

January 16, 2007

O'Toole absent from the Golden Globes; didn't win anyway!q

Understandably exhausted after a long week of PR for the North American release of "Venus", Peter O'Toole has jetted back home to London. It was for the best as he lost the Best Actor in a Drama GG to Forest Whitaker.
...a Miramax rep said: "Unfortunately O'Toole flew back to london on Saturday. He was exhausted after his crazy press schedule in New York and didn't have it in him to come here. If we get the Oscar nom, he will come."
(Gold Derby) The nominations for this year's Oscars will be announced January 23rd!

January 15, 2007

Golden Globes tonight!

Blogger Easy Writer (Kanani Fong) is in L.A. this week to cover/work on(?) the production of the Golden Globe Awards. She's an O'Toole fan so she's been sending me updates about sneaking in to press junkets and stuff during the lead-up to the Awards (tonight!)

She posted a review of "Venus" on Sunday, which has also been published on the L.A. Times-Pressmen's blogsite.

January 13, 2007

Video Clip: Peter O'Toole on the David Letterman Show

Here's a YouTube video clip for Peter's appearance on The David Letterman Show this week.

Esquire's What I've Learned: Peter O'Toole

As the media blitz continues, Peter is featured in the January, 2007 issue of Esquire magazine, in their ongoing series, "What I've Learned":

Continue reading "Esquire's What I've Learned: Peter O'Toole" »

January 12, 2007

Video Clip: Peter O'Toole on The Daily Show.

This is a clip I recorded of Peter's appearance yesterday on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Enjoy! Here's a link to it in .avi format. (47meg)

O'Toole Charms Letterman

Here's a bit of a transcript of the Letterman interview: (from the CBS website)

"PETER O'TOOLE: He's in the new film, "Venus," now playing in selected cities. The legendary actor congratulates Dave on becoming a dad, or as Mr. O'Toole put it, "having a child in your more mature years." Peter did the same and says, "it knocked me out."
Dave says to Peter, "You've led your life the way you want to. I tried but at 34 I realized it wasn't a good idea." Peter drank back when drinking was an accepted and expected practice, and he is well known for his drinking stories. He tells the story of carousing with actor Peter Finch, or Finchie. After working together and having a few, they decided to head in for the night and sleep it off at Finchie's. On the walk home, they passed a little hole-in-the-wall bar that called out their name. They went inside and remained till 4:00 AM. The bartender eventually told them they had enough and would have to go. Peter and Finchie muttered, "No no no . . . much more." The bartender was adamant. They had to go. But they didn't want to go. So Finchie and Peter . . . bought the bar. The next day they returned to the bar and met the bartender again. The bartender held the checks Peter and Finchie gave him the night before. The barkeep gave back the checks, which were quickly torn up. A year later, the bartender died. Finchie and Peter got to know him pretty well in that time and attended the funeral. At the cemetery, they joined the family who was sobbing by the gravesite. They got down on their knees and prayed beside them. A woman then tapped them on the shoulder. Peter says, "We were at the wrong grave."
Death becomes us . . . has Peter ever thought how he would like to remembered? He says he knows what his final epithet will be. Years ago he had an old leather jacket which he adored. It was a ragged thing covered with Guinness and blood, what every jacket should be covered with. He sent it to the cleaners. It came back with a note pinned to the lapel: "Sycamore Cleaners: It distresses us to return work which is not done." It made Peter laugh and he decided to have that placed on his tombstone. His new film, "Venus," is about, as Peter puts it, "a dirty old man and a sluttish woman." It's an examination of all the cliches one would expect in such a relationship. Has Peter ever been involved in a relationship like that? Without much thinking, Peter exclaims, "Oh, yes!"
It's in selected cities now. Look for it. "Venus."

O'Toole nominated for BAFTA Best Actor award for "Venus"

Continuing his campaign for world domination, Peter has been nominated for Best Actor in the British equivalent of the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs. He's won one before - for his role as Lawrence in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia. He was nominated twice again for Becket in 1965 and The Last Emperor in 1989.

I'm told that half-page ads have been taken out supporting O'Toole's performance in Venus in Los Angeles, no doubt in preparation for Oscar voting. This is all so exciting! It could really happen this year.

January 11, 2007

O'Toole on Letterman

Here's the list of O'Toole's press run this week preceding the Golden Globes:

- The David Letterman Show (last night) - did anyone tape it?
- a photo session with Vanity Fair for their Oscar issue
- interviews with Charlie Rose, Today, Nightline, The Daily Shoow
- print interviews with USA Today, etc
- radio interview with All Things Considered on NPR

It's a busy week for O'Toole! Hopefully he will hold up under the strain.

Here's the official movie website URL for Venus. - the site is really impressive- lots of pics and glitz... "The Career of Peter O'Toole" is worth a look. Wow, Miramax is REALLY pushing O'Toole for the Oscar.

January 10, 2007

O'Toole doing U.S. talk show rounds for Venus

Kevin M. passed along word that Peter will be doing the PR rounds on talk shows this week in New York to help promote Venus and further cement his Oscar hopes. He's listed as a guest on tonight's episode of The Late Show with David Letterman, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Thursday and The View on Friday. I'll post YouTube links (if there are any) as I get them. If anyone can capture the interviews and put them on YouTube that would be terrific. I don't have that capability!

Thanks for the tip, Kevin!

I spoke with the Canadian publicist for Venus and unfortunately Peter will not be passing through Toronto on this PR run. Sigh...

January 05, 2007

'Venus' is "Cream of the Crop" at (90%!)

The accolades continue to pour in for Venus. I thought I'd take a peek over at and see how it was doing. Amazingly, in fact! With a rating of 90% Fresh, Venus is rated a 'Cream of the Crop' film for 2006, putting it in the top-five films in limited release this season. Sweet!




January 04, 2007

O'Toole Nominated for Best Actor in SAG Awards

Peter O'Toole has been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role" for his portrayal of Maurice in 'Venus'. ... and the nominations keep coming! This is shaping up to be a very good year for O'Toole. The SAG Awards will be broadcast on January 28th.

December 29, 2006

Venus in Canadian Theatres January 5th!


Here are the trailers for the North American release of Venus zip!. (Link goes to page for the trailers)

The way they're bumping this movie it's clear Miramax are giving Peter a real push to get the best actor nod at the Oscars this year. Cross your fingers!

December 21, 2006

Reviews of Venus continued...

Bloomberg: "'Beautiful' O'Toole Still Charming, Cranky at 74: Rainer File."

By Peter Rainer

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Peter O'Toole, 74, is wonderful as an aging rogue in the new film ``Venus.'' This should come as no surprise since he's been wonderful from the beginning, starting with his first major role in David Lean's ``Lawrence of Arabia.'' No actor ever kicked off his career more auspiciously.

Lean actually had Marlon Brando in mind for Lawrence, and Albert Finney was another early contender. When he was cast, O'Toole had been a member of the Bristol Old Vic company and a secondary player in films like ``The Savage Innocents'' and ``The Day They Robbed the Bank of England.'' However, Lean recognized a majesty in O'Toole that was perfect for Lawrence.

He needed an actor beautiful enough to upstage the vast desert panoramas. After he saw the film, Noel Coward supposedly said, ``If he was any more beautiful, they'd have to call it `Florence of Arabia.'''

With his hawkish features, blinding blond hair and radioactive blue eyes, O'Toole is a magnificent camera subject in ``Lawrence of Arabia.'' His bristling passion and savage melancholy were far beyond the waxworks heroism of the standard Hollywood icon, but his greatest acting came later.

In ``Becket'' (1964), O'Toole plays King Henry II opposite Richard Burton's Archbishop of Canterbury. It's a peerlessly strange performance in which Henry's overfond attachment to Becket becomes the film's driving force. Seen today, the film is closer to ``Brokeback Mountain'' than to a typical Hollywood historical pageant.

`Lion in Winter'

In ``The Lion in Winter'' (1968), O'Toole again played Henry II, this time opposite Katharine Hepburn's Eleanor of Aquitane, and he was suitably lionish. O'Toole is one of the few actors who can roar his lines and still give them the subtlest of shadings.

A year later O'Toole gave what may be his best performance in ``Goodbye, Mr. Chips,'' a musical remake of the 1939 war horse starring Robert Donat. Imperially fastidious, O'Toole's Mr. Chips represents the essence of the musty British scholar. But O'Toole shows us the frailty and pride beneath the persnickety facade.

Two unheralded performances followed, in the upper-class comedy ``Brotherly Love'' (1970) and especially in ``Under Milk Wood'' (1972). As the blind Captain Cat, the wraithlike O'Toole gave Dylan Thomas's dramatic poetry an ineffable lilt.

`My Favorite Year'

That same year O'Toole appeared in ``The Ruling Class'' as a royal British heir who is under the delusion he is Jesus Christ. O'Toole is so exhaustingly loony that his performance often seems more like calisthenics than acting, but the movie has its ardent admirers. The same year he starred as Don Quixote in ``Man of La Mancha''; looking as gaunt as an El Greco, he was marvelous. O'Toole had the effrontery to reach inside this Broadway kitsch and pull something great out of it.

Passing right over ``Caligula,'' we come to ``The Stunt Man'' (1980) probably the most emblematic O'Toole performance after Lawrence. He plays Eli Cross, a megalomaniacal movie director patterned on both Lean and John Huston (who directed O'Toole in ``The Bible''). He also seems to be patterned on Jesus Christ, and this time around, he got it down pat.

As the sloshed and impossibly narcissistic TV series guest star in ``My Favorite Year'' (1982), O'Toole shows off his high comic manner to best effect. He has the ability to kid his grandeur while at the same time never allowing us to forget just how grand he is. It's an unbeatable combination.

USAToday: O'Toole shines bright in 'Venus'

Peter O'Toole's tour-de-force performance makes Venus(* * * out of four) a movie not to be missed.

Venus is sharply written with fine supporting performances, but the movie is all about O'Toole, showcasing an actor who at 72 continues to astound with the depth of his talent. Not only has he not diminished with age, but he also seems to have gained new vitality.

The film, though largely comedic, is a meditation on aging and a tribute to a long-lasting youthful spirit.

O'Toole plays Maurice, an elderly, still working actor who was married to Valerie (Vanessa Redgrave) until he left her and their children for another woman. As an octogenarian, his skirt-chasing predilections remain. This doesn't exactly make him a sympathetic fellow, but at his advanced stage of life, he seems more foolish than worrisome.

He is fascinated by Jesse, a sullen teenager (Jodie Whittaker) who is the picture of careless youth and provides a youthful tonic. For Maurice's finicky best friend Ian (a wonderful Leslie Phillips), she is a bothersome niece brought in to care for him and not doing a very effective job.

Though Maurice is rejuvenated by his association with Jesse, some of the film's best scenes are his café outings with his crotchety, well-spoken pals (Phillips and Richard Griffiths) and his lovely nostalgic encounters with Redgrave.

Maurice often comes across as ridiculous despite his roguish charm. A slapstick scene in which he spies on Jesse while she poses nude for an art class is more cringeworthy than humorous.

This is not an uplifting or chaste friendship in the style of Lost in Translation or a quirky but somehow believable May-December romance a la Harold and Maude. Maurice's obsession is at once pathetic and poignant. He is a desperate fellow, beating back the encroaching dimming of his days by clinging to a belief in passion. His mighty struggles to avoid falling into the cantankerous clutches of life's physical decline are moving. Still, there is nothing particularly admirable about him.

Jesse initially uses the old man's lust to her advantage, but a friendship evolves out of something that could have been just creepy. Each has an inherent decency. No great revelations are reached, but their association ultimately enriches both lives.

Roger Michell's direction has some flaws, including awkward travel montage and scenes that drag.

It is O'Toole's wit, inherent dignity and convincing portrayal that compel. Whether Maurice is charming or lascivious is incidental. What captivates is O'Toole's ability to so charismatically convey his character's essence. (Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.)

December 20, 2006

Review of Venus in the Village Voice

Old Man's Still Got It - from the village voice
Maurice Russell, a septuagenarian actor facing the end of his career and life, gazes raptly at the present that fate has given him: the company of a sullen but strangely desirable teenage girl. At first, his appraising looks give her the creeps, but something about his courtliness piques her curiosity—not to mention her vanity. This is a man who says something about comparing her to a summer's day. She is intrigued to learn that during his most recent hospital stay, he passed the time thinking about her body. Which parts, she asks? "Your hair," Maurice murmurs, "your legs, your behind, your eyes . . . your elbows." Then he adds, in a succulent near-sigh of erotic nostalgia, " . . . your cunt."

That distant pbbbtt! sound you hear is a collective Starbucks spit-take, courtesy of a thousand Academy voters watching their "for your consideration" screeners of Venus. In most regards, this funeral wreath of a film about a dying thespian in lust-struck twilight is made-to-order Oscar bait: a gift-wrapped vehicle for a screen legend, full of reverential nods to the craft, with reminders of the star's mortality delivered over loudspeakers from a running hearse. What keeps Venus from sinking ass-deep in Golden Pond is its sexual reverie—and a star who couldn't play a cutely neutered grumpy old man if commanded by God.

Peter O'Toole has never been an actor to disappear into a part, any more than his blue-eyed devil Lawrence could blend into the sands of Arabia. Nor would you want him to: O'Toole was born to sweep a role around him like a matador's cape, transforming it by virtue of sheer heroic panache. Maurice, the protagonist of Venus, is a suit lovingly tailored to O'Toole's ravaged but commanding frame.Apart from in the operating theater, Maurice's command performances are done; he's shown on a TV soap playing the part most available to actors his age—a corpse. ("Typecast again!" cackles his estranged wife, played by a cheerily disheveled Vanessa Redgrave.) His life is a round of prostate exams and sitcom-like coffee dates with his crotchety fellow player Ian (Leslie Phillips). One day he meets Ian's teenage relative Jessie (Jodie Whittaker)—and something about the girl's insolent youth (and the careless peek of midriff between her sweater and jeans) sets Maurice's pulse racing.

The screenwriter, Hanif Kureishi, made his name with disruptive sex-as-weaponry comedies such as My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. His script for Venus appears early on to be riffing on Lolita—another story about an older man and his unsuitable, inscrutable object of desire. Humbert's gauche Lolita popped gum; Maurice's Venus sucks salt off her fingers from a packet of crisps while he watches, entranced. But Maurice can see his foolishness clearly, even fondly. It's a last hurrah. Acutely aware of his lost potency and waning health, he hasn't got a lust for life; he's got a lust for lust. "I can still take a theoretical interest," he tells Jessie, a Sporty Spice Eve who's first seen reaching for an apple—and later, ominously, sports a snake tattoo.

As Maurice negotiates little prizes of intimacy from the brusque, tarty girl—the stroke of a hand, three kisses on a deliciously bare shoulder—O'Toole manages a delicate balancing act, neither coming off as a perv nor erasing the character's frank sexual longing. Without Maurice's "theoretical" libido (and Kureishi's profane wit), Venus might've been a puddle of maudlin goo. Movies that trade heavily on our lifelong associations with a star can quickly become clammy exercises in celebrity genuflection. As delightful as it is to watch O'Toole summon from his entire career— the sensualist's leer he uncurled in 1980's The Stunt Man, the matinee-idol braggadocio he wielded so irresistibly in 1982's My Favorite Year—there's occasionally the sense of director Roger Michell tugging at our sleeves, gushing, "Isn't he wonderful?"

It's hard to blame him, though—in part because O'Toole brings an air of gentle self-mockery to the role that offsets the morbid, if candid, emphasis on his frailty. Maurice is a part that encourages and mocks an actor's narcissism in equal measure. Even wearing a leaky catheter, he's as idealized a figure as the theater folk in All About Eve—people whose wits are keener than everyone else's, whose passions are grander, whose tongues are never at a loss for acid rejoinders.

When Maurice and Ian duck into an abbey filled with the remains of their late colleagues—Robert Shaw, Laurence Harvey, Richard Beckinsale—it's almost impossible to look at the haggard O'Toole, now 74, and not worry about how little time we have left in his company, even if you resent the movie for making the point so insistently. And yet the star's own ragged glory rebuffs any impulse to send flowers. "Come on, old man!" Maurice growls, slapping himself in the face to rouse what spirit he has left.

December 14, 2006

O'Toole Nominated for Golden Globe - Best Actor in a Drama

The nominations for this year's Golden Globe Awards were announced today. Peter's up for Best Actor in a drama. The GG ceremony will be broadcast January 15th, 2007.

He has also been nominated in the Critic's Choice Awards for Best Actor, again for his role in "Venus".

Reviews of Venus


indieWIRE: "Death of a Ladies' Man: Roger Mitchell's Venus"

Death be not proud. One hears stories of men on their deathbeds who, lucidity gone, expend their last energy on a vain attempt to masturbate; of Viagra-boosted sex that climaxes in cardiac arrest. This stubbornness of the erotic urge, past physical failing, is the subject of "Venus": Why can't I get one last screw?

"Venus" stars 74-year old Peter O'Toole (has an actor ever sported a more phallic name?), his desiccation considerably advanced by legendary imbibing, as still-working thesp Maurice, a horny geezer fanning the embers of his libido for one last infatuation with his best friend's great-niece/ live-in nurse, Jessie (newcomer Jodie Whittaker), a philistine northern chav with nonexistent manners and a sideboard of an ass you could rest a cocktail on. Cue Pygmalion - O'Toole's done Henry Higgins before, of course. Or does the part call for a Casanova? Like Maurice, O'Toole's still jobbing, having just played that reminiscing lover on the BBC (he's a natural at wrecked beauty: "My God, how handsome you were," says estranged wife Vanessa Redgrave, watching one of Maurice's old film's on TV). Maurice has been skirt-chasing so long that his Don Juanism's become instinctual, but he's clearheaded enough to realize that he can't play seducer anymore (or consummate a conquest), so he digs into his repertoire, trying any tack-intimidation, pity, poetry-that'll expose a little of her skin, let him smell the nape of her neck.

The crux of "Venus" is the delicate bartering that takes place between Maurice and Jessie as they haggle the fine points of their transaction - she's unloved, hard up for someone to humor her ambitions... and she likes to be taken shopping, of course. Meanwhile, Maurice is only begging for another whiff of a little girl in bloom. So: Three kisses on the neck costs a pair of earrings. It isn't noble, but I can't see how "Venus"'s pragmatic chauvinism is more offensive than any number of movies where some sweet young thing falls, no-strings-attached, for a liver-spotted relic (the awful "History Boys" mounts its own pederasty apologia but muffles the implications in glibness).

There are elements familiar from past wasted nights at the movies that might ward a wary viewer off of "Venus": a graying star showcased for the Monday matinee crowd, an Unlikely, Mutually Enriching Friendship - and old folks playing up friskiness is always a trying spectacle; rent "Cocoon" if you don't believe me. What distinguishes "Venus" is that it strips the May-December cliche to the most basic equation, and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi isn't one to take the power of sex lightly ("The only pleasures that are possible as you get older are... under the aegis of death").

