Peter O’Toole was a character of Hollywood lore — a talented stage and film actor who caroused with the likes of Richard Burton and Richard Harris. His greatest achievement has long been considered his work in Lawrence of Arabia, but the inimitable actor is celebrated as one of the industry’s greatest performers. O’Toole received eight Oscar nominations for roles in movies spanning five decades, setting the record for receiving the most nominations without a win.
The Academy lionized the Irish-born actor only once, in 2003, with an honorary Oscar for his life achievement. “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,” he famously quipped in his acceptance.
In tribute to O’Toole’s passing, here’s a look at his eight Oscar-worthy performances that may have fallen short of a golden statuette, but left an indelible mark on Hollywood’s history.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The then-minor movie actor rose to international fame in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. O’Toole was cast in the leading role of T.E. Lawrence, the historic British World War I soldier known for leading an Arab rebellion against the Turks.
Richard Burton played opposite O’Toole in the 1964 film adaptation of the play Becket or The Honour of God. O’Toole played King Henry II, a role he would return to for his next major film. Burton and O’Toole shared a friendship famously known for heavy drinking and carousing.
A Lion in Winter (1968)
O’Toole reclaimed his role as England’s King Henry II for The Lion in Winter, which also starred Katharine Hepburn and was Anthony Hopkins’s film debut. O’Toole was the only actor to ever be nominated twice for playing the same character in two separate films (Al Pacino was nominated twice for Michael Corleon in the Godfather trilogy, but the second was for a sequel). Hepburn went on to win an Oscar for her role as Eleanor of Aquitaine while O’Toole again fell short.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
The second film adaptation of this 1934 novella centers on a dull English schoolteacher named Arthur Chipping (O’Toole) at a school outside London in the 1920s. Chipping changes his tune when he falls in love with an ostentatious showgirl with a questionable past.
The Ruling Class (1972)
The British comedy was a commercial failure but has since become a cult classic. O’Toole plays a paranoid schizophrenic British nobleman who inherits his father’s title after he dies. Here, O’Toole masterfully screams in one of the film’s scariest moments.
The Stunt Man (1980)
The 1980 flick notched three nominations from the Academy, including Best Director and Best Writing. O’Toole plays an eccentric film director who agrees to hiding a fugitive on the lamb as long as he replaces a movie stunt man.
My Favorite Year (1982)
O’Toole is at home in his role as Alan Swann, an arrogant actor known for his bravado. The film recounts a comedy writer’s favorite year while working on a variety show in the mid 1950s.
The revered performer is cast as a seasoned actor, stricken with cancer, who falls for his friend’s much younger niece. The movie explores the tangled relationship between a man at the end of his life and a girl coping with problems of her own.