The king is dead. And there shall never be another.
Could anyone play the royal we with both the audacity of absolute power and the sheer pettiness of a working-man’s spite like Peter O’Toole? Could anyone squeeze privilege, convey menace and fear, and break your heart with abject aloneness like O’Toole?
Lawrence of Arabia. Becket. Lord Jim. The Lion in Winter. Goodbye Mr. Chips. Night of the Generals. Man of La Mancha. What’s New Pussycat? (!), The Stunt Man. My Favorite Year, The Last Emperor.
And a personal guilty-pleasure favorite: Creator.
Premiere magazine named his role as Lawrence the single greatest film performance of all time. Yet not a single Oscar. (He received a “lifetime achievement” sop in 2003, which he didn’t want, and only showed up to receive it when he was assured he was getting it regardless.)
For your viewing pleasure: O’Toole and Orson Welles discuss playing Hamlet.