There's plenty of enervating comic relief and dross scenes to sit out - I could've happily lived my life without watching O'Toole wiggle around to Corinne Bailey Rae or hamming in St. Paul's Church (where Shaw's Pygmalion opens) with Leslie Phillips, an O.D. of nostalgic Brittania - but the movie survives. It's small-scale, workmanlike filmmaking, bolstered by O'Toole's unabashed perviness; the tone recalls the fragile creepiness of the late-era Kinks masterpiece "Art Lover," about a "connoisseur" ogling chicks in the park: "I've learned to appreciate you the way art lovers do / And I only want to look at you." Venus Writer Hanif Kureishi

As part of our year-end focus on the screenwriters whose work is making a mark at the cinema this award season, we present the strange case of Hanif Kureishi. His name may draw blank looks from most people, but he's been a triple threat as a screenwriter, novelist and playwright for nearly thirty years. After writing a number of London-centric plays, Kureishi received acclaim for his first screenplay of My Beautiful Laundrette, directed by Stephen Frears, before moving onto equally controversial films, novels and short stories in the years that followed.

His latest film, Venus, teams Kureishi with director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) for the third time, and it's getting a lot of attention for its star, Peter O'Toole, who plays an elderly retired actor who becomes smitten with his friend's 20-year-old niece.

Exhibiting the same dry wit as his good friend and long-time collaborator director Stephen Frears, Kureishi talked with CS Indie about his latest projects.

CS Indie: "Venus" is your third film collaboration with Roger Michell, and he's mentioned that you developed it together. How did the idea come about to do this after you finished making "The Mother"?
Hanif Kureishi: Well, I remember coming back from Cannes with Rog, we were talking about what we're going to do. Then we thought about doing a movie called "The Father" after "The Mother" as a sidepiece. It occurred to me to do a film about a guy having a prostate operation, a guy who was thinking of the women he'd been involved with during his life, an old man looking back, women he had sex with, women he desired, what he liked about women and all this stuff. So I thought about this for a while and it occurred to me that really you have to do a movie in the present tense. It's better to have it happening rather than him remembering. I guess I hang around with a bunch of old guys, like me and Roger and Stephen Frears and our pals in London, who sort of fumble and bumble about, full of insomnia and complaints and arthritis and pills and glasses, aching feet and stuff. So it amused me the idea of doing a film about a bunch of old guys. But to get the story going you need a girl really to kind of break it up or to make them envious of each other or make stuff happen. I thought of taking a rude girl and sort of throwing her into the middle of this bunch of men, and that was the genesis of the idea.

CS: You also created a relationship between Maurice and Ian, who are almost like a squabbling old married couple. Does anyone in your group have that sort of relationship?
Kureishi: I guess we needed one character in the group to be sexual, Peter O'Toole, and you couldn't have everyone else being the same, so you need to balance it out. There are three love relationships in the film, the Leslie Philips and Peter O'Toole, Peter O'Toole and Vanessa Redgrave, and Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker. I was just amused by the idea that the Leslie Philips character couldn't cope with this girl, he didn't like her, he was just fastidious while the Peter O'Toole character adores her. You set up a movie or any kind of story or novel, it's the balance and the contrasts that you're looking for all the time.

CS: When you're working with Roger on the script, how much do you actually do together, before you go off and write on your own?
Kureishi: Well, I go up to Camden sometimes, while he comes down to Notting Hill and we sit around a Starbucks and go "Oh, should he be a farmer? No, he should be a policeman. No, he should be a doctor or an accountant." There's no point me sitting at home writing far into the movie, and then Roger says, "It's really crazy. He should be a policeman rather than a doctor." So we kind of agree we need to talk and then I sit down and I would write quite a lot of scenes probably. And Roger would say, "I like that scene, I don't like that scene, that's not working, that's good" and we'd talk about it, and eventually, after a long time actually, we'd come to some kind of agreement.

CS: Saying that you and Roger meet at Starbucks kind of shatters the illusion I have of you meeting in a quaint café somewhere.
Kureishi: Yeah, I know it's disappointing. I do apologize.

CS: When you're done writing the script and hand it over to Roger to make the movie, do you let go or do you go on set in case he needs something changed?
Kureishi: I don't go on set, but we cast them up together. We sit around and lots of girls come in, and then we talk about "Should it be that one, should it be that one?" and again, in the casting, you're always balancing the parts. If you cast Peter O'Toole in the beginning of the production process, than you have to cast around O'Toole. You don't want a lot of other tall, handsome ex-movie stars. Then we sit around and talk about it together. I think it's fun for all of us to do that.

CS: I imagine Peter O'Toole must have been one of your first choices while writing it. I can't really imagine anyone else delivering that kind of performance. Did you have a second choice in case he couldn't do it?
Kureishi: Well, there aren't that many movie stars of that age who can play that part actually. Maybe Anthony Hopkins.

CS: Or Ian McKellen?
Kureishi: Well, McKellen is younger. McKellen is 66, O'Toole is 75, and we needed someone who was much older, you know what I mean? If you do it with McKellen or you do it with John Hurt, it's less poignant, because they don't look like they're about to die, in a way that O'Toole does. We needed somebody who was more than 70, rather than someone who was more than 60, and then the contrast between the youth of the girl and the age of the man makes the movie work.

CS: Is Peter O'Toole at all like his character in real life or was that just really good acting to portray Maurice?
Kureishi: Well, he's a much more successful actor to start then the part he's actually playing. The guy, Maurice Russell, is a slightly disappointed man. He's not a huge movie star, he hadn't been in "Lawrence of Arabia" this guy, so he is acting to a certain extent.

CS: Is he as flamboyant and does he have a lot of quips and anecdotes to share?
Kureishi: I don't really know what he's like, but he loves to tell stories. He's a real good old boy and will talk for hours telling wonderful stories, and he's a very intelligent man, very well read and a smart guy.

CS: You seem to have this thing towards including sexuality with a perverse edge in your movies, whether it be the relationship between these two characters in this or the one in "The Mother." Is that just a part of you that comes out when you write these movies?
Kureishi: Well, you take the sexuality out, than you don't have anything. You just have an old guy and a woman walking down the street. What you need is the charge between them. It's like "My Beautiful Laundrette." When I wrote that originally, it wasn't a homosexual movie. There was the Daniel Day-Lewis character and the Gordon Warnecke character and they were pals who owned a laundrette together. Once you put the sexuality in, the whole thing charges up obviously.

CS: Right, like you said that "Venus" originally was a different kind of movie in that it was just about Peter's character looking back on his life…
Kureishi: Yeah, but then you put a woman into it and he wants to f**k her, he's 75 and she's 20, then it's alive.

CS: All of your movies have been set in London, so do you feel at all proprietary when filmmakers like Woody Allen arrive and want to shoot their movies there?
Kureishi: Well, when Woody Allen goes to London, he's going to shoot Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, he's going to shoot tourist London. Whereas we live on the street, every day, so we know bits of the city. At the end of my road, there's a café like the café that the old guys go to in "Venus," so we obviously have a different take on the city, and we know parts of the city that outside filmmakers don't necessarily know. On the other hand, outside filmmakers make wonderful films about the city, too. I mean, Patrice Chereau, in the film he made of one of my novels "Intimacy," had a wonderful take on London in that movie actually, really good.

CS: Was there more of the Vanessa Redgrave subplot than we saw in the movie?
Kureishi: Yeah, there was quite a lot more of that and there was a wonderful speech that she made at the end, which was a delight to write for Vanessa Redgrave. Imagine having Vanessa Redgrave read your speech.

CS: Did Roger end up shooting it?
Kureishi: Yes. Roger's quite ruthless. It's just cut and cut and cut and eventually, you get Vanessa Redgrave on the cutting room floor. Too bad. We'll put it on the DVD.

CS: Over the course of your 20-year career, your characters have generally gotten older, since your early movies seemed to be about younger people in London.
Kureishi: Yeah, they're young hip guys hanging around in the '70s, and now I'm writing about a guy who's 70-years-old who's about to drop dead. They're parts of me but they're not me. I'm not 75 and I hope I'm not going to drop dead. The next movie we're going to do is about a couple who are around 50 or in their late 40's I guess. It's really the story that we look for. The age is kind of a concern, but really it's the story that I look for, I think both of us, 'cause these movies are cheap. There's no car chases or explosions, it's only the talking and the stories that make them move.

CS: Do you feel that you're writing for older audiences these days?
Kureishi: I like older audiences! I mean, I've got teenage kids, so they love "American Pie" and "Napoleon Dynamite," and they love MTV. I watch all that stuff all the time with my kids, so I'm aware of it. I really enjoy it. I love American comedies. But I can't write that stuff. I can't write in their voices. I mean, they need to write those movies. And I'm amused by older people, and to be honest, how fantastic to write for Peter O'Toole, to write for Vanessa Redgrave, to write for Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths. These are fantastic actors, so experienced, why not write for them?

CS: With all your experience writing novels and plays, how do you decide whether to turn an idea into a movie screenplay or a prose story? Was "Venus" always considered as a movie since you did it with Roger?
Kureishi: Yeah, I guess. There's an idea I've got at the moment that I want to do with Rog, but I'm also maybe thinking it's really a short novel or there are other ways of telling the story. But what I do is how I make my living, so I have to think I'm going to spend five years writing a novel, and I'm going to have to support myself during those five years, and I'm going to have to support myself maybe by writing a movie. Or if I'm sitting at home writing short stories, I can't make any money writing short stories, nobody does, so it's partly pragmatic what I do. I gotta make a living out of this game.

CS: So your next movie is also going to be with Roger?
Kureishi: We're just talking about it, yeah, maybe. I'm shooting a short next weekend. I'm not directing it myself. It's called "Weddings and Beheadings," it's a ten minute film about a guy who video tapes beheadings, set in a Baghdad basement. It's made by a guy called Emir Jamal, based on a short story I published in Francis Coppola's "Zoetrope Magazine." It's going to be shot in a basement in London.

CS: You've done two movies with Stephen Frears and three with Roger Michell. Is it always about finding a director you like working with, or do you ever envision writing a script and letting a director find it?
Kureishi: The relationship with the director is very important because the director stimulates you and you stimulate them, and finding the relationship with the director early on is important. This guy that I'm doing the Baghdad basement movie with, he put me in a documentary that he made. I liked him and he came over to my house and we met for a drink and talked, and then we went, "Why don't we do a film together?" It's really to do with working with people you like and enjoy being with.

CS: That must be different in London, because Hollywood writers don't really have that luxury of picking the directors that make their movies. Do you think you'd ever want to write a script, sell it and then let it go?
Kureishi: I've never done that and I wouldn't really know how to do that. I wouldn't want to do that. It seems to me if you're going to do a movie, then it's a collaboration. I'm interesting in the director's ideas, because they have good ideas that fortify your own ideas. I've always worked like that, and I think I learned to work like that with Stephen Frears. He did the first film that I wrote, and we'd sit around and talk about it.

CS: Writing a novel must be a lot more secluded experience, so do you still enjoy that process as well?
Kureishi: I've been working on a novel for over five years, quite a substantial novel that begins in the '70s and ends in the bombings in London in the subways last year. But even then, I work with the editor. He says, "What about this section? Why don't you do a bit over there. That's not working." Even though as you say, it's more you I guess, there's always other people involved.

CS: In your earlier movies, you dealt a lot with the Indian and Pakistani community in London, but you've gotten away from that recently. Have you said pretty much all you want to say about that aspect of your life?
Kureishi: I wrote a memoir called "My Ear at his Heart," that was published in England that was partly about that subject, it was never published here. Scribner's and Simon and Schuster, my American publisher, said my books would stop selling here. My current novel is concerned with an Indian family, and it's about race and about Islam and all that stuff, terrorism. It's not as though I got tired of that subject.

CS: Since you were nominated for an Oscar at the very beginning of your film career, what is your take on awards?
Kureishi: It's nice to get an award and it cheers me up for half an hour, but what's distressing is the amount of time and money that is spent on the whole thing, which seems to me to be rather a waste of effort. I would rather the money be spent on the movie. We can spend another week shooting rather than spending a quarter of a million dollars trying to get an Oscar for Peter O'Toole. (You can't write that obviously.)Oops.

December 11, 2006

MSNBC Lists O'Toole's 10 Best Films.


Hard to believe that the 74-year-old actor has never won an OscarCOMMENTARYBy John HartlFilm critic

More visible than he has been in ages, Peter O’Toole turned up this year in a “Lassie” remake and as the prophet Samuel in the Biblical drama, “One Night With the King.” The 74-year-old actor also stands a very good chance of landing his eighth best-actor Oscar nomination for an end-of-2006 release called “Venus.”
Hard to believe, but he’s never won. It’s been 43 years since he received his first nomination, for the title role in “Lawrence of Arabia,” which Premiere magazine recently named No. 1 on its list of the greatest performances ever committed to celluloid.

O’Toole lost that year to Gregory Peck’s formidable Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and in the years to follow he would lose repeatedly, sometimes to less memorable competitors. So far, the Academy has awarded him only an honorary Oscar for the body of his work. He almost turned it down.
Still, you can’t fault the Oscar voters too much. They were always there for him when he gave a major performance. Unlike many legendary actors who are overlooked in their prime or recognized when they’re doing mediocre work, O’Toole was nominated when he deserved to be.
Trained as a British stage actor, the Irish-born O’Toole was officially “introduced” on film in “Lawrence,” although he’d made three movies previously, including Disney’s “Kidnapped” (1960) and “The Savage Innocents” (1960), which featured his “Lawrence” co-star, Anthony Quinn.
Plenty of other forgotten films followed “Lawrence,” though often they had large ambitions. There was nothing wrong with casting O’Toole as Conrad’s “Lord Jim” (1964), or as Don Quixote/Cervantes in “Man of La Mancha” (1972) or even as three angels in “The Bible the Beginning” (1966). But the movies failed to live up to their source material.
O’Toole has salvaged such mediocrities as “Creator” (1985) and “King Ralph” (1991), and he’s done marvelous work in such classy television productions as “Rogue Male” (1976) and “Masada” (1981). In his best films, O’Toole usually manages to mix his natural flamboyance with a sharp intellect. Rarely is he caught napping.
Here are 10 of his most alert performances:
“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)Now that we know a little more about Iraq, David Lean’s landmark epic about the country’s birth pangs plays almost like a critique of 21st Century foreign policy. When T.E. Lawrence says he wants to bring the Arabs their freedom, after calling them “a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel,” he sounds more like an occupier than a liberator. Still, it’s never quite that simple. O’Toole’s brilliance allows for other interpretations.
“Becket” (1964)The story of an intense friendship that ends in murder, Jean Anouilh’s fascinating account of the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas Becket, who was appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury under the king’s watch, gives O’Toole the opportunity to demonstrate his flair for comedy. The tone of the film and the performance of his co-star, Richard Burton, is tragic and dour. O’Toole’s gift for puncturing royal pretensions keeps it from going too far in that direction.
“Night of the Generals” (1967)O’Toole gives his twitchiest performance as a catty, unhinged Nazi general who may be guilty of killing prostitutes in early-1940s Warsaw. Known as “The Butcher,” he destroys a Polish neighborhood just for the fun of it, and terrifies underlings with unreasonable requests. The movie didn’t please critics or audiences at the time, but it’s full of surprises, among them the smoothest performance of O’Toole’s frequent co-star, Omar Sharif.
“The Lion in Winter” (1968)O’Toole makes the most of a second chance to play Henry II in James Goldman’s clever, bitchy play about a Christmas reunion that brings together Henry, his estranged wife Eleanor (Katharine Hepburn), and their bratty adult children. Hepburn won a best-actress Oscar, and she should have been joined by O’Toole, who lost to Cliff Robertson’s mostly forgotten “Charly.” What were the voters thinking?
“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1969)An overlong musical reworking of the 1939 movie that won an Oscar for Robert Donat, this adaptation of James Hilton’s novel works in spite of Leslie Bricusse’s disposable songs. That’s largely due to O’Toole’s detailed performance as the beloved schoolmaster and Sian Phillips (Mrs. O’Toole at the time) as a sophisticated actress who didn’t appear in the original story.
“The Ruling Class” (1972)Mad as a hatter, Jack Gurney, the 14th Earl of Gurney, is harmless when he thinks he’s Jesus Christ — because when he’s praying he ends up talking to himself. But watch out when he turns into the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper. It’s hard to imagine anyone but O’Toole tackling the role, which playwright Peter Barnes created to carry his satirical attack on British society.
“The Stunt Man” (1980)O’Toole once more gets to play God, in the form of maniacal movie director Eli Cross, in Richard Rush’s tricky tale of a fugitive Vietnam veteran (Steve Railsback) who finds himself dodging fake bullets and other special effects on the set of a war movie. When the sinister Cross recruits him to replace a deceased stuntman, O’Toole’s truth-or-illusion games really begin.
“My Favorite Year” (1982)This is the backstage comedy in which O’Toole declares “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star.” He plays Alan Swann, a character loosely based on Errol Flynn, who makes this proclamation when he discovers that he’s expected to perform on live television during the early-1950s. In O’Toole’s hands, Swann always has his wits about him, no matter how drunk and pratfall-prone he becomes.
“The Last Emperor” (1987)For once, O’Toole is overshadowed by other performers as well as a lavish production that won nine Academy Awards, including one for his director, Bernardo Bertolucci. Still, O’Toole’s self-effacing performance, as tutor to the last emperor of China (John Lone), is one of his subtlest.
“Venus” (2006)O’Toole plays an aging actor who falls for a much younger woman in Hanif Kureishi’s tenderly awkward tale of an impossible relationship. Doddering, forgetful and impotent, O’Toole claims he has only a “theoretical interest” in the girl, who is both flattered and offended by all the attention. It’s the richest role O’Toole has played since the 1980s.
Nominated in the past for “Lawrence,” “Becket,” “Lion in Winter,” “Mr. Chips,” “Ruling Class,” “Stunt Man” and “My Favorite Year,” O’Toole seems likely to earn his eighth nod for “Venus.” If he’s nominated and the movie turns out to be too slender or eccentric for Academy tastes, he’ll still score a new record for an actor: eight nominations, no wins.

"Venus" director Mitchell talks about working with O'Toole.


Director Roger Michell has spent much of his career making movies in the rural areas of London, whether it be in his most famous film Notting Hill or his latest, Venus, which reunites him with screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (The Mother).

