Peter O’Toole, the virtuoso thespian who brought Lawrence of Arabia to life, announced his retirement this morning. In a statement, the actor explains his decision to “chuck in the sponge,” in his words, as a result of a loss of the “heart” required for the job:
My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort… However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.
O’Toole, who was born in 1932, has worked steadily in recent years: He’s been in the series The Tudors and the film Ratatouille (as the voice of the food critic Anton Ego), and he was also seen in the movie Prometheus, when the character David watches Lawrence of Arabia.
The Irish-born British actor’s career spanned nearly six decades, beginning after his service in the Royal Navy. In addition to Lawrence of Arabia, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, his memorable films include Goodbye Mr. Chips, My Favorite Year and The Lion in Winter. In the theater, he is perhaps best known for his numerous roles as Shakespearian leading men. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2003, adding to his Emmy, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award wins.
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Fans of classic cinema may be less dry-eyed than O’Toole himself, but they can take consolation in the fact that several film projects in which he appears, such as Katherine of Alexandria, are due to be released in the next year. Not surprisingly, O’Toole does plan to do some work after retirement: he’s writing a third volume of his memoirs.