Eight-time Oscar nominee Peter O’Toole is hanging it up. In a statement released by his publicist, the actor said, “It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back.”
There’s nothing worse than being on a track once filled with inspiration long after that well has dried up. So as sad as it might be, I’m happy O’Toole recognizes that the art, the work, the business, whatever, is no longer doing it for him. At any age we should focus on what moves us, what inspires us, and relinquish what doesn’t. If we can.
O’Toole never won a competitive Oscar. In fact, he holds the record for nominations without a win amongst actors. His first was a high bar, for “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1963, and a tough loss to Gregory Peck for “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Who’s going to argue with Peck in that? His most recent came for “Venus” in 2006, four years after he was awarded an Honorary Oscar by the Academy.
O’Toole originally declined the Honorary Oscar, saying at the time that since he was “still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright, would the Academy please defer the honour until I am 80?” He later relented and accepted the prize.
Upon accepting the honor (presented to him by actress Meryl Streep) at the 75th annual Academy Awards, O’Toole said, “always a bridesmaid never a bride my foot. I have my very own Oscar now to be with me till death us do part. I wish the Academy to know I am as delighted as I am honored, and I am honored…Having already bagged this baby, as it were, and so spared uncertainties prior the opening of an envelope, I am able to think.” It was one of the best Oscar acceptance speeches I’ve ever seen, eloquent as always.
I don’t want this to sound too much like an obit or anything, though I suppose it is an obit for a career. But the roles are staggering, the performances just as much: “Becket,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “The Ruling Class,” “The Stunt Man,” “My Favorite Year” — and those are just the Oscar-nominated. Otherwise there was “Lord Jim,” “The Last Emperor,” “Man of La Mancha” and a particular stand-out bit in “Ratatouille,” among countless others.
On the stage, he’s done it all, from “Waiting for Godot” to “Macbeth.” He won an Emmy for his work in the 1999 mini-series “Joan of Arc”
And now, it’s a career in the rear view. He may never have won that competitive Oscar, but that frankly catapults him and his legend further. I hope whatever he does next, he finds that he has more than enough “heart for it.”