It's the story of two elderly veteran actors, Maurice and Ian (Peter O'Toole, Leslie Phillips), and the disruption caused when Ian's niece Jesse (newcomer Jodie Whittaker) comes to stay with him and Maurice becomes smitten with the young spoke with the British director that some film lovers might consider eclectic about his latest film, its legendary star, and other related topics. When I spoke to Hanif, he suggested that some of the ideas from "Venus" came from him sitting around a café, much like in this movie, with you and Stephen Frears. You're a lot younger than the picture he painted…

Roger Michell: (laughs) Ancient, lurching old man…

CS: He also said you hung out at Starbucks, which also killed my illusion from the movie of these filmmakers sitting around this quaint tiny London café sipping tea.

Michell: It wasn't a Starbucks. I don't know what he's talking about. He hangs out with some older guys, but he has this ridiculous self-image of himself being ancient, which is not true. He's quite a young guy, but he likes to believe that he's a footstep away from the grave.

CS: This movie came out of your work with Hanif on "The Mother." When did Peter O'Toole enter the picture, was it while you were still writing it?

Michell: No, he was high on the list, but it wasn't written for Peter. He was practically the first person we were interested in, and he came on really early in the proceedings.

CS: Obviously, you don't have to audition someone like Peter O'Toole, so you just send him the script?

Michell: Yeah, what you do is meet these people, and you sort of eye each other up and sniff around each other to make sure you're going to get an okay. He's a very interesting person 'cause I never met him, and I was struck simultaneously by his vigor and his fragility, and both of them are very present in the film. And both of them are really essential to the success of the film.

CS: Do you know if he had seen any of your other movies?

Michell: I gave him "The Mother" to watch. I said, "If you don't like this film, you won't want to do my film," and he watched it and decided he wanted to be in it.

CS: He'd never seen "Notting Hill"?Michell: I don't know. I don't normally ask people if they've seen "Notting Hill." It's not a question I normally like to ask people. It's sort of a personal question.

CS: Once you had Peter O'Toole on board, it must have been difficult to cast the role of Jesse, his "venus."Michell: Well, with a part like that, you know you're just going to have to see everyone in town and everyone out-of-town in fact, and you're just going to have to keep looking until you find someone who you think is perfect for the role. You know it's going to be an unknown person, and in fact, you relish the idea it's going to be an anonymous person, someone you're going to kind of discover in a strange fringe theatre or in a drama school or somewhere out of town. So that's a rather exciting and scary prospect, because clearly, the film won't work unless you have the right Jessie. We saw a lot of people, and it became obvious to me that if Jessie was too immediately beautiful or too like Lolita than that would tip the film in a very unpleasant way into a chasm. If she's enormously fat, then that wouldn't work either. Josie is marvelous because she starts out the film as a spotty, pot noodle scoffing minger, but then she transforms herself into a swan. It's the ugly duckling [story] really.

CS: But is that a real transformation she undergoes or is that only through Maurice's eyes?

Michell: No, I think it's through the course of the film, she physically seems to become a different person in her own wonderful way. Rather like Hanif and I did this film called "The Mother" a few years ago, which also describes the same strange transformation in a granny, who was being f**ked by "James Bond" at the time. You should see that film, particularly in relationship to this film, it's almost a companion piece.

CS: How did you end up finding Jodie? She'd only done some theatre before doing this movie, right?

Michell: She left Guildhall early to do a play at the Globe Theatre in London, so she'd done one play and one TV episode. I found her because I have a wonderful casting director who dug her up. I didn't see her until quite late in the process then recalled her three or four times, screen tested her. It's one of the moments where in the room, you make one choice, but when you watch the screen tests, you make another choice. Something is revealed by the camera, which is not clear in the room.

CS: Can you get an actor like Peter O'Toole to come in to do readings with these actresses during the audition process?

Michell: Yeah, he did. He came and read with the last three. I wanted him to be a part of the process of choosing the girl obviously, and he came in and read with the top 3 girls.

CS: What about getting Leslie Phillips to play his long-time friend? He has to have as much chemistry with Peter as she does.

Michell: Yeah, in a way. I think it's less critical, and also Leslie's a known quantity whereas Jodie wasn't. Leslie was hard to cast, and I was very pleased to find Leslie. Leslie was very pleased to find us. Leslie said to me something like, "I thought I'd never be offered a part like this again in my life," which was terribly sweet.

CS: Had he not been working for a while?

Michell: No, he works all the time. He does the Lord of the Manor in a TV murder-mystery, and he's famous in the UK for much lighter material. He's a comedy star there.

CS: Did you and Peter have any concerns about the material and sensitivity towards Jodie in terms of having her in this role where she's having a semi-sexual relationship with a much older man?

Michell: That she might be offended or upset by it? I had no concerns about it at all. She's an actor and she's read the script and she knows what it's all about. She was very up about it, she got it. That was not a delicate area that we had to biscuit around. I find it's always an issue with sex in films, you have to really be completely head on about them in talking to actors. You can't be coy about it or you make things difficult. You have to be clear about what's going on, then people are fine. It takes the fear out.

CS: What's it like working with Peter on set? Being the legend that he is, one can only imagine that he does his scene and is then off to his trailer…

Michell: Well, he didn't have a trailer and he's very collaborative. He would obey instructions very happily and would have great ideas and is very professional guy who's very pleasing to work with.

CS: How was Jodie while working with him? Was she aware of his legendary status?

Michell: She appeared to be fearless. I think she was frightened but she seemed to be absolutely fearless, and she did a wonderful job both in acting and also in appearing to be fearless, which was probably two acting jobs in one. 'Cause she was working with Peter and Vanessa Redgrave and Leslie and Richard Griffiths, and they're all pretty robust, serious heavyweights.

CS: And she also had to push Peter down in one scene, so that takes some guts. Did Peter need a stunt double for that?

Michell: I'll leave you to work that out for yourself.

CS: Peter's obviously an amazing actor, who continues to work regularly, so what do you think about all this Oscar buzz specifically for his performance in the movie?

Michell: I feel two things about it. Firstly, I'd be delighted for Peter if he eventually got one, but I feel particularly strongly about the film, and I feel the film is actually very accessible and very enjoyable, funny and could be quite popular. If Peter does well in the nominations phase, that could really enhance the profile of the film in a really positive way. I think you have to look at these things, not cynically, but pragmatically. I would encourage any Oscar buzz as a result.

CS: I remember a lot of people liking "The Mother" and were raving about Daniel Craig's performance in a similar way, but it didn't get this kind of attention.

Michell: It's actually worth seeing, and I'm really very pleased with that film, especially now that Daniel is the biggest star in the world. It'll be interesting to rediscover that film.

CS: Have you had a chance to see Daniel in the new Bond film yet?

Michell: I have, I liked it. He came at it the right way, because he had everyone saying he'd be terrible, and he's wonderful, which is much better than the other way around.

CS: Over the years since "Notting Hill," you've jumped around between genres, doing thrillers as well as comedies. Do you have a preference to the style or genre you like working in?

Michell: I think the preference is for jumping around, the preference is for doing different things, and not getting stuck in a particular genre. As you probably know, if you direct something which is halfway successful in a particular genre, you get offered nothing but that genre. So one is instinctively trying to dive into another genre.

CS: Is that why there seemed to be such a long gap before doing "Changing Lanes"?

Michell: Was there a gap? It was two years in between "Notting Hill" and "Changing Lanes." I've done 7 films in ten years, so I've been reasonably productive.CS: That's not bad. I mean, it's no Michael Winterbottom, but I guess no other director can be that insane.

Michell: (laughs) That's true, but I do plays as well. Michael doesn't do plays. During the same period, I've done five or six plays.

CS: It seems your recent movies have been very dramatic and character-based, so have you had a chance to work with any of your film actors on stage as well?

Michell: That's a good question. Lots of people in "Notting Hill" I've worked with on stage, lots of people in "Persuasion" I've worked with on stage, but I don't think anyone in "Venus." I've worked with Rhys Ifans on stage before I worked with him in film. And I'm about to do a play written by Joe Penhall, who adapted "Enduring Love," at National, that's called "Landscape with Weapons."

CS: Tragically, a lot of those great British plays never get over here.Michell: This is a different theatre culture.

CS: Besides adaptations like "Enduring Love," you've tended to lean towards doing movies based on original material. Do you enjoy the process of developing these ideas yourself or with a writer?

Michell: Well, finding a book and finding a writer and putting them together, but almost without exception, I develop the material that I do. Unfortunately, it's very unlikely I feel that a script is going to drop through the letterbox fully formed. They don't tend to work like that.

CS: You developed "Venus" and "The Mother" closely with Hanif, so why don't you have a writing credit?

Michell: I'm curious about that myself, as well. I reckon I should start doing so. I should take a writing credit. I'll have to tell that to him.

CS: Do you and Hanif have a third movie in this trilogy planned?

Michell: We're starting to talk about another film, yeah. This is in fact our third collaboration now. We did "The Buddah of Suburbia." We've already started talking about another film, which uncharacteristically for us, will be set in Paris hopefully.

CS: Is that because filmmakers like Woody Allen are starting to usurp England?Michell: Yeah, why is he shooting those films in London?

CS: I don't know. You always hear about the cost of shooting in England being very expensive, so is it difficult getting locations for your films?

Michell: Yeah, this is a very particular way of working. Like I said, we don't have trailers or huge catering vans, so it makes things much more flexible. You can shoot in places where normally you couldn't shoot.

CS: Though you've become known as a London director, "Changing Lanes" was a bit of an exception in your filmography, being the one "Hollywood movie" you've done.

Michell: Well, that was sort of attempting to be an art house movie masquerading as a Hollywood movie, and I think it's quite successful in that respect. I'm very pleased with the film, and apart from the ending, which was a bone of contention between the studio and myself, it's pretty much the film that I wanted to make. I didn't have any studio interference, and I shot it in this amazing city. But it was a full-on thing… if you're shooting a scene in a coffee bar, you closed all the streets all around it, which is kind of weird and extraordinary, closing down the highway for Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. It was quite nice for me to retreat from that big circus to a much, much smaller more touchy-feely, personal side of filmmaking. And I haven't worked outside the M25 (the main road around London) for five years now, and that's really been to do with family things, my kids, and that type of thing. I'm about to make a safari outside the M25 again.

CS: If you're next movie won't be with Hanif, do you have something already lined up?

Michell: Yeah, my next movie won't be with Hanif. I've got a few ideas but they're not fully formed enough to run yet.

December 05, 2006

More Details on "Love and Virtue"

Malkovich, O'Toole join Ruiz pic
Lewis stars as knight in Charlemagne's courtBy ARCHIE
LONDON — Helmer Raoul Ruiz has marshaled a cast headed by John Malkovich, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Peter O'Toole, Damian Lewis, Saffron Burrows and Virginie Ledoyen for his period epic "Love and Virtue," about the battles that raged within King Charlemagne's empire.Brit thesp Lewis toplines as a knight in King Charlemagne's court who falls for Ledoyen's character. Malkovich and Madsen play barbarian marauders. Stephen Dillane ("The Hours") plays Charlemagne, the first ruler of a united Western Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire."Love and Virtue" is produced by Fountain of Life Productions from a script penned by Mia Sperber and Stefano Pratesi. The script is based on epic poems "The Song of Roland" and "Orlando Innamorato."Scribe Sperber produces for U.K.-based Fountain of Life alongside Alex Sullivan for the Leo Media and Entertainment Group. The co-producers are Jimmy de Brabant and Bob Bellion of Delux Productions and Kwesi Dickson of Future Films. John Daly exec produces.The cast also includes Leonor Varela ("Blade II"), Vincent Perez ("Nouvelle-France"), Cristian de la Fuente (CSI: Miami"), Anna Massey ("The Importance of Being Earnest") and child thesps Alexa Rey and Boo Boo Stewart."It is a pleasure to work with such an outstanding cast and team that has put its heart and mind into creating a feature of superb cinematography, stunning sets and costumes, and unforgettable music," commented Ruiz."The dreamy, magical side of the characters does not detract from their authenticity, but rather enhances the chance that modern viewers will be able to identify with them given the current widespread mystical approach to life."The pic is scheduled to begin shooting March 21 on location in Belgium and Luxembourg before moving to London.The project sees the Chilean helmer reteam with "Klimt" stars Malkovich, Burrows and Dillane.London-based sales agents Intandem Films is handling international sales.

December 01, 2006

"I am Human, All too bloody human."

After a long slump, Peter O'Toole reemerges as a leading man, hilarious and wrenching.
By Rachel Abramowitz
Times Staff Writer,0,432121.story?coll=cl-movies
It's hard not to stare at Peter O'Toole's face, hunting for vestiges of one of the most beautiful male visages to grace the silver screen. Yet, the clear blue eyes that once peered out from under a white kaffiyeh have gone rheumy. The cheeks sag. The skin no longer gleams.

There are flashes of who he used to be: A certain tilt of the face and the amazing bone structure suddenly emerges from the haze of age. There are moments when the smile animates — and he is again naughty, charming, ruminative and elusive.

On a recent fall afternoon, the actor, now 74, was sitting on a settee in an old-fashioned English hotel, meticulously and repeatedly applying lip balm to his faded lips. He's still tall and thin, with the erect carriage of the fatally elegant but fragile. One misplaced thump looks as if it could send him reeling, though he's dressed for cavorting, dandyish in an olive jacket, tan pants, vest and tie.

He's rhapsodizing about falling in love, as he does in his latest film, "Venus," which lands in theaters Dec. 15. "Within seconds, it's as though these two have known each other for 25, 30 years. It doesn't matter if they're pretty or ugly, suddenly you find yourself at ease and in the pleasure of that particular company. If it is a pretty girl so much the more enchanting." He gives an old roué laugh. "But that is the way it is, I find. And this was written on a piece of paper" — the script for "Venus" — "and I thought, 'Hello.' "This is his first leading role in 20 years. Despite getting seven Academy Award nominations, the last for "My Favorite Year" in 1982, O'Toole is not a recognizable figure for younger moviegoers. One year older than Michael Caine, two years younger than Sean Connery, O'Toole seems to belong to another generation. He sparred with Richard Burton in "Becket." He played opposite Katharine Hepburn in "The Lion in Winter." As T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia, he rode a camel across the desert for David Lean.

When he was nominated for an honorary Oscar in 2003, he initially demurred, sending a letter to the academy saying that he still "might win the lovely bugger outright.

"At the time, the quip came off as a jolly, quixotic riposte — especially since his prodigious early talent seemed all too often squandered. But it appears he wasn't joking. O'Toole, who's spent the last 20 years largely slumming through the movies playing parts like Priam in the paint-by-numbers tent pole "Troy" and a doctor in the little-seen horror flick "Phantoms," returns finally with one of the most hilarious and wrenching performances of the year in "Venus."

The film tells of an aging journeyman actor who spends his days cavorting with his best chum, another aging journeyman actor (Leslie Phillips) and playing stiffs in hospital dramas, until he unexpectedly falls for his friend's niece, a tarty, angry, lost young woman, Jessie, played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker. "It's about a man continuing a hopeless passion for a woman he's too old to fulfill. He's almost enjoying a memory of what he was once capable of," explains screenwriter Hanif Kureishi ("My Beautiful Laundrette"). "It's a sad film because he has so much sexual desire, but it's rather cheering because he's still going."

Directed by Roger Michell ("Persuasion"), the film catapults O'Toole from the ether of old-world Hollywood into the gritty domain of modern-day London, from the grand tradition of acting to the current vogue for naturalism at all costs.These lives are not epic but small and real, and O'Toole strips down for the occasion. Shot without makeup, in natural light, he is unvarnished and almost unrecognizable as a jaunty wreck of a human being grasping for one last flicker of life.Michell recalls sitting in the Garrick Club, a famed actor's club in London, waiting to meet O'Toole for the first time. "There was a commotion," and suddenly O'Toole was there, climbing up the marble staircase, arm in arm with compatriot Richard Briers. "They were hanging on to each other. I'm not sure who was holding on to whom. There was Peter, mischievous, funny, clever, and very, very alive. I knew before even shaking his hand he was the right man for the part because he has all those combinations of charm and grace, yet he's a person who's quite elderly now, and that brings a wonderful sense of truth and vulnerability to what he does. He's still a swashbuckler, but a swashbuckler who's marching through time.

"Indeed, O'Toole appears older than his years but carries himself with perennial panache. The filming took place on the streets of London in midwinter, and O'Toole suggested that the production purchase him a little heater, and a small tent in which he could sit when not acting, so he wouldn't get too cold. "We all thought it was absurd when we heard about it, but it was this rather wonderful invention," says Michell. "Quite a few people would congregate in his tent, having coffee or hot drinks. Then we got into a habit of photographing the tent wherever it was erected, and what resulted is a Christo-like record of the tent all over London.

"He hates the cold. He's terrified of the cold. He found the cold the most intimidating enemy. I don't think he found any of the rest of it particularly difficult," adds Michell.On this afternoon, O'Toole is almost congenitally charming, dropping names and anecdotes from a famed life like Hansel tripping along the forest path. Although this role in "Venus" is more naked than almost any before this, he insists he prepared as he always does: "Lock myself in a room and send everybody away and see you in a month or a week or however long it takes until I complete the study and memorize everything that I am going to do. And then I am open for suggestions."

"Vanessa," he says, referring to Vanessa Redgrave, who plays his ex-wife. It at first seems like a non sequitur, but it turns out to be a longer explanation. "I have worked with Vanessa's father. I have worked with Vanessa's children. I have worked with Vanessa's sister, brother and niece. Vanessa and I have never worked together before. We have known each other since the '50s; Vanessa is rooted in the old tradition of study, private, uninhibited, unobserved private studies. So I said in theater parlance, 'Do you know the jokes [the lines]?' And she said, 'Of course.' She said, 'Now I am free.' It liberates you. Then you can take advice or direction, whatever."

DURING the afternoon, O'Toole offers glimpses of his life, almost like pristine images in a slide show, from which the psychological threads must be deduced. Born in 1932, the son of an Irish bookie, he grew up during World War II, a real "Hope and Glory" childhood. "The war began for us children of the war when we were 7 and then six years later we were 13. And those six years were an eternity. There were no schools from 1942 on." They spent their days playing — "we were hiding in shelters that were bombed. I was only in three high explosive raids, only three. It is not the scariest thing in my life, but it was scary. And then there were the fire bombs, and we didn't count those because they didn't often go off and they didn't make much scream or much bang, and yet the nearest I have been to blown up was by an incendiary bomb maybe about 30 yards from me.

"He initially tried his hand at journalism at the Yorkshire Evening News, which he didn't like much, although "I loved the company. Men really did have tickets for the match in their hats, and they did get drunk after filing some decent copy."

At 19, he joined the Navy, spending 14 months on a submarine depot ship with veteran sailors who had "been bombed, torpedoed and mined. I was just a young kid with them, these hairy, wonderful men." He rethought his life, and afterward he fell in with an artsy crowd and ultimately into theater. "Accidentally, I got involved in a production, a professional production of Turgenev's 'Fathers and Sons,' because the leading man fell over, broke his leg. His name was Luck." He ultimately attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, in a class that included Albert Finney and Alan Bates.

