07-29-2001 Sunday Mirror
By EAMONN O'HANLON
ACTING legend Peter O'Toole convinced fans he was already dead when he went on telly to talk about old age and plans for his send-off.
Dimwits across the States began bombarding websites dedicated to the Irish-born star with heartfelt tributes after two American networks put out three separate interviews with 69-year-old O'Toole within 24 hours.
First up was CBS's 60 Minutes where he spoke about the death of Spencer Tracey and his friendship with Katharine Hepburn.
Then CNN ran an interview about Lawrence of Arabia.
Next night CBS waded in again with an hour-long pre-recorded interview with O'Toole. On it he happily confessed he regarded the rigors of old age as "a gas".
O'Toole, who was born in Connemara, told viewers he had already chosen his epitaph from the sticker that comes with his dry cleaning.
"It was on a leather jacket and I thought it would be a fitting epitaph in a comic sort of way," he said.
"It said, 'It distresses us to return work which is not perfect'. And it will do."
As he spoke, dozens of reports of the star's sad demise were starting to pop up on fan websites.
"I can't believe he's gone - what a man, what a talent," one message read.
One British-run site issued a statement reassuring fans that O'Toole was still very much alive.
"People watching these show heard the talk about old age, funerals and death and assumed they were some sort of obituary," said one website insider. "Peter would probably be amused and perhaps just a little flattered at all the attention."
Cinema-goers will see O'Toole later this year with Ireland's Aidan Gillen in The Final Curtain - his first big movie role for years in which he plays a scheming TV host.
He is also said to be involved in another forthcoming drama, with Alicia Silverstone, Joan Plowright and Men Behaving Badly star Martin Clunes.