His big cinematic break came when he was cast as Lawrence in 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia." That was the era when filmmakers actually shot hundreds of living people riding through the desert rather than just generating them with the computer. It took two years to make the film. They stationed themselves in Aqaba, Jordan, and then flew out the cameras and crew on a larger plane and then used an "eight-seat De Havilland Dove. We would land on mud flats and set up a tent and shoot. For as long as we could."

On their off days, "Omar Sharif and I, we would vanish to Beirut." He sighs. "In the better days." In those days, Beirut was the glamorous playground of the Middle East. "Beautiful." He says sadly. "Poor Beirut. Poor Lebanon. Poor Middle East."The pair spent their breaks visiting the "fleshpots as one now calls them." He appears to be referring to brothels. He says that whenever people ask Sharif, a close friend, what he remembers most of the shoot, "he always says fleshpots. But for me it was wonderful. One never was used to that heat and the aridity. The nothingness. It isn't pretty sand; it is just nothing, grit. Flat. And one just never, ever, ever … you get accustomed to it in a couple of days and then it hits you" — he smacks his hands. "You would need 16 pints of water per day to stay alive. We all lived on salt pills, which are the worst thing in the world for you. When you get the shakes, somehow you get a pot of water and you put a spoonful of salt in it and stir it. If you can taste the salt you don't need it. If you can't taste the salt you have got about 10 minutes before you dry out and then you start bloating and you are gone."

Playing Lawrence left O'Toole with a lifelong interest in the man, and in archaeology, and he's traipsed to archeological sites in Israel, Turkey, China, and Cambodia. The last was when he was filming 1964's "Lord Jim," a legendary clunker though a memorable shoot. "I came out of my concrete hut one morning and I looked on the road, there were two stiffs," he says. "One was American. I was in Phnom Penh with a couple of stunt men and we were walking around the street to see what was going on, and the British Embassy was on fire. The American Embassy was on fire, and the customers were roaming around cutting their tongues with razorblades and using the blood to draw 'Yankee go home.' There we were filming and hiding. We got out by plane eventually."

One suspects that stories like this stream steadily out of O'Toole, but he insists that "I don't often think of former parts, but sometimes they pop up in conversation or into my mind and I can be amused." He'd never be able to itemize his most meaningful roles because "they are though they are human." He played Henry II twice, in "Becket" and "The Lion in Winter," and was nominated both times for Academy Awards. Other Oscar-nominated performances include "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "The Stunt Man" and "My Favorite Year," in which he spoofed himself and played a jaunty, alcoholic movie star. He's still busy, with parts in two coming films.

For decades he was renowned for his carousing, often with famous buddies like Laurence Harvey, Peter Finch, and Richard Harris, now all dead. Along the way, he married and divorced the actress Sian Phillips, sired two daughters with her, and another son with girlfriend Karen Brown. In the mid-'70s, he nearly died from stomach cancer.

Asked if he ever regretted the drinking, O'Toole looks incredulous. "No. Not at all. It was a kind of added fuel. A booster. No, no, no the last thing it ever did was shape my bloody life."

WHILE some might want to see parallels between his "Venus" character, Maurice, and himself, both aging actors watching their friends die off, O'Toole insists there are none. What he doesn't deign to say is that he, unlike his character, is and was a movie star. The only Maurice characteristic he cops to is the penchant for the grand gesture that he can't always deliver on. In the film, Maurice takes Jessie, whom he calls "Venus," shopping for a little black dress but neglects to bring any money. "I have borrowed money from the hotel manager before to pay the bill," he says with a laugh.As the afternoon wears on, O'Toole seems to tire, and eventually he puts on his long overcoat and leaves, tipping the hotel staff generously on his way out the door. A smiling, middle-age woman picks him up in a white Subaru station wagon. It's not his wife, because he's "unattached" right now. It's a little deflating to see Lawrence's chariot now and to hear the doorman try to figure out who the tall, aged man was, and why he's famous.

It's better to remember O'Toole just before he left, pondering if he, like Maurice, is still capable of love. "I am sure of it," he says, the voice at first emphatic. "I am human. All too bloody human." He's full of temporary, private recrimination.

"Yes. What to do about it is another question. I think it would be a very shallow life for me if I couldn't."

For a gallery of images from Peter O'Toole's career, go to

November 24, 2006

Oscar Magic 8 Ball


(USA Today)

...1. Will this be the year the long-overdue are finally Oscared?Magic 8 Ball says: Outlook goodThere's a long line of deserving folks who have come close to nabbing a statuette and have yet to do so, including Peter O'Toole (seven previous nominations, one honorary Oscar), The Departed director Martin Scorsese (five nominations for directing, two for screenplay), Annette Bening (three nominations) and even acclaimed The Queen director Stephen Frears (one nomination). This could be the year that ends at least one or two losing streaks, says Dave Karger, Oscar guru for Entertainment Weekly.While Forest Whitaker, star of The Last King of Scotland, who has never been nominated, and The Queen's Helen Mirren (two previous nominations) are leading the early race for best acting (see below), O'Toole is also gaining momentum for his turn in Venus as an aging actor whose life is turned upside down by a brash teenager."It does seem like a lot of the top contenders have been in the discussion in years past and never won," Karger says. "And (O'Toole) is really coming on strong. Maybe this will be the time for some of them." —S.B."

November 21, 2006

O'Toole to star in Charlemagne Epic: "Love and Virtue"

(Guardian Unlimited)

John Malkovich, Peter O'Toole, Damian Lewis, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Dillane, Anna Massey, Michael Madsen, Darryl Hannah and Virginie Ledoyen are among the all-star cast that will appear in Love and Virtue, an epic film about Charlemagne by Chilean arthouse director Raoul Ruiz. Dillane will portray the Frankish king and Holy Roman Emperor, Lewis will play a court knight who falls for Ledoyen's character, while Malkovich and Madsen will play barbarian marauders. The script is based on the epic poems The Song of Roland and Orlando Innamorato. Filming is to begin in March on location in Belgium and Luxembourg, before moving to London.

November 13, 2006

Venus Wins Euro Film Fest in Sevilla


Seville worships 'Venus'By EMILIANO DE PABLOS

MADRID — Peter O'Toole-starrer "Venus" took the top Golden Giraldillo at the 3rd 100% European Seville Film Festival, which wrapped Saturday.Directed by Roger Michell ("Notting Hill"), "Venus" turns on three aged friends and the relationship of one of them, Maurice (O'Toole), a jobbing actor, with an 19-year-old girl. Prize comes with Euros 60,000 ($76,800) for the Spanish distributor."Venus" beat out "The Lives of Others," the Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck helmed pic about the secret police in East Berlin, which won the Silver Giraldillo and $38,400. "Others" is Germany's Oscars entry.Running Nov. 3-11, with a special focus on Italian cinema, the Seville event ratched up 80,000 admissions, 23% more than last year.

October 23, 2006

"There's no one better for a dirty old man"

(Sunday Times)

"Peter O’Toole is picking up Oscar momentum as an ageing actor who has a relationship with a 21-year-old girl — though he insists he has nothing in common with his character. JASPER REES meets the man who is still not at all unwell Some 20 people in thick Puffa jackets and clumpy boots crouch behind a wooden sea wall on a shingle beach in Whitstable. Or Islington-on-Sea, to give it its modern name. The north coast of Kent glitters in the sun, but this is the coldest week of the winter. Across the Medway, you can see the contours of Essex in stark outline. The shelled-out husk of a matinee idol, silver mane flying wildly in the bitter wind, hobbles to his mark on the other side of the sea wall. He is on crutches after breaking a hip in a Christmas tumble. When the first assistant director calls “Action!”, Peter O’Toole begins to play out his last scene on the last day of the shoot in probably the last leading role he will ever have.You don’t need to be a sentimentalist to note the significance of this moment. The film is called Venus, and it is about a beautiful actor growing undignifyingly old. In an idealised story of O’Toole’s life, this would be the natural terminus to a career that began 44 years earlier with that prophetic credit, “And introducing Peter O’Toole as TE Lawrence”. He carried all before him in the 1960s. But he won the last of his seven Oscar nominations in 1982 for My Favorite Year, in which he played a washed-up swashbuckler who can’t be trusted to turn up on set sober. His most successful role since, as the celebrated tippler in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, also played on the perception that he, too, is fond of a drink.When O’Toole reprised the part at the Old Vic in 1999, it was his way of bidding farewell to the theatre and laying to rest the ghost of his infamous Macbeth on the same stage, which even he concedes was “one of the great, great first-night disasters. Anything that can go wrong in that play will go wrong and did for us. There’s a whole school of thought that I did it deliberately. But in Jeffrey Bernard, I was able, at the end of the 20th century, to do a formidable part that was full of energy, of diction, of movement, full of everything I used to be able to do. I don’t want to shuffle on stage as a butler”.For O’Toole’s admirers, their favourite year will always be 1962, when he embodied in Lawrence the fascinating ambiguities of a man terrified by his own moral passion. Who would have thought he could still hold together a movie in 2006? Only he himself. Three years ago, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose to confer on him an honorary Oscar, initially he turned it down. “I’m still in the game,” was his magnificent retort. After all those near misses, to pass up on the offer of a free statuette — this showed the steely resolve of a high roller. His last truly great film performance was in The Last Emperor, in 1987. After that, there have been several emperors, plus kings, dukes, lords and knights. But his turn in the spotlight seemed to have been and gone. Troy was still to come, but, O’Toole ruefully admits, it was a rotten effort. “Good script,” he says, shaking his head. “Badly made.”In the end, he went to the Oscars anyway. “It was all right,” he says. “I enjoyed it, and my children were with me. The only thing that wasn’t enjoyable was in the green room. I said, ‘Can I have a drink?’ ‘We have lemon juice, apple juice, still or sparkling.’ I said, ‘No, I want a drink. No drink?’ I said, ‘All right, I’m f***ing off. I’ll be back.’ A man with earphones said, ‘No! No!’ Eventually, this vodka was smuggled in. I had to turn it in for a while and cut down considerably. I still like a drink.”Then, last year, he was sent a script about an old actor who refuses to accept the dying of the light. It could have been written for him. In fact, it wasn’t, although he was mentioned in dispatches early on by writer Hanif Kureishi and director Roger Michell. Their previous film, The Mother, portrayed an older woman’s affair with a much younger man. Although a much warmer work, Venus is its photographic negative. It chronicles the curious, tender, almost wholly platonic romance between Maurice, a jobbing thespian who has been reduced to playing corpses in cheap television dramas, and Jessie, a 21-year-old northern girl (played by Jodie Whittaker), who has been sent to London to tend to her valetudinarian great uncle, Maurice’s old acting mucker (Leslie Phillips). The uncle can’t stand her, but Maurice is charmed by Jessie — or Venus, as he calls her, after the Velazquez he takes her to see at the National Gallery. So he proceeds to charm her back.“I’ve not been in anything quite like this before,” says O’Toole. “As a study of humans cavorting with a finite limit, the script is superb. I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone really had a go at it, because these anarchic, arbitrary sexual urges are disturbing things, and one copes with them. No one better for a dirty old man who falls for a sluttish young woman. Jodie,” he adds, “is a remarkable young girl. A remarkable young woman, I beg her pardon. She’s a good actress, and she’s game.”She needed to be. Maurice’s sexual interest hits the barrier of Jessie’s revulsion, but slowly, as the characters reveal their vulnerability to each other, she starts to reward him with tiny tokens of favour. She bares her breasts for him when he’s ill in bed and, in a scene only Kureishi would dare write, she slips a finger between her legs and allows him to smell, although naturally he wants to taste, too. “Oh boy,” says O’Toole when reminded of it.Venus is the antidote to all those market-driven Hollywood films that posit as entirely normal the idea of a pensioner copping off with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. It’s inevitable some people aren’t going to like the sheer honesty of it. “The film,” replies its 74-year-old star, “is an examination of whatever statement anybody may make about that.”I meet O’Toole at a photoshoot. He and Whittaker, a no-nonsense Huddersfield girl (O’Toole grew up in Leeds) fresh out of drama college, are evidently close. After the shoot, they sit down for a quiet chat — he on a chair, she on his knee. I ask him if, in real life, he were to meet a 21-year-old... “I’ve done that,” he interrupts, and slips wistfully into Shakespeare. “In delay there lies no plenty, Then come kiss me, Sweet and twenty, Youth’s a stuff will not endure.”Of course, nobody knows this better. He and Richard Burton once went to see their 1964 film Becket, “to watch ourselves 20 years after the event. Richard said, ‘We want to watch the disintegration of our flesh.’ That’s what you start doing if you start making movies in your twenties. Lawrence of Arabia, for example: I was 27, 28, when it began and 29, 30 when it finished. Two years is a long time. So I can see the decomposition of the flesh. You can’t see it, but I can”.But Burton died before he could entirely wither. In Venus, Kureishi and Michell make capital from the collective memory of O’Toole’s stolen beauty. “My God, how handsome you were,” says Vanessa Redgrave, playing his former wife, when one of Maurice’s old films comes on the television. Coincidentally, How to Steal a Million was on soon after I met him, and even in a frothy romantic comedy, William Wyler knew exactly how to introduce his leading man: with a close-up of those preternaturally blue eyes. They are now the only remnant of the Adonis who freed Arabia, and their owner is inclined to make light of them.“An optical illusion, eyes. The sun is amazingly powerful, the pupils shrink to tiny little pinpoints, like a cat. And if you’ve got dark all round them, you’ve got these terrible old things glaring at you. They look as if they’re doing deep and penetrating and mystical and strange thoughts, but, in fact, they’re thinking about maybe a touch of claret about sevenish and a piece of haddock.” I half-suspect him of choosing the rather garish sky-blue slacks he changes into after the photoshoot as a sort of visual pun on his famous peepers.Unlike some actors, he seems quite happy to watch his old films. “I invited myself along to a showing of Lawrence of Arabia at the Imperial War Museum less than a year ago.” As for The Lion in Winter, he watches it “from time to time. I saw it a few years back, but the print was off, so I left”. He caught a bit of My Favorite Year on television a while back, “and it’s very good”. Does it not feel like having his life flash in front of him? “No, it doesn’t work like that at all,” he says. “You learn very early, or you learn never, if you’re an actor. You sit in front of that mirror at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, in 1958 and learn that that is the meat.” He pulls at his face. “You can’t be self-conscious about it. If you are, you’re dead. The rest is self-consciousness and nightmare. I’ve watched actors I know — who are not really actors, but they get away with it in the movies — and they spend their life not being able to bear their profile, poor sods. It’s the vain who get f***ed up. I’ve never thought about it.”O’Toole is not an easy man to talk to, at least about himself and his work. He is not prone to self-analysis and is resistant to the idea that he and Maurice have much in common. “In what regard? We obviously do the same job.” A refusal to grow old? “I am old! I know my age, I know my limitations. He knew his age and his limitations. That’s one of the reasons we like him.” All right, then: the positive outlook, the sunny disposition? “No, that’s not me. I’m a ratty old bugger.” He is mistrustful of the idea that Venus could in any way be seen as a landmark in his career. “No, no,” he says. “It’s another good job. Last year, I played a blinder on television in Casanova. And I do movies. That’s not bad.” He has since gone back to cameos, playing the king in a film called Stardust, directed by Matthew Vaughn. But the extraordinary daring of Venus feels like the perfect book end to his golden-haired desert warrior, right down to Maurice’s quotation from Macbeth (“Is this a dagger...”).His producer, Kevin Loader, draws me aside and says he’s “not sure if Peter understands that nowadays, winning an Oscar is like running for office”. I pass this on to O’Toole. “They always were!” he says. “Always. Don’t forget, the best thing if you want to know who’s going to win the Oscar is to ring the Las Vegas bookies, because there are 100 members of the Screen Actors Guild who back horses. It’s what I’ve done since 1962.” Did he ever put a bet on himself? “Only once, because I was favourite, and I thought I might do it. I’ve always been an outsider.” "

October 20, 2006

O'Toole at London Film Fest


Note: plenty of nice shots of O'Toole's arrival at the London Film Festival at

O'Toole sees 'Venus' for first time at London Fest

Peter O'Toole dashed all rumors of poor health by showing up Thursday night — looking dashing and chipper, no less — at a fete for "Venus" at the London Film Festival. Admittedly, he appeared a bit feeble, too, but also frisky and happy to be there.Never known to miss a round of free drinks with pals, O'Toole attended a cocktail reception held at the National Gallery, which was the setting for a key scene that gave the film its title. In it, O'Toole's character takes the sassy young tart he lusts after (Jodie Whittaker) to see a painting that makes him think of her: Velazquez's portrait of Venus.O'Toole and Whittaker hung out a lot at the gala, laughing and chatting with costars Richard Griffiths and Leslie Phillips plus distinguished guests like London mayor Ken Livingston. Then O'Toole attended a screening of "Venus," seeing for the first time. Immediately afterward, he embraced director Roger Michell, congratulated him enthusiastically and told the audience how much he loved the film.This was the first public outing for O'Toole since he canceled his scheduled appearance at the Toronto Film Festival at the last minute in early September, blaming an attack of "gastric nasties." Since then he's conducted phone interviews with the L.A. Times and Esquire and conducted a satellite press tour from London with members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Los Angeles. He will skip the premiere of "Venus" at the American Film Institute festival in L.A. in early November, but plans to spend significant time in Oscarland in January and February.

Venus - review by timesonline's Wendy Ide

ROGER MICHELL’S latest film is, first of all, a love letter to youth. But if there’s a covert affair happening on the side, it’s with London, a city that many film-makers inhabit but which the director clearly cherishes.Venus is Michell’s second collaboration with the writer Hanif Kureishi, after The Mother, and the two films bear superficial similarities. Both deal with that bothersome issue of sexuality — where society would prefer to pretend that it didn’t exist — in those whom old age has stripped of their visibility and, in the case of Venus’s raffish protagonist Maurice, even the ability to perform. But while The Mother was a colder, more clinical film, Venus is steeped in bittersweet romantic yearning.Peter O’Toole is clearly having a whale of a time as the veteran actor Maurice, an incorrigible rogue who has trouble accepting that he is several decades past his sell-by date. His daily highlight is a breakfast of fading champions in a Kentish Town café. He barters a smorgasbord of prescription pills over tea and toast with Ian (Leslie Phillips), a finicky old luvvie clinging to the dusty laurels of “his Caesar” from half a lifetime ago. Their exchanges are delicious: bitchy backstage banter that is as effortless to these half-forgotten stage legends as hitting their marks.When Ian’s grand-niece comes to visit, he entertains hopes that she might be able to rustle up a nice bit of fish for him every evening. He is to be deeply disappointed. Maurice, however, is thrilled with the new addition to his circle. Jessie (the newcomer Jodie Whittaker) is sullen, inarticulate, aggressive and, despite herself, slightly intrigued by this raddled old roué. She makes him feel alive again. He rediscovers his city — the galleries, the Thames, the bars sticky with spilt Bacardi Breezers — through her eyes. He allows himself to fall in love a little, not so much with her, perhaps, as with what she helps him to remember about himself.Maurice is a gift of a role for O’Toole. He is both irreverently playful and profoundly affecting. Whittaker has a tougher job. Not only is she pitched in at the deep end opposite a cast of national treasures, but she also has to work with a character that seems rather underwritten. Jessie is the one character that you feel that Michell and Kureishi had trouble getting to know. Initially, she’s a bundle of antisocial teenager tropes — pot noodles and alcopops; tattoos and tarty gear — a one-woman demonstration of an old man’s grumble about what’s wrong with youth today. If we warm to her by the end of the film, that’s largely due to Whittaker’s sterling work in bringing Jessie in a convincing arc without losing her bolshie, abrasive essence along the way.

One foot in the door, the other in the grave
By Derek Malcolm, Evening Standard

Any film with Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips as Maurice and Ian, two eccentric veterans of the stage, old friends who josh each other in semi-retirement, ought at least to have a modicum of entertainment in it.And Roger Michell and Hanif Kureishi's comedy about the awkward late autumn of life, when you can't do what you'd like to and don't like doing what you can, certainly has that.O'Toole and Phillips know exactly how to make the most of good lines and how to mask poor dialogue. And it isn't their fault that this curious mixture of sentimentality and sharpness ends up seeming more than a trifle glib.It's partly because, in trying for something deeper than facile and rather patronising laughs at aged cantankerousness, neither the writing nor direction are quite up to it.The arrival from the provinces of Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), Ian's pretty grand-niece, who proves hopeless at looking after him, prompts Ian to scream but Maurice to take a kinder view of the girl.He sets out to show her the cultural sights of London and, in doing so, grows fond of rather more than her innocent nature. She allows him a few liberties but gives him a good dig in the ribs if he starts to grope.Vanessa Redgrave plays his presumably estranged wife and the straightest of bats throughout as Maurice falls deeper and deeper before realising that he can't and shouldn't win this particular game of love.The film slides queasily around in this emotional and sexual morass until it finally comes to rest as the Grim Reaper beckons and the girl learns that Maurice has taught her a bit about life.But even performances as good as these - and one would certainly include Whittaker as well as the two better-known stars - can't transcend material that hovers between near farce and tragi-comedy without ever landing on a convincing level. Just to watch its actors, however, may well suffice for some.

October 17, 2006

One Night with the King

Heh... Not surprisingly, non-Christian media aren't giving One Night With The King good reviews. While the film, produced by a Christian group and marketed directly to the faithful (like The Passion of the Christ was), did quite well at the box office (9th place for its opening weekend, $4.3 million gross), edging out Jackass Number Two.

O'Toole's role in the film is limited a brief appearance in the film's prologue.


In other news, O'Toole was recognized in a poll by GQ Magazine for his role in "How to Steal a Million", voted the 7th most stylish film of all time by the lifestyle magazine's readers. Cary Grant took the nod for #1 in "North by Northwest".
from the article:

"In his prime, Peter O'Toole was a picture of precision. He was the actor that every man wanted to be and none had a chance of becoming."And he never looked more dashing than in this film." He is so immaculate, says GQ that you almost fail to notice Audrey Hepburn, elegant as ever in head to toe Givenchy."

October 10, 2006

More Venus Oscar Hopes for O'Toole...

UPI: 'Venus' may give O'Toole an Oscar shot

"LOS ANGELES, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The new film "Venus" may give legendary Irish actor Peter O'Toole another shot at winning the Oscar that has eluded him throughout his career.The 74-year-old actor, who has been nominated for an Oscar seven times but has never won, plays an aging actor in the new Disney film. The studio is banking on his "codger power" to garner him the elusive award, said the Sunday Times of London."We shall be getting out the old codger vote for Peter this time around," one Disney exec said. "Peter does not star in many films these days, but everyone remembers him as a glorious roaring boy who has been criminally overlooked. It's time to put that right."Three years ago, the famed Irish actor was to be presented with a lifetime Oscar, but asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to defer the honor until he was 80, because he is "still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright."O'Toole eventually decided to attend the awards ceremony and receive his honorary award.Disney plans to release "Venus" two weeks prior to the Oscar nomination deadline in December."

Mickey News: Disney goes grey to win Oscar for O'Toole

"DISNEY is turning to "codger power" in an attempt to win an Oscar for Peter O'Toole, the 74-year-old actor who has been nominated seven times and has yet to pick up a best actor statuette.O'Toole, the star of classics such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter and The Ruling Class, has received critical plaudits for his latest film, Venus, in which he plays an ageing thespian besotted with a young visitor, played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker.Three years ago the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to give the Irish actor a lifetime Oscar. Although "enchanted", he asked them to defer it until he was past 80, adding: "I am still in the game and may still win the lovely bugger outright."O'Toole's failure to win after so many nominations, a record shared with his old drinking buddy Richard Burton, remains as embarrassing to the academy as its failure to hand the trophy to directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese."We shall be getting out the old codger vote for Peter this time around," said a Disney executive last week. "Peter does not star in many films these days, but everyone remembers him as a glorious roaring boy who has been criminally overlooked. It's time to put that right."Fine acting is not enough. Disney-owned Miramax, which will release Venus in the United States two weeks before the Oscar nomination deadline at the end of December, is planning "something special" to reach a third of the 6,000 Oscar voters estimated to be of pensionable age.This will include screenings at the Motion Picture Country House in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, an academy-financed retirement home where dozens of O'Toole's contemporaries live.O'Toole, a notorious womaniser when in his prime, has praised the "wonderful role" he plays in Venus. "Four years ago I said out loud I wished someone would be brave enough to write such a politically incorrect role for me, about an older man and a younger woman, because I know such things happen all the time. It makes such a change from being the token geriatric," he said.O'Toole remains determined to grow old in his own inimitable style. "The only exercise I get is following the coffins of friends who exercised," he said recently."

September 29, 2006

O'Toole gets more nods from the media for Oscar

"The best individual performance by far was the one by Peter O’Toole, who should finally be given an Academy Award (after seven nominations) for his towering role in Roger Michell’s Venus. The movie is about an older man having one last crush on a young woman. O’Toole’s performance is magnificent — he does Shakespeare, he dances, he flirts, and ultimately breaks your heart."
- Roger Durling in The Santa Barbara Independant

And this from Tom O'Neil on the LA Times' The Envelope:

"Oscar’s golden boys Best actor race pits overdue vets against talented young stars.

September 27, 2006Catch-up seems to be the theme of this year's Oscar race for best actor.After seven failed nominations -- the most in the academy's acting categories without a win -- Peter O'Toole seems to be the frontrunner for his role in "Venus" as a frail old actor about to feel the drop of life's cruel curtain.At age 74, O'Toole's own health is fading (he suffers from "gastric nasties" after a hearty life), so the notoriously sentimental academy may feel like doing what it did for Paul Newman after 6 losses, Al Pacino and Geraldine Page after 7 and John Wayne after a lifetime of little academy attention: give him an Oscar regardless of his film's quality.In O'Toole's case, his movie is superb, which helps. So do his Oscar odds: the academy has yet to subject an actor to 8 or more snubs in a row. However, O'Toole's ole drinking buddy, Richard Burton, went to his grave tied with his former "Becket" costar as the award's biggest loser, so there aren't always happy Oscar endings.One of O'Toole's most serious rivals is a 31-year-old star who's also considered long overdue. Early on in his career, at age 19, Leonardo DiCaprio was considered an academy darling when he was nommed for best supporting actor in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"Then, suddenly and strangely in 1997, it looked like voters struck a mysterious grudge against the star of the most successful film ever made in terms of box-office bucks ($1.8 billion worldwide) and Oscars (11). Everybody on board "Titanic," it seemed, got nominated except its "King of the World."Furious, DiCaprio snubbed voters in return and refused to attend the ceremony where his movie sailed on to tie "Ben-Hur's" record for winning the most awards. Two years ago, however, all of that nonsense was forgotten and DiCaprio scored his first lead-actor bid for "The Aviator." But even though he won the Golden Globe, he lost the Oscar.If this really is a year when voters may play catch-up in the best-actor race, then Hollywooders may prefer to embrace the young heartthrob among them instead of an aging star in far-away Britain.DiCaprio has two movie options for them to choose: as a gem-chasing mercenary in "Blood Diamond" and as an undercover cop who infiltrates the mob in "The Departed." It helps to have two films in the running, as Oscar-overdue Sean Penn learned when he won for "Mystic River" the same year he wowed film critics and audiences in "21 Grams" (2003).That's the same situation DiCaprio's "Departed" costar is in, too -- Matt Damon, who earned an Oscar for co-writing "Good Will Hunting," but has yet to win for acting. In "The Departed," he portrays DiCaprio's opposite -- a mobster who infiltrates the police -- but he may have a better chance to prevail with voters in "The Good Shepherd." That's because his role gets more screen time and is more fully etched out psychologically as he potrays an early founder of the CIA."

September 18, 2006

'Venus' director talks of talent and O'Toole

'Venus' director talks of talent and O'Toole
By Patrick Goldstein, Times Staff Writer
TORONTO — Peter O'Toole and I were supposed to have lunch Saturday, but the crown prince of British theater and film became ill at the last minute and, under doctor's orders, was forced to stay in London. In his stead, he sent along Roger Michell, who directed him in "Venus," a delightful romantic comedy due out in December that has already made a splash at the Toronto Film Festival. Michell arrived armed with a bevy of O'Toole anecdotes, as well as a note from the actor that he planned to read at an upcoming premiere here.
The note neatly captures the 74-year-old actor's mischievous charm. "The disease that's killing the chestnut trees has felled me," O'Toole says. "Or so I chose to believe until the doctor disabused me of such a grand notion and told me I had a commonplace but severe touch of the gastric nasties. That I was not to travel, go to bed, take the tablets and lay off the turps."

The beautiful, pale-blue-eyed god we saw in "Lawrence of Arabia" is in fragile health these days. But that only lends an extra layer of gravitas to his performance as Maurice, an aged actor reduced to playing corpses in TV dramas who finds new life through an unlikely friendship with a young woman (newcomer Jodie Whittaker) hired to take care of another elderly actor chum, played by Leslie Phillips.
O'Toole's deft performance, which gives him the chance to recite Shakespeare and mutter backstage epithets ("Bloody Peter Hall!") could be a last Oscar hurrah for the actor, who's been nominated seven times without a win, although he got an honorary statuette several years ago. It's poignant seeing O'Toole, jaw slack, hair permanently askew, wheezing up to the bar to order a "whiskey with a whisker of water," not knowing for certain how much of the great show is age and how much is acting.
Michell had never met O'Toole before, although as a schoolboy in Bristol he'd seen him onstage in "Uncle Vanya" and later in shows in the West End. Michell sent O'Toole the script, written by Hanif Kureishi, and arranged a meeting at the Garrett Club, an old theater hangout in London. It was the day of English actor John Mills' funeral and, as Michell recalls, the club — which serves as the actors' haunt in the movie — was filled with a host of venerable thespians, all of whom could've played Maurice in the film.
"There I was waiting," Michell recalls, "when up this long flight of stairs, wheezing, groaning … comes Peter, supported by an old actor friend, laughing and telling outrageous stories as he occasionally paused for breath. Over lunch, he was sensitive, funny, thoughtful, quite delicate and pretty much perfect. I knew the man I met that day should play Maurice."
I'd always heard that O'Toole never got along especially well with directors. As English actor Roy Kinnear once put it: "Peter would just tell the director how he was going to do the scene and then do it." But Michell says O'Toole was far more prepared each day on set than many younger actors. "I don't think Peter likes directors, as a species, because most directors aren't particularly good with actors," he says. "But Peter was a true collaborator. And when we disagreed, he was very forthright."
There was little doubt about O'Toole being the right man for the role of an old man still wondering what makes himself tick. Michell says he needed someone who, in addition to being able to play Hamlet, "was intellectual and profoundly clever but filled with doubt and skepticism. He's also profoundly heroic, in the sense that he's concerned with the world around him but doesn't fully understand it. He's 80, but as Peter says in the film, 'I still don't know anything about myself.' "
For me, the most astounding moment in the film comes early on when O'Toole, as Maurice, learns he must have surgery for prostate cancer. Looking more haggard than ever, he finally rallies, slapping himself hard in the face, saying fiercely, "Come on, old man!" I asked Michell if that was in the script or an inspired O'Toole improvisation.
Michell beamed. "It was in the script. But I had no idea of the intense fury and hatred of age that would come across in the scene. When Peter gives a performance, it always feels like everything is coming straight from him."

Film Studies: Please act

Film Studies: Please act your age, Peter
( -
By David Thomson
Published: 17 September 2006
Three years ago, in this column, I reported on how the Telluride Film Festival was giving a tribute to Peter O'Toole. It was a momentous event and it surely played a large part in persuading the Academy to give O'Toole an honorary Oscar at the next possible occasion. This was deemed necessary in that O'Toole had so far been nominated seven times for the best actor Oscar, without a victory. Now I bring news from this year's Telluride festival that O'Toole - still unmistakably alive - may have delivered the performance that will get his eighth nomination. And maybe his first victory.
The occasion is a small film named Venus, written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell. O'Toole plays an elderly actor who has every possible indication that he is dying. He has a chum, another actor, admirably played by Leslie Phillips, who has a niece called Venus (Jodie Whittaker). Despite the mythological name, Venus is an acrid, rather mean-spirited, poker-faced young girl from the London area; a modern girl without unusual aptitude for sentiment. But O'Toole's character fixes on her. He loves her.
He has a lech for her. He just needs her to be around to watch over him, to let him kiss her neck at vulnerable moments and - in a crisis, if a crisis should occur - to show him her full-stop breasts.
Of course, the man dies, with not much more than a glimpse, a whiff and a brief kiss from his beloved Venus. She thinks he's a dirty old man, weird and amazingly old-fashioned. He knows she is the life force and capable, possibly, of giving him a few extra days with fun. At the end, she goes with him to the sea shore at Whitstable, and it is watching the waves come in that takes him away.
It is a small situation to build a whole movie on. But if you have a situation that will affect people, and if you write it well with a good actor, you may end up with a movie. This is the first leading role O'Toole has had since the era of My Favorite Year. Since then, picture people have been generously inclined to him, but always on the assumption that it would be risky expecting more than a few days of his time. Now, someone has had the wit to see the richness of that exact dilemma and asked O'Toole to be the centre-piece of a film. He looks as if he could play a dying man forever.
To say it is touching is not enough. There is a sequence where O'Toole and Phillips go to the Garrick Club and then to a church for actors. They pass the memorial plaques, for those like Robert Shaw: contemporaries of O'Toole once, but come and gone while he survives drastic surgeries and his own serene devotion to alcohol. There is a moment when we suddenly find that his character has a wife - estranged. She comes on with a limp and a stick, and it is Vanessa Redgrave, who had broken a bone just before shooting but who wasn't going to miss a chance like this. Venus could also bring her own seventh Oscar nomination.
For those of us who remember O'Toole dancing on the roof of the ambushed train - a romantic figure in white robes - or Vanessa hunched over her own breasts, begging to get the pictures back in Blow-Up, it's astounding to see the two great players looking like noble wrecks. Is it possible that the change that has overtaken them has affected us, too? Such thoughts are not common at the movies - and you are reminded of this all through Venus - because so few movies have the courage to compose themselves around the guttering lives of old people. By "old people", I suppose, I mean anyone over 32 or so, anyone whose mind has grown as their face has crumpled, anyone who can calculate a bargain with fate to hang on for a week or so more if this sharp, disagreeable girl will smile on him once or twice.
I know. It's very early to be talking about Oscars, and I share your feeling that too much hopeful spin may put a jinx on things. But at this stage of 2006 I can see a lot of actresses likely to be in contention, and not quite so many actors. Venus will not open until December, which means that the people behind it are taking a bet on the Academy. And the Academy is the one section of the movie business where the average age is above that of the audience these days. O'Toole is a great loser, and I think it's clear that he'd let Oscar go for a squeeze from a pretty girl. Venus is a film about that bargain. That's how it is able to be so candid and so merry about death.
Win or lose, it's one of the films this year that you don't want to miss. So let's hope that Mr O'Toole lasts long enough to see your pleasure.

September 13, 2006

First press for "One Night with the King"

Looks like O'Toole's next release is a biblio-pic. O'Toole plays "Samuel, the Prophet", and his old pal, Omar Sharif, stars as "Prince Memucan". -Hamish

Official Site here.

Movie viral marketing on a biblical scale

It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Shariff, John Rhys-Davies and John Noble (both of Lord of the Rings), among others.

It cost $20 million and was shot in palace locations in India.

And it opens on 1,000 screens on (as part of AMC's "select" program of speciality films, here) Friday, Oct. 13. No, it's not a horror movie, and no, you probably haven't heard a peep about it. But One Night With the King is being marketed, alright.This is a Christian-funded film, distributed (on DVD, at least), by Fox/Faith, the "Let's get that Mel Gibson kinda money" arm of 20th Century Fox.

Rhys: I sat in on one of the pep rallies/outreach sessions for it in Orlando Wednesday. A hundred or so ministers and their families heard from novelist Tommy Tenney and producers Matt and Laurie Crouch, of the evangelical TV (Trinity Broadcasting) Crouches. One Night is an adaptation of the Biblical story of Hadassah/Esther, the Jewish girl in Babylon who saved her people from the Persians by charming Xerxes. It's not a "political movie," Matt Crouch said, but he noted similarities between today's headlines about Iran and Israel, and the story from the Bible.

From Matt Crouch... A movie is a chance to get on the playing field. We're gaining access to the hearts of the ungodly without them knowing it. Go back to your people (congregations), and fill every theater that weekend. Set the stage for what God wants to do in Christian film.

From Laurie Crouch... Touch your neighbor and say, "I AM the merketing department" for this movie."Tenney joked about their movie being "good counter-programming" to the rash of horror movies opening in October, and went so far as to suggest that this might be "a dark horse at the Oscars."

The usual "us against them" boiler-plate popped up, as they noted how they had a "friendly" theater manager (somebody already familiar with the movie, i.e. a believer), and how they were pushing a "values based movie" into an industry that "discounts the success" of values-based movies, from Passion to Narnia, and how both of those films bested Brokeback Mountain at the box office. If you want values driven movies in the marketplace, you need to show up that opening weekend," Tenney said. "You GO God."

The Brokeback crack and the occasional Christian buzzphrase, "a mandate to take dominion" was a little chilling (I was invited, but got the impression they didn't realize a secular reporter/critic was there), frankly, given Christian conservatism's passion for blind-faith political judgments and homophobia. The military parlance about Hollywood ("get behind enemy lines") and their embracing of Apocalyptic movie claptrap like The Omega Code gives me pause.

Peter: But the movie looks pretty good (they had a rough cut of about 20 minutes of it), and seems a pretty inviting and positive expression of Christianity on film, as opposed to the torture and exclusionary (insider's) tone of The Passion of the Christ.

Michael O. Sajbel, a director with experience making Christian documentaries and Billy Graham films, directed. The winsome Tiffany Dupont plays Esther, Rhys-Davies is her dad, Mordecai (and apparently narrator, a great choice), O'Toole and Shariff, together again for the first time since Lawrence of Arabia made them famous, show up.

That Friday the 13th will see The Grudge 2 opening, which is counter-programming. And Man of the Year, a Robin Williams political satire. There's a conservative WWE-backed actioner, The Marine, which could draw away from One Night, but otherwise, it's only a low screen count holding the film back.Well, and the Sarah Michelle Gellar crowd.

Could make for an interesting box office sweepstakes, if the hundreds of pastors contacted across the country make it happen. And there's always room for an audience that Hollywood, frankly, doesn't care to serve.

Emanuel Levy's take on Venus

Emanuel Levy's take on Venus (thanks Marie-Noëlle!)

"Representing another fruitful collaboration of the team behind the widely acclaimed "The Mother," "Venus" reunites director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”), screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Laundrette,” "Intimacy") and producer Kevin Loader.

Not surprisingly, "Venus" represents the same modest, well-acted chamber piece that "The Mother" (which premiered in Cannes last year) was. Thematically, the new film is based on a similar character same juxtaposition, here in the form of an unexpected relationship between an old bitter charcater and a much younger and spunkier one that revitalizes the former, bringing joy to the autumn of his life.Reversing the genders of "The Mother" protags, in "Venus," the older character is a vet actor, Maurice, (Peter O'Toole) and the younger protagt is an uneducated woman named Jessie (well played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker).the grand-niece of Maurice's best friend, also a vet actor, Ian (Leslie Phillips).

As in most British drama, particularly in Kureishi's work, there's a huge gap in age and social class, and here also erotic tension between the two central figures.Was Peter O'Toole "prophetic" in 2004, when he initially rejected the Honorary Oscar from the Academy, based on his belief that he was still in the run for a legit recognition, not quite ready for a career achievement trophy? (In the end, you may recall, O'Toole consented and accepted the award). I mention that, because O'Toole astonishingly subtle performance as the seventysomething thespian should earn him his eighth Oscar nomination (and perhaps the coveted award itself), when Miramax opens the movie stateside December 15. (See Oscar Alert)

Right now, "Venus" plays the major film festivals. It premieres this weekend in Telluride and goes to Toronto next week, where O'Toole is bound to be critically acclaimed, giving Miramax enough ammunition to plan a strategic Oscar campaign for him at year's end.Drawing on the narrative paradigm of the "Outsider," a stranger who changes peoples' lives dramatically just by sheer physical presence, “Venus” tells the story of Maurice and Ian, a pair of cantankerous, though not devoid of humor, old thespians, whose comfortable daily routine is disrupted by the arrival of Ian’s grand-niece Jessie.

In the first chapters, Maurice and Ian, two vet actor friends are seen chatting about their deteriorating health, increased reliance on medication, declining memory, and so on. Comfy with each other, they bicker and exchange witty barbs affectionately in their regular meetings in their modest London flats and coffee shops. Occasionally, they are joined in the coffee shop or pub by a third actor friend, Donald (Richard Griffiths, soon to be seen as the teacher in "The History Boys").

Ian is preparing for the arrival of Jessie, his niece’s teenage daughter, who is arriving from the more provincial North of England to stay with him, hoping she would take care of his needs. However, initially, Jessie proves to be your typical "irresponsible" girl, lazy, crass, hard-drinking, and cuursing, making it clear she has no intent of becoming Ian's maid, nurse, or even social companion.

To help his friend, Maurice takes Jessie under his wing and starts showing her London. He takes her to see a play, to movie set to watch him play a bit role, and to the National Gallery to see (again) his favorite painting, Velazquez's portriat of Venus (thus the picture's title). The film's very last scene makes the title even more poignant.

Gradually, to Maurice and Jessee's surprise, they grow fond of and become attached to each other. A brief scene to his former wife (played by the still regal Vanessa Redgrave) shows that Maurice has probably never met an abrasive girl like Jesse. Even so, more open-minded than his age or position would suggest, he dubs Jessie his Venus.

At this point, living a life of quiet desperation, Maurice is resigned to the fact that his own life is coming to an end, but through Jesse, he rediscovers repressed feelings and desire that's been dormant for years. For her part, Jessie is drawn to Maurice, confiding in him.

The film takes a turn when Jessie starts dating a loutish youth, and soon abuses Maurice's trust by asking for money and other favors. Maurice consents, aware that his romantic hope for Jessie are futile, but also recognizing the last taste of youth and passion she has been granting him.

Under his tutorship, a deeper, more intimate, and even erotic relationship develops between the duo. Very much a journey of self-discovery movie, in due process, both Maurice and Jessie discover how little they each know each other's needs and desires, their expectations from others, and from life in general."Venus" could have ben called Educating Jessie, after the 1984 movie, "Educating Rita," with Michael Caine and Julie Walters as his student-hairdrsser. Indeed, along with conversations, educational sessions, visits to to museums and to the theater (one scene is set in the Royal Court Theatre), there are more intimate scenes. In time, Maurice sets a bath for Jessie and is allowed to watch her, and later, she lets him caress, but not kiss, her neck.

In position of undeniable power, Jessie sets the rules, at least as far as physical contact is concerned. When Maurice crosses the line and grabs her breasts (for example), Jesse gets upset, walks out, and disappears for a day or, only to come back later.Problem is, the film can't decide how far to go in exploring the relationship between Maurice and Jessie, and thus it unfolds as step and counter-step, until reaching a denouement in a satisfying if also predictable manner.

Let me explain. Since the female protagonist is very young, pushing the text into a too explicitly sexual direction might suggest that Maurice is a dirty old man and that his is a corruptive, damaging influence on a teenage girl. There's a boyfriend in the background, and in one scene, they even use Muarice's own flat to make out, only to be caught by him, but the boy is Jessie's age.

Vanessa Redgrave plays Maurice’s atill loving former wife and mother of his three children, whom Maurice had abandoned for another, younger actress. Restricted to two or three scenes, Redgrave's character is underdeveloped and so is Ian's. Is Ian gay? Is he infatuated with Maurice beyond the permitted professional camaraderie and personal friendship?

In remarkably subdued performance, O'Toole, an actor who often chews the scenery with his histrionics, portrays the kind of old man we have never seen before, certainly not in American films. Though not physically well, Maurice is not limping, and he is not crotchety, as Henry Fonda was in "Golden Pond," a film that won Fonda his first and only Oscar, just months before he died."Venus" doesn't make the mistake of de-sexualizing an old man. Reflecting the puritanical, hygienic, and perhaps even hypocritical nature of sexuality in American culture, Hollywood movies seldom depict desire, and if they do, it's in a pejorative and judgmental way. In American movies, the old men, usually grandparents, tend to bond not with their children as with their grandchildren. Refreshingly, there are no children and no such subplots in "Venus."

At times, the romantic and erotic scenes in "Venus" feel deliberately awkward, and they might make both younger and older viewers uncomfortable. It's like watching your old father or grandfather desire (and lusts after) a much younger alluring woman.In wish the resolution had not been so pat or moralistic in suggesting that it's not only the wise old who can teach the young in the ways of the world, but that the young may have profound influence on the older folks too. Subtle as it is, ultimately, "Venus" is a film about life lessons, and in the end, Jesse transforms from a boorish girl to a more sensitive, confident, and independent woman.

Ultra modest in scope and ambition, "Venus" is a two-handler "Relationship" film, and one about great acting. The story begins and ends with visual symmetry by the ocean. The outdoor scenes, depicting Maurice and Jessie's outings, are meant to open up the inherently indoor yarn, but succeed only partially in making the movie less static; in moments, the movie is a tad too dull and bleak.

"Venus" is not necessarily better acted than "The Mother" was, but it has a name-cast, headed by Peter O'Toole and Vanessa Redgrave in a small, supporting role.Oscar AlertLaced with a good deal of humor and irony, "Venus" is more commercially viable than "Mother," and Miramax could exploit its subject, high-caliber acting, and prestige, in a way that other small British movies have in the past. Peter Yates' "The Dresser, in 1983, also set in the theater world, with Oscar-nominated turns from Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, comes to mind.

Incidentally, Henry Fonda was roughly the same age as O'Toole is now, 74, when he won the Oscar for "On Golden Pond.""

O'Toole Continues to Own T.I.F.F. from Afar...

From this review at the Star-Telegram:

"And then there's the case of 74-year-old Peter O'Toole, who had to cancel a planned visit to Toronto due to illness. Nonetheless, he's turning out to be the star of the festival, for his widely beloved turn as an aging actor who falls in lust with a teenage girl in Roger Michell's Venus. Truth be told, I sat through the film grinding my teeth in irritation -- movies featuring randy old codgers who crack jokes about their failing prostates are definitely not my thing. But Venus played like gangbusters at its premiere here on Saturday night, and even those of us who didn't care for the film have to acknowledge that O'Toole's performance, with its mixture of slapstick and sentimentality, is the stuff of which long-overdue Best Actor Oscars are made."

And Reuters:

"The 74-year-old O'Toole, who is tied with Richard Burton for the most Oscar nominations without a victory, seven, is being touted as a certain nominee for his work as an aging English actor who falls for the grandniece of a friend.The Hollywood Reporter said the film "hands the accomplished actor one of his best roles in years and he masterfully runs with it."And when O'Toole canceled a trip to Toronto, many worried if he would turn out to be as ill and frail as he looked in the film. A spokesman said it was only a minor problem."

September 12, 2006

"Venus" inspires beautiful O'Toole performance

(via Reuters)By Michael RechtshaffenTORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - At 74, Peter O'Toole could well earn an eighth Oscar nomination, this time for his superbly rendered portrayal of a working English actor whose autumn years yield a surprise third act.While the vehicle that likely will take him there -- Roger Michell's "Venus," in which O'Toole finds himself falling hard for his best friend's cheeky grand-niece -- hits a few bumpy patches after a very promising start, it hands the accomplished actor one of his best roles in years and he masterfully runs with it.This performance alone should ensure the Miramax release brings in the audience that responded to the Weinstein Co.'s "Mrs. Henderson Presents," which bowed last year at Toronto.Something of a flipside to "The Mother," the previous collaboration between Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi about an older widow who has an affair with her daughter's lover, this early May, late-December romance springs out of a wonderfully wry foundation.O'Toole is Maurice Russell, an actor whose phone continues to ring, but these days the jobs being offered tend to be playing dying hospital patients.Whiling away his growing free time in a cafe along with his longtime actor friend, the certified drama queen Ian (Leslie Phillips), the ailing Maurice is content to play things out to the final curtain.Enter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the typical teenager whom Ian's niece has shipped off to her uncle's home.Although Ian had envisioned someone who would draw warm baths and cook splendid dinners for him, the rather coarse Jessie proves clueless.But she also happens to stir something long forgotten in Maurice's heart (not to mention other places), and the old man risks being played the fool in the name of infatuation.Things inevitably turn darker, and the film loses its way somewhat while transitioning from all the early beautifully barbed banter to that later heavy dose of pathos.Although Michell's steady direction and Kureishi's lyrical writing might have trouble maintaining the right tragicomic balance, it's certainly not a problem for O'Toole, whose expertly modulated performance is a thing to behold.While casually commanding, it also is generous enough to allow a good deal of light to shine on the fine work of his fellow cast members Phillips and spirited newcomer Whittaker, as well as in tender scenes with Vanessa Redgrave who plays his long-estranged but still palsy wife.Production values are comfortably inviting thanks to Haris Zambarloukos' warm cinematography and John Paul Kelly's lived-in production design. Neatly completing the mood is the selection of breezy soul-pop tunes furnished by acclaimed British songstress Corinne Bailey Rae.Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

September 11, 2006

O'Toole makes appearance at the T.I.F.F. (sort of)

Well, even if he can't be here in the flesh, at least the good people at the William Ashley store in Yorkville (right outside the ticket office for the T.I.F.F.) were nice enough to include Peter's image in a series of caricatures in their main window. It's quite a good likeness, don't you think?


September 10, 2006

O'Toole sent a note along to the T.I.F.F. in his absence...

From the L.A. Times:
"Peter O'Toole's Last Oscar Hurrah?
Columnist Patrick Goldstein is at the Toronto Film Festival this week.
By Patrick Goldstein, Times Staff Writer
September 10, 2006TORONTO -- Peter O'Toole and I were supposed to have lunch on Saturday but the crown prince of British theater and film became ill at the last minute and, under doctor's orders, was forced to stay in London. He sent along Roger Michell in his stead, who directed him in "Venus," a delightful romantic comedy due out in December that has already made a splash here at the Toronto Film Festival. Michell arrived armed with a bevy of O'Toole anecdotes, as well as a note from the actor that he planned to read at an upcoming premiere here.

The note neatly captures the 74-year-old's actor mischievous charm. "The disease that's killing the chestnut trees has felled me," O'Toole says. "Or so I chose to believe until the doctor disabused me of such a grand notion and told me I had a commonplace but severe touch of the gastric nasties. That I was not to travel, go to bed, take the tablets and lay off the turps."

After years of boozing and revelry, the beautiful, pale blue-eyed god we saw in "Lawrence of Arabia" is in fragile health. But that only lends an extra layer of gravitas to his performance as Maurice, an aged actor reduced to playing corpses in TV dramas who finds new life through an unlikely friendship with a young woman (newcomer Jodie Whittaker) hired to take care of another elderly actor chum, played by Leslie Philips.

O'Toole's deft performance, which gives him the chance to recite Shakespeare and mutter backstage epithets ("Bloody Peter Hall!") could be a last Oscar hurrah for the actor, who's been nominated seven times without a win, though he got an honorary statuette several years ago. It's especially poignant seeing O'Toole, jaw slack, hair permanently askew, wheezing up to the bar to order a "whiskey with a whisker of water," not knowing for certain how much of the great show is age and how much is acting.

Michell had never met O'Toole before, though as a schoolboy in Bristol, he'd seen him on stage in "Uncle Vanya" and later in shows in the West End. Michell sent O'Toole the script, written by Hanif Kureishi, and arranged a meeting at the Garrett Club, an old theater hang-out in London. It was the day of John Mills' funeral and, as Michel recalls, the club -- which serves as the actors' haunt in the movie -- was filled with a host of venerable thespians, all of whom could've played Maurice in the film."

There I was waiting," recalls Michell, "when up this long flight of stairs, wheezing, groaning and farting, comes Peter, supported by an old actor friend, laughing and telling outrageous stories as he occasionally paused for breath. Over lunch, he was sensitive, funny, thoughtful, quite delicate and pretty much perfect. I knew the man I met that day should play Maurice."I'd always heard that O'Toole never got along especially well with directors. As Roy Kinnear once put it: "Peter would just tell the director how he was going to do the scene and then do it." But Michell says O'Toole was far more prepared each day on set than many younger actors. "I don't think Peter likes directors, as a species, because most directors aren't particularly good with actors," he says. "But Peter was a true collaborator. And when we disagreed, he was very forthright.

"There was little doubt about O'Toole being the right man for the role of an old man still wondering what makes himself tick. "We really needed someone who could play Hamlet," says Michell. "We wanted someone who was intellectual and profoundly clever, but filled with doubt and skepticism. He's also profoundly heroic, in the sense that he's concerned with the world around him, but doesn't fully understand it. He's 80, but as Peter says in the film, 'I still don't know anything about myself.'.

"For me, the most astounding moment in the film comes early on when O'Toole, as Maurice, learns he must have surgery for prostate cancer. Looking more haggard than ever, he finally rallies, slapping himself hard in the face, saying fiercely, "Come on, old man!" I asked Michell if that was in the script or an inspired O'Toole improvisation.

Michell beamed. "It was in the script. But I had no idea of the intense fury and hatred of age that would come across in the scene. When Peter gives a performance, it always feels like everything is coming straight from him."

Update on O'Toole's no-show for the T.I.F.F.

from the L.A. Times' Goldderby:

"O'Toole falls ill, must skip TorontoJust one day before Peter O'Toole was scheduled to sit down with me and other journalists at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss his critically cheered new film, "Venus," word came that he's too ill to travel from Britain.The news has stunned fest-goers. Is the 74-year-old acting legend gravely ill or just temporarily indisposed? Miramax says the latter. A press rep told me, "Peter is having intestinal problems, which he's had before." But it's not like that gung-ho acting trouper to miss a curtain call — especially this one since it's clear that "Venus" seems likely to bring Oscar's biggest loser (7 defeats) his "lovely bugger" — what he calls the elusive statuette — at last. Peter wants the bugger so badly that he nearly refused an honorary Oscar from the academy three years ago because he feared it might affect his future chances in the best actor race. Only when he was reminded that Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and Charlie Chaplin all received a competitive Oscar after accepting an honorary one did he consent to the tribute.Venus1aNow "Venus" is in perfect alignment in the cinema firmament to deliver that win for him. When it debuted in Toronto on Friday, the audience was wowed and awestruck. He gives a tour-de-force turn as an aging actor facing his imminent death while shamelessly pining for a defiant teenage tart who reluctantly accepts morsels of his life's wisdom and his innocent advances while scarfing down cheese doodles and chow mein noodles. At first she rudely ignores him and gets nasty, then slowly warms to his brilliant glow within as she grows to depend on him for money and attention and knowledge about the world she's ignored for too long. The uneducated brat has good reason to shun him at the start. He shamelessly lusts after her, but she knows she's safe because he's really impotent after a prostate operation and she also comes to understand that he's just an expiring actor recreating his old randy role as lothario one last time with gusto. Their fierce love-hate relationship is all a bawdy game of sexual teases and power dominance plus a crash course on the meaning of life and love that must be taught before his light goes out.It's a bravura performance, screamingly funny and fiercely dramatic, that shouts "Oscar! Oscar!" Academy members are likely to give it to him, too because "Venus" is so good and they usually respond to guilt trips over their past oversights if enough fuss is made.That means Sir Peter's health must rally so he can get back out onto the campaign trail and seduce everyone with his charm, as he always does, and a fab film.Get better soon, Sir Peter. Your overdue moment of Oscar glory is nigh and we are cheering you on.

September 05, 2006

Venus Reviews starting to come in...

Update: Got two tickets to the premiere of Venus at the Toronto International Film Festival this Saturday at 9pm. O'Toole will be in attendance and I'm going to stake out the red carpet to get some shots as he enters the theatre.

View the trailer for Venus HERE. Peter has an awesome voiceover, doing the 'shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." sonnet by Shakespeare.

I'll use this post to keep track of reviews of VENUS as they come in (it's at the Telluride Festival at the moment)... Check back every now and then for updates. "O'Toole still has that devilishly handsome charm he's always had." ... "His performance is flawless." "O'Toole is a class act by any standards and his work here can't fail to draw attention from awards voters and audiences."

The Envelope (LATimes): "An Oscar, finally, for Peter O'Toole?"

September 01, 2006

Lassie Released in North America


User Jane T. forwarded this review of the North American release of O'Toole's film, "Lassie" from the Chicago Tribune...


Dog and movie lovers, take note: Lassie has come home.

By Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
September 1, 2006

Writer-director Charles Sturridge's "Lassie" revives a well-worn, sometimes grand tradition begun in 1938, when Eric Knight's first Lassie story was published. Since then, Knight's tale, amplified in his later 1940 novel "Lassie Come Home" — about the magnificently faithful English collie who travels 500 miles to return to her youthful master Joe — has inspired more cinema and TV, some good, some fair, than any other dog story, including the collected movie works of Benji and Shiloh.

But the latest movie devoted to the canine legend is, surprisingly, something special. It's not another thin new concoction or glossy update. Set in the original place and period (Yorkshire and Scotland on the eve of World War II), starring a photogenic new collie named Mason, it's easily the best Lassie movie since the classic first film, 1943's "Lassie Come Home."

Like that great little picture, the new "Lassie" is faithful to Knight's story, capturing its sweep, Dickensian social contrasts and high emotion. All that is enhanced by a splendid cast that includes Peter O'Toole, Samantha Morton, Peter Dinklage, Steve Pemberton and Edward Fox — plus two delightful child actors, Jonathan Mason and Hester Odgers, as Joe Carraclough and Cilla (the old Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor roles).

Sturridge takes us to the prewar Yorkshire town of Greenhall, home of the Carracloughs, a sturdy lower-class mining family with a precious jewel of a collie. Though times are rough, 9-year-old Joe's mother and dad, Sarah (Morton) and Sam (John Lynch), initially resist the magisterial Duke of Rudling (O'Toole), who wants to purchase Lassie for his kennel and his spunky little granddaughter, Cilla (Odgers). When the mine closes, though, Joe's parents are forced to reconsider. Lassie is sold.

Unfortunately, the Duke's head kennelman, Hynes (Steve Pemberton), is a sadist who becomes infuriated when the dog keeps escaping to return to Joe. And Lassie's determination perseveres even when the Duke takes her to his distant castle up north, commencing on the odyssey that will carry her through many adventures — notably involving puppeteer Rowlie (Dinklage), a clownish dogcatcher (Gregor Fisher), a courtroom appearance and even (added for this film) a whimsical scene with absent-minded adventurer Fox and the Loch Ness Monster.

What makes Knight's story work so well, still, is its blend of character, action, realism, social edge, fantasy and humor. Lassie is a genuine heroine, and Knight's book, the 1943 movie and this one all make us care deeply about whether she gets home. The last 20 minutes or so had me, I confess, in tears.

They were fairly earned. Sturridge, a master at film literary adaptations, made both the superb 1981 TV serial of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" and the first-rate 1996 version of "Gulliver's Travels." He does just as well by Knight. What makes this film succeed are the director's quiet skill and the all-around excellence of his cast.

O'Toole gives Lord Rudling his old furious eloquence, and Morton and Lynch make a touching couple. The child actors are beguiling, and Pemberton is properly swinish as Hynes. The movie is also full of gem-like cameos and the collie actors (Mason and Dakota, Mason's stunt double) hold the camera as strongly as did Pal, the great first Lassie.

"Lassie's" most memorable performance is supplied by Dinklage, the powerful little actor of "The Station Agent," as the gypsy showman Rowlie. The scenes in his horse and carriage caravan and the feeling he gives of the special world of outsiders and artists have a discretion and subtlety that break your heart.

MPAA rating: PG for some mild violent content and language

A Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn release. Writer-director Charles Sturridge. Producers Ed Guiney, Francesca Barra, Sturridge. Director of photography Howard Atherton. Editors Peter Coulson, Adam Green.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes."

August 23, 2006

O'Toole to Visit Toronto to Promote VENUS at T.I.F.F.???

OK so now I'm a little excited. Peter will most likely be passing through Toronto during the International Film Festival here in September. His film, Venus, distributed by Miramax in the States and presumably Alliance Atlantis here in Canada, is not a gala film, but this is the first venue to screen VENUS for critics, so it's logical he would attend. The press certainly seem to think so.

"O'Toole impotent? Never!" - Daily Mail
Will Peter O'Toole AUTOMATICALLY win this year? - Discussion on award hopes for O'Toole in Venus.
A collection of images from the film are at Nicola Dove Photography.

I think I'm going to try and get an interview with Peter - as I did unsuccessfully when he was last in town promoting "Rock My World", which was shot in Burlington (near Toronto). Wish me luck!

April 07, 2006

O'Toole as Lawrence = Greatest Performance of All Time


Peter O'Toole's performance as Lawrence of Arabia in the eponymous 1962 David Lean epic film has been voted the greatest of all time, reports the Sun Online, as chosen by the film magazine Premiere.

"Part of the legend surrounding this mightiest and yet most intimate of epics—and surrounding O’Toole, who fearlessly and often dazzlingly dominates almost every scene—is that the role was first offered to both Marlon Brando and Albert Finney. We thank the movie gods that director David Lean spotted O’Toole “playing a silly-ass Englishman in a trout-fishing scene,” as he recalled, in the actor’s third movie, The Day They Robbed the Bank of England. The measure of what O’Toole, then 30, accomplished is that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the part. Whether supremely self-confident or querulous, deeply wounded or frighteningly vengeful, O’Toole manages to achieve the many shades of an unfathomable man. And when the time comes to show a shattered Lawrence (after a torture sequence in a Turkish prison, which the expanded 1989 rerelease made all the more suggestive of rape), he does so with heartbreaking frailty. Amid so much tragedy and grandeur, the dark wit in the performance is sometimes forgotten, as when he’s promoted to major by a pompous general and patiently rejoins in his plummy English accent, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.” The shoot was a harsh test in the North African desert (though he and costar Omar Sharif often fled to Beirut for drinking bouts), and the last shots were made with O’Toole’s feet soaking in an ice bucket in a Jeep. He would say good-naturedly that the role haunted him for the rest of his life (indeed, having lost the Oscar to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird, he was jinxed with six more nominations but no wins before getting an honorary statuette when he was 70). Thus he would say of the experience (during which he was knocked out twice, sprained both ankles, and dislocated his spine), “I was obsessed. . . . I spent two years and three months thinking about nothing but Lawrence. Day after day. It was bad for me. It killed my acting later on.” Whatever the cost, his pal Richard Burton rightly included him among “the odd few men and women who, once or twice in a lifetime, elevate [acting] into something odd and mystical and deeply disturbing."

March 23, 2006

Bet on Peter to win Best Actor Oscar for 2006!


"18 March 2006O'TOOLE OF THE TRADEBack acting legend for NEXT YEAR'S OscarDerek McgovernYOU know how in TV whodunnits you always ignore the obvious suspect because he's, well, too obvious? Well it's like that in betting too.The more obvious a team or a horse or a Pop Idol, the more you try to find one to beat it.For instance France looked absolute certainties at the start of the Six Nations but I bet not too many of us backed them. Brave Inca had even stronger claims in Tuesday's Champion Hurdle but our money instead went on Mac's Joy or Hardy Eustace or Asian Maze. And even now there will be punters out there looking to oppose Barcelona in the Champions League while deep down recognising the futility of such actions.Of course what's obvious to punters is obvious to bookies too so the odds in all three cases above almost demanded that we look elsewhere. But today I give you an obvious winner - at far-from-obvious odds.Less than a fortnight ago Hills took a bet of £100 at 33-1 for Peter O'Toole to win a Best Actor Oscar next year.Now one thing punters don't do is back O'Toole at the Oscars. He's the Jimmy White of the Academy - he chokes so much on the big night that he'd be ideal for lead role in The Boston Strangler. But something about this bet made perfect sense. Picture perfect sense.AdvertisementFalk AdSolutionO'Toole, you see, is a constant source of embarrassment to Academy voters who cannot believe they have twice honoured Tom Hanks yet largely ignored one of the greatest actors in movie history.To salve their conscience, three years ago they offered him one of those honorary awards they give every year to the oldest duffer they can think of - Teddy Sheringham's in line for one next year. To his credit O'Toole declined, saying (in reference to a proper Oscar): "I'm still in the game. I might yet win the lovely bugger outright." Seven times O'Toole has been nominated for Best Actor. Seven times he's had to force a smile - the kind the Miss World runner-up bestows on the winner - while another name was called. With that kind of practice no wonder he's a great actor.To luckless O'Toole the five words "And the Oscar goes to..." must engender the same kind of feelings other blokes get when they hear "I'm pregnant - and it's yours." Word on the street is that the Academy are so desperate to give the great man an Oscar he could play the Tin Man in a remake of Wizard Of Oz and still get the nod.Well it just so happens that O'Toole is playing arguably the part of his life - his first lead role in 20 years - in the soon-to-be-released Venus. In it he plays an ageing actor smitten by a much younger woman. And he's in virtually every scene.Hills say they suspect the £100 bet was placed by an insider on the movie - but it could very well have been struck by O'Toole himself.The 73-year-old spent years of his boyhood at the races as the son of an Irish bookie. He played inveterate gambler and Sporting Life columnist Jeffrey Bernard on the London stage a few years ago. And the Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights of his year, along with the Six Nations Championship.He said recently: "When my father came home from the track after a good day the whole room would light up' it was fairyland. But when he lost, it was black. In our house, it was always either a wake or a wedding."Somehow you suspect if anyone from the Venus team is backing O'Toole to win Best Actor Oscar, it's O'Toole.Henry Fonda, after a zillion superb performances, finally won his first Best Actor Oscar as an old man for On Golden Pond. O'Toole in my book is nailed on to become another successful OAP (Oscar-awarded pensioner). It's obvious, isn't it?"

February 08, 2006

The Final Curtain showing this morning on the Sundance Channel


One of O'Toole's 'lost films', The Final Curtain, done in 2002 but it never seemed to make it to DVD release, is being shown on the Sundance channel this morning, so I'm told (thanks Paul!) ... if you can, record it! I don't have access to the channel so I'm a bit jealous of those who do right now... Whoever does see it, write a review and send it my way!

Follow-up: it's not so lost after all - The Final Curtain is available in the UK on PAL-format DVD. Amazon carries it and it is probably findable via Ebay as well. [thanks, Susan and Marie-Noëlle!]

January 13, 2006

O'Toole relishes lead role in "Venus"


"Why I'm Still Hoping for an Oscar" (Telegraph)

"After a succession of cameos, Peter O'Toole is relishing his first lead role for 20 years - as an old man smitten by a young woman. He talks exclusively to David Gritten on the set of VenusThree years ago, the American film Academy wrote to Peter O'Toole, then 70, and offered him an honorary Oscar. This was a belated method of correcting an embarrassing omission: O'Toole was nominated for seven Oscars between 1963 and 1983, but never won one. It was also a way for the Academy to salute a great actor in the autumn of his years.Peter O'Toole in VenusPeter O'Toole, on the set of his new film Venus: 'for years, I've been the token geriatric'But the ploy almost backfired. O'Toole, choosing his words scrupulously, wrote back to say that though "enchanted" by the offer, he was too young for an honorary Oscar. He asked the Academy to defer the honour until he was 80. "I'm still in the game," he observed memorably, "and might win the lovely bugger outright!" The Academy gave him the award anyway, but O'Toole's latest project shows that he is as determined as ever not to rest on his laurels.I met him on the set of Venus, directed by Roger Michell, in which he plays Maurice, an old actor living off the odd cameo role and TV appearances, one of which is as a corpse in a hospital drama. His best friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) is also a grumpy old actor; they sit in cafés and moan about their ailments.But things take a turn when Ian's great-niece Jessie (played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker) arrives to take care of him. She turns out to be plain, coarse and a heavy drinker with an unhappy secret. Ian resents her presence, but O'Toole's Maurice is smitten by her, and tries to turn her head by exposing her to culture. Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice's deserted wife and Richard Griffiths as another actor round out the impressive cast.One sees why O'Toole jumped at the part. Hanif Kureishi has written a hugely impressive script - funny, poignant, wise and politically incorrect in equal measure. The relationship between Maurice and Jessie is partly erotic, though never consummated. Venus may be seen as a companion piece to Kureishi and Michell's last film The Mother, about a woman in her sixties who takes a younger lover. But its mood is more positive and comedic."It's wonderful," says O'Toole. "I confess that, three or four years ago, I said I wished someone had the guts to write an unfeasible story about a young woman and an old man. It's a taboo subject. But it does happen."I suggest he must be delighted that anyone would write a starring role for a 73-year-old. "Oh man, you can say that again," he says, beaming. A pause for effect: "Mind you, I could do without being in every f***ing scene. It's tiring."If he's fatigued, it's hardly surprising. It's his first substantial lead role in two decades, since My Favourite Year (1982). Since then, his film work largely consists of cameos; most recently, he played a duke in Lassie."For the past few years, I've been the token geriatric, which suits me down to the ground," he says. "I love slithering up and down in nighties, playing kings, priests, colonels, dukes. I like all that."This time, he's not the token geriatric but the star geriatric, and he looks a fright. We are in an unlovely setting: a further education college in north London. O'Toole is dressed bizarrely in a Viyella shirt with cravat, olive trousers, a red fleece, green socks and a shapeless woolly hat. He has shaved only cursorily. Only when he fixes his gaze on you with those piercing eyes do you recall the dashing, handsome leading man he was in his prime.His astonishing film CV starts with Lawrence of Arabia and includes Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye Mr Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man and My Favourite Year. O'Toole was nominated for an Oscar as lead actor in all these films; his innate charm and his reputation for hell-raising only enhanced his status as a star.He enjoys playing a lead role, but it isn't easy for him. "Peter's very game," says Roger Michell. "The only difficult thing is, he's old. You can't just get him up at seven in the morning and start rolling. He needs time to thaw out, warm up. He needs to be treated with care."Specifically, O'Toole feels the cold. "The action of Venus takes place around Christmas, and we've been shooting exteriors for weeks," he winces. "Lots of wandering round alleys, parks, canals. It's so bloody cold."The Lion in WinterWith Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in WinterSo he has insisted on one comfort: a yellow and white survival tent, to which he adjourns between scenes on location. The crew can assemble it in 25 seconds; inside is a director's chair and a butane heater. "I creep in there and sit and keep warm until the next shot," he says fondly.The tent has become a jokey event and was used at several locations, including Trafalgar Square, outside the Royal Court theatre, in Carnaby Street, and on a Thames-side jetty. The production photographs it each time. "We're thinking of entering the photos for the Turner Prize," says Venus producer Kevin Loader, perfectly deadpan.O'Toole roars with laughter when the subject comes up. He's accustomed to spacious trailers and five-star treatment, but the more spartan conditions on a low-budget (£3 million) British film do not bother him.He's also used to films that close off city streets to shoot a scene, but he and Redgrave were shot from a discreet distance, strolling among real pedestrians on Kentish Town Road. Similarly, at Victoria Station for a scene in which O'Toole's Maurice was in physical distress, passers-by approached him, concerned for an old man's health. "Peter knows the point of shooting a scene in the real world," Michell says, approvingly.'We wanted a real film star," Loader says, "someone who would really bring a lot of baggage in an interesting way. We did have a list, but it's not a long one. We wanted the possibility of someone who could give a different performance, something people wouldn't expect. And it takes bravery. Peter's pretty raw in this. He's not made up, barely shaven half the time, acting older than he is, sometimes."His age can make fellow workers nervous. O'Toole was fitted with kneepads for a scene I saw, when he climbs on a closed door to peer through a pane of glass and watch an unclothed Jessie posing in the manner of The Rokeby Venus for a life class. Maurice must stumble, crash through the door and send easels flying. O'Toole did it flawlessly.Yet he fell and broke his hip on Boxing Day, while on a break from filming. He swiftly had a hip replacement, but the resumption of shooting Venus was postponed for three weeks.It will take more than such a setback to convince him he was wrong initially to rebuff the Academy's offer of an honorary Oscar. "You simply have to believe you have a future," he insists. "The moment actors start thinking otherwise, they're dead. We have to be optimistic. We have to believe that whatever we're doing, that we're the best actor, that audiences will come pouring in."He smiles mischievously. "Or that a script like Venus will come through your door."Life of a hellraiser# Born Peter Seamus O'Toole in 1932 in Connemara, Co Galway, Ireland, before moving with his family to England as a young boy, eventually settling in Leeds.# Left school at 14 to join the Yorkshire Evening Post as a cub reporter.# Enrolled at Rada on a scholarship in 1953. His year group included Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Richard Harris.# Joined Bristol Old Vic and played Hamlet at the age of 24.# Married actress Siân Phillips in 1958 and had two daughters. After divorce in 1979, he had a short-lived affair with model Karen Brown; they had a son in 1983.# His role as TE Lawrence in the epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) brought worldwide acclaim.# In 1975, became seriously ill with pancreatitis aggravated by heavy drinking.# Last year, took his first role for the BBC for more than 10 years as the ageing Casanova in BBC3's three-part drama of the same name."

December 12, 2005

Joan Plowright acts with Lorcan O'Toole in "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont"

Joan Plowright, who starred with Peter O'Toole in "Global Heresy/Rock My World" in 2002, has the lead role in "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont", and she shares the screen (albeit only briefly) with Peter's son, Lorcan - his big screen debut. A short review can be found here.

December 08, 2005

"It's not about me, it's about the dog"

"He's frequently referred to as one of the greatest actors of all time, but Peter O'Toole tells Grace Hammond why he doesn't mind being upstaged by a dog in the new film of Lassie." - from Yorkshire Today.

December 06, 2005

O'Toole takes it all in his stride

Manchester online: the upcoming release of Lassie has the pundits asking O'Toole why he's gone against the old cliche, never work with children and animals.

"Don't act with children and dogs?" He smiles. "Well, try children, dogs, horses and hounds, coal miners and a fox. Try acting with that lot. Very tricky. It's painstaking and you need a lot of patience. Which fortunately our director Charles Sturridge did have."

November 29, 2005

Updates on O'Toole, Kate and Sian

O'Toole to star in "Venus" with Vanessa Redgrave, the film is to be directed by Roger Mitchell ("Enduring Love", "Notting Hill"), written by Hanif Kureishi ("The Buddha of Suburbia").

"The 'coming of very old age' story stars the pair as Maurice and Ian, two unsuccessful English actors who eek out a living doing bit parts in TV and film.When Ian's grand-niece Jessie comes to stay, Maurice shows her the sites and sounds of London while trying to teach the youngster a thing or two about life.All does not go according to plan however, and Maurice ends up learning some hard lessons about himself.Co-starring Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths, the film also introduces newcomer Jodie Whittaker as Jessie."

Sian Phillips has been interviewed by the Times Online on her upcoming role as Miss Havisham in the RSC's production of Great Expectations. Some good bits about her relationship with Peter O'Toole.

Kate O'Toole in a production of Lennox Robinson's 1930's comedy, "Drama at Inish", playing until Dec 31 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

November 07, 2005

O'Toole to star with Colin Firth in La Fenice (2006)

The IMDB lists O'Toole as starring in the in-production film, La Fenice - based on the murder-mystery novel "Death at La Fenice" by Italian author Donna Leon.

October 11, 2005

O'Toole Attends Savannah Film Fest for Second Year


O'Toole Attends Savannah Film Festival

"Earlier that day, O'Toole had posed for pictures in front of Savannah College of Art and Design Trustees Theater. As one SUV after another slowed down to stare - Lawrence of Arabia on East Broughton? - the actor waved majestically. It was a slightly more elegant, certainly more theatrical, variation on the Queen Elizabeth version."

More on the festival here.
O'Toole was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at last year's festival.

ShowbizIreland has some good shots of O'Toole during the shooting of "Lassie"

September 27, 2005

O'Toole Narrates "Mystic India" IMAX film

Peter O'Toole is the narrator for the newly released IMAX film, "Mystic India".

"Narrated by legendary screen actor, Peter O’Toole, Mystic India provides a look at the culture and history of India by following the true story of Neelkanth, a young yogi who lived in India 200 years ago. From 1792 through 1799, Neelkanth embarked on a spiritual quest, walking alone and barefoot 8,000 miles over the length and breadth of India. His journey ended in Loj, where a great saint and teacher, Ramanand Swami, persuaded Neelkanth to become his successor. From that point forward, Neelkanth was known as Bhagwan Swaminarayan, and grew to be one of the great spiritual leaders and social reformers in Indian history."
Official site here.

September 13, 2005

O'Toole to be on ITV's "Avenue of the Stars"

Peter's name will be added on a Silver Star to ITV's "Avenue of the Stars" walkway in London's Covent Garden, it was announced today. His name will be added, with many others, to celebrate ITV's 50th Anniversary.

July 10, 2005

Some Images Recently Found on the web...


O'Toole Receives Savannah Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement award, October 27, 2004. "from Savannah College of Art and Design President Paula S. Wallace, center, in Savannah, Ga. O'Toole was recently given an honorary Academy Award for a movie career that spans over four decades and includes seven Oscar nominations. Man at right in photo is unidentified. Photo by Stephen Morton" (link)

A collection of behind-the-scenes photos from the production of Troy produced this find..


The Photographer Claude Azoulay took this one in Paris, 1963.


And the photographer Colin Thomas took this one:


In "Augustus" (2004)


As Casanova (2005) - the poster for the miniseries


July 07, 2005

Lassie Update: Time Article


One of our regular readers (thanks Jeff!) provided a scanned version of the Time Magazine article! You can download it here: lassie.pdf

July 04, 2005

O'Toole attends funeral for Sir John Mills


Daily Telegraph

Sir John Mills, one of the greats of the British theatre and cinema, age 97, died in April - his memorial service was held last week. O'Toole attended the service, as did a who's who of the British acting scene - including Sir Michael Caine, Dame Judy Dench, Herbert Lom, Stephen Fry, Sir Richard Attenborough and Sir Cliff Richard.

Strangely enough, my sister-in-law Cheryl reports from London: [her boyfriend] "Will had lunch in the same room as O'Toole today at the clients' club downtown... along with some guy from Bond movies who used to bang Marilyn Monroe." - no word on who the actor was O'Toole was lunching with...!

(another story at HELLO! Magazine...)

July 03, 2005

O'Toole's take on Lassie in Time Magazine

Sunday, Jul. 03, 2005
Old Dog, New Tricks
That indomitable collie Lassie is back--and you'll never guess whom she brought with her

Peter O'Toole has faced down some acting challenges in his day. (Lawrence of Arabia springs to mind.) But the movie he is making now is particularly treacherous. "What's the old cliché?" he asks. "Don't act with children and dogs? Well, try children, dogs, horses and hounds, coal miners, a motor car formerly the property of the late George Raft, and a fox. Try acting with that lot, which I did the other day. Verrrrry tricky." O'Toole, 72, knew when he signed up for the remake of Lassie that there would be a collie, a massive hunt scene in which his character would chase a fox down a coal mine in an old Duesenberg and two 9-year-old co-stars. "I'm not complaining," he says, sitting in his trailer and munching on licorice jujubes, "just amazed. Strange old business, film is. Strange old business."

That anyone would decide to remake Lassie is in itself not so odd. Far worse properties have been rehashed, and at least director Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited, Shackleton) will be classing up the old dog a bit, not only by casting O'Toole, Samantha Morton and Peter Dinklage in major roles but also by taking the story back to its pre--Timmy's-trapped-in-a-well roots. "I never saw the TV show, and I can't recall any of the films," says Sturridge, who hopes to have his movie ready for a Christmas release. "But the original novel"--Lassie Come-Home, written by Eric Knight in 1940--"was set in Yorkshire, and it had a certain prewar British integrity about it. In current children's films, you have to be ironic to reach the parents in the audience. It's a profitable formula, but this film won't appeal to one audience over the heads of another. It looks the whole audience in the eye."

The production itself is a little less straightforward. For tax reasons, the Isle of Man is standing in for Yorkshire, while, for reasons clear only to Classic Media, holder of the rights to Lassie, everyone on the set is required to stick to the fiction that Lassie is being played by a single dog named Lassie. Actually, three collies named Carter, Mason and Dakota share the part. "We have the stunt dog, the running dog and the picture dog," trainer Mathilde de Cagny whispers. "We do a little bit of makeup on the picture dog to darken him up. He's lighter than the others, so we had a special dog colorist from Los Angeles come in. She has vegetable dyes that do the trick." No makeup can disguise the fact that all three Lassies are male. "We count on the fur to hide that," says de Cagny. A strange business indeed.

Perhaps because there are three of them, the dogs are not the biggest stars on the set. "The fox is completely breathtaking," says Sturridge. "In your soul you know that a dog can be trained, and you think, Well, no, not a fox. So when you see a fox run and stop exactly where you've told it to stop, you go, For f____'s sake, that is amazing." O'Toole, as the imperious duke who buys Lassie from a struggling coal-mining family and takes the dog away to his Scottish manse, is not as easy to control, but he is a significantly better quote. With little prompting, he tells stories about growing up near the Yorkshire Dales ("We used to pee at the junction of the Ribble and Aire rivers to see whose would go to the Irish Sea and whose would go to the North Sea!"), ignoring the advice of theater directors ("barnstorm führers, the lot") and mocking "gibberish spouting" method actors. "When you're playing Hamlet, and you and Horatio are up on the battlements, Horatio says, 'But, look, the morn in russet mantle clad/ Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill.' Well, it isn't! You're looking at Charlie the prop man with a fag in his gob. It's pretend, for God's sake!"

O'Toole retired from the theater in 1999 ("Playing a leading role is too exhausting, and I won't shuffle on as an old butler. I won't."), and because of his age and accomplishments, he tends to get typecast in boringly prestigious movie roles, such as Priam in 2004's Troy. "I spent the film slithering around in a piece of old chiffon," he says sadly. Sturridge wrote the part of Lassie's duke to give O'Toole a chance to let loose again. "I wanted a character who was both exciting to children and at the same time dangerous," says Sturridge. "I had Peter in mind, and it has been great to see him use his anarchic energy again." O'Toole appreciates the opportunity but understands that "the film isn't about me, it's about the dog. Admittedly, the dog isn't all that good an actor, but with the right cuts and perhaps a lamb chop, we'll get the job done."

June 27, 2005

O'Toole comments on the current state of Hollywood

Is Hollywood on a Slow Death March?

"Film actor, Peter O’Toole, one who doesn’t hesitate to make his voice heard, noted: “There was something very brash, yet regal about Hollywood when I first arrived in the place. I would say, there was a curiosity about the stars and the people who brought bigger than life characters onto the screen. Now, because of television, cable and also the invasion of the computer into our lives, there is a problem of overexposure – if you want to find out something about an artist, you simply go online, and there you have it. The glamour as it was is gone. When watching premieres, what do you see? People attending wearing tennis shoes or looking as if they had just emerged from a shower. So, where are the role models – of course, there are few stars that have maintained certain standards of dress and behavior but they are very few. I must confess that the Hollywood that I once knew and admired is nearly gone – dead, unfortunately.”

June 24, 2005

Lassie Production Under Fire

Lassie boycotted by angry fans -

"The latest Lassie movie is under fire because the lead role has not been given to a descendent of the original canine star for the first time.Fans of the legendary movies are outraged, as every Lassie film or television series since 1946 has starred a member of the first Lassie's extended family.But Classic Media - who produce the upcoming Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton film - insist there are logistical reasons behind their unpopular decision.A spokesman says: "There are only a few bloodline Lassies that are trained sufficiently to star in a major film and unfortunately none of these dogs had the necessary paperwork - called a pet passport - to travel and wo rk internationally."
(Ireland On-Line)

June 15, 2005

O'Toole leapt to take on Jeffrey Bernard role. after reading script...

From today's Guardian Unlimited: "Waterhouse crafted the play by distilling Jeff's wonderful Low Life columns in The Spectator, and by adding a large measure of his own comic genius he fashioned one of the funniest plays in the English language. The script was so good that when Waterhouse first sent a copy to Peter O'Toole he received a message on his answering machine cursing him for altering the actor's life. O'Toole had intended to take the following year off work, but the prospect of doing the play so excited him he decided he must commit to it immediately."
(full article)


Under Milk Wood is slated for DVD release on August 9th. (

May 28, 2005

Svengali Released on DVD

O'Toole's Svengali (with Jodie Foster, 1983) has been re-released on DVD, according to long-time reader Jeff Swindoll. Thanks for the heads-up, Jeff!
It's available at for $9.98, although has it for $5.99!

Another upcoming O'Toole DVD re-release is What's New Pussycat (1965) - one of my favourite of Peter's british comedies. No word on extra features. It's slated for release on June 7th.

May 16, 2005

Another Lassie Article.

Peter O'Toole vs. Lassie (

"About this time last year I had a chance to meet Peter O'Toole. It was at the press junket for Troy, and even though the room I was in was packed (Warners was doing the day mostly press conference style, which I hate), he took the time to walk around the room and meet every person in it. That's class. Also, he smoked in the non-smoking rooms because he's Peter Fucking O'Toole and unless you have a Cousin Balki you don't even try to tell him no.The guy's old. He's lived a helluva life and you can read it on his face. But the sad fact is that one of these days one of the movies he makes is going to be his last movie. And I hope that it isn't the upcoming Lassie film (I wonder if Raoul Julia is in heaven cursing his casting agent for making him go out with Street Fighter).In the new Lassie, based on the novel Lassie Come Home, O'Toole will play the Duke of Rudling, who buys Lassie from a poor family. When the collie is moved 500 miles away to the Duke's castle, he (she? I think the dog's a dude but always played by a bitch) runs away and has amazing adventures in England on the eve of WWII, trying to get home for Christmas."

May 12, 2005

O'Toole to star in Irish "Lassie" film.

BBC News UK: "Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton have signed up to appear in a new Lassie film, to be shot in Ireland and the Isle of Man later this month.Lassie, directed by Britain's Charles Sturridge, will also star John Lynch, Jemma Redgrave and Steve Pemberton from TV comedy the League of Gentlemen.The cast also includes Rab C Nesbitt star Gregor Fisher.Sturridge also wrote the screenplay, based on Eric Knight's classic 1938 novel Lassie Come Home.Entertainment Film Distributors will distribute the film in the UK, according to reports from the Cannes film festival.Deals have also been reached in Japan, the Middle East and various territories in Europe.Plucky collie Lassie made his first screen appearance in 1943's Lassie Come Home, starring Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor.However, he has not been seen on the big screen since 1994.The new film is being produced by Firstsight Films, Classic Media and Ireland's Element Films, producers of Omagh and The Magdalene Sisters."

Other articles on this story:; Yahoo Finance

March 29, 2005

O'Toole Slams Troy (again) in Radio Times interview

Troy Movie Was Like A Hovis Ad, Says O'Toole
By Anita Singh, PA Showbusiness Editor(the Scotsman)
"Veteran actor Peter O’Toole has revealed what he really thinks of movie epic Troy.
The Lawrence of Arabia star said the big-budget film reminded him of a Hovis advert.
It was panned by critics – and O’Toole, who appeared opposite Brad Pitt, said he can see why.

In an interview with the Radio Times, the 72-year-old said: “I call it ‘Trovis’ – after watching 50 minutes I found myself in quiet despair, and suddenly that Hovis advert came into my mind over Brad Pitt’s face.

“I got the chuckles and had to leave.”
O’Toole played King Priam and Pitt played Achilles in the £111 million movie which was poorly received by the world’s critics.

It was dubbed “Homer-lite” while one critic described it as “utterly preposterous”.
Elsewhere in the interview, O’Toole raged against the state of British theatre.

The Irish-born actor, who has enjoyed an acclaimed stage career and received an honorary Oscar, said: “There are always promising young actors, and today the sensible ones f*** off from what calls itself ‘the theatre’ as soon as they can because it’s such badly-done s***.

“Do you feel you can hop on a bus to the West End and see the likes of Paul Scofield, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier?

“The Old Vic and Stratford were places where the best actors in the English-speaking world did their greatest work. That was their remit – not whether a third-rate, biddable a***hole could do 39 productions of As You Like It upside down with red noses. The bulbous, state-run theatre provides a healthy living for smart-alec t****.”

The father of three added: “I tell my children to avoid theatre and go into cinema and TV.”O’Toole’s latest role is in the BBC3 drama Casanova, in which he plays the ageing Lothario looking back on his life."

More links to the story:,, The SunUK.

March 24, 2005

Soundtrack to Man of La Mancha re-released.


from M&C Soundtracks:

"The latest details of the cover artwork for the forthcoming 'Man Of La Mancha: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack' have been released.

Music by Mitch Leigh. Lyrics by Joe Darion.
Music Adapted and Conducted by Laurence Rosenthal. Release Date: 4/12/05

Peter O’Toole lights up the screen in this offbeat but colorful adaptation of the 1965 stage musical adapted from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. O’Toole tackles a dual role, playing both Cervantes and his classic character with style and verve. He’s delightful as Quixote, the 17th-century Spaniard afflicted with a dementia that makes him think he’s a medieval knight, duty-bound to uphold the age of chivalry and vanquish evildoers. James Coco plays his loyal sidekick, Sancho Panza, and Sophia Loren fills the role of Dulcinea, the peasant woman whom Quixote would champion. Director Arthur Hiller doesn’t concern himself overly with the original show’s “book,” written by Dale Wasserman; instead, he makes the film a vehicle for the Mitch Leigh-Joe Darion music. O’Toole, gets the memorable numbers (including the beloved standard The Impossible Dream) and performs them in grand manner, even though his singing is dubbed by British actor-singer Simon Gilbert.

Laurence Rosenthal earned an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of the songs and score."

March 21, 2005

Good write-up on O'Toole in BBC's "Casanova"

O'Toole as the Older Casanova

Guardian UK has this to say about O'Toole in the BBC's "Casanova", in which O'Toole plays the renowned lover in his twilight years:

"...In a stroke of casting genius, Peter O'Toole, looking spookily like the painting Willem Dafoe must have in his attic, plays the ageing lothario with a galaxy-worth of twinkles."

The Herald has a good notice too:

"How can you lose with a film that contains both Venice and Peter O'Toole?"
"What really lifts the production, a film better by far than BBC Three has ever deserved, is, first, the acting. O'Toole, languid as ever, still has the ability to let you see the embers of passion blazing in his eyes."

And here's a short bit from the Belfast Telegraph:

"Peter O'Toole played old Casanova with charming menace."

February 02, 2005

Update - O'Toole around the 'web...

Tom Alter with Peter O'Toole - ( Bollywood actor gushes after his experience acting opposite O'Toole in "One Night with the King" - O'Toole played Samuel to Alter's King Saul. The film was shot in Rajasthan.

November 01, 2004

O'Toole to Star Again with Sharif; Calls Troy Director a Kraut

Peter's in the news again - he's starring with his old friend Omar Sharif in "One Night with the King" - no, it's not about Elvis. Still in production, the film is slated for release in 2005.
From the press release:
"The film chronicles the life of the young Jewish girl, Hadassah, played by newcomer Tiffany Dupont. Dupont portrays the rags-to-riches heroine who goes on to become the Biblical Esther, the Queen of Persia (400–322 B.C.), who saves the Jewish nation from annihilation at the hands of its arch enemy Haman (played by James Callis) while winning the heart of the fiercely handsome King Xerxes, played by Luke Goss.

Links: PR Leap; Guardian UnlimitedUK

O'Toole wins IFTA Best Supporting Actor Award for Troy RoleTimes Online

O'Toole voted one of the Greatest Actors of all Time (Empire Magazine UK)
News Scotsman
He's listed at #22, behind other UK actors Anthony Hopkins (6th), Sean Connery (13), Ian McKellen (15), Alan Rickman (19), Christopher Lee (16) and Judi Dench (20).

NY Daily News covers O'Toole at Savannah Film Festival:
"The 71-year-old Oscar-winner has been communing with the dead down at the just-wrapped Savannah Film Festival. The impish Irishman made a nighttime visit to the St. Bonaventure Cemetery, where he did a little jig at the grave of composer Johnny Mercer while singing Mercer's "Jeepers Creepers."

Fortified with red wine, O'Toole also had a merry time testing film critic Roger Ebert and actor Jason Patric on their knowledge of William Butler Yeats' poetry as they walked to a party. (The three-block walk took 45 minutes.)"

O'Toole calls Wolfgang Peterson a Kraut (
"Veteran actor Peter O'Toole has unleashed a severe attack on the director of his last film, 'Troy'.

According to Femalefirst, he has reportedly rendered the epic movie as a "a disaster" and has branded German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen "a clown."

"Ugh, what a disaster. The director, that kraut, what a clown he was," he said when asked about the movie at the Savannah Film Festival.

"When it was all over, I watched 15 minutes of the finished movie and then walked out," he added.(ANI)"

Bright Young Things to be released on DVD in Feb, 2005 - DVD Answers