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September 29, 2006

O'Toole gets more nods from the media for Oscar

"The best individual performance by far was the one by Peter O’Toole, who should finally be given an Academy Award (after seven nominations) for his towering role in Roger Michell’s Venus. The movie is about an older man having one last crush on a young woman. O’Toole’s performance is magnificent — he does Shakespeare, he dances, he flirts, and ultimately breaks your heart."
- Roger Durling in The Santa Barbara Independant

And this from Tom O'Neil on the LA Times' The Envelope:

"Oscar’s golden boys Best actor race pits overdue vets against talented young stars.

September 27, 2006Catch-up seems to be the theme of this year's Oscar race for best actor.After seven failed nominations -- the most in the academy's acting categories without a win -- Peter O'Toole seems to be the frontrunner for his role in "Venus" as a frail old actor about to feel the drop of life's cruel curtain.At age 74, O'Toole's own health is fading (he suffers from "gastric nasties" after a hearty life), so the notoriously sentimental academy may feel like doing what it did for Paul Newman after 6 losses, Al Pacino and Geraldine Page after 7 and John Wayne after a lifetime of little academy attention: give him an Oscar regardless of his film's quality.In O'Toole's case, his movie is superb, which helps. So do his Oscar odds: the academy has yet to subject an actor to 8 or more snubs in a row. However, O'Toole's ole drinking buddy, Richard Burton, went to his grave tied with his former "Becket" costar as the award's biggest loser, so there aren't always happy Oscar endings.One of O'Toole's most serious rivals is a 31-year-old star who's also considered long overdue. Early on in his career, at age 19, Leonardo DiCaprio was considered an academy darling when he was nommed for best supporting actor in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"Then, suddenly and strangely in 1997, it looked like voters struck a mysterious grudge against the star of the most successful film ever made in terms of box-office bucks ($1.8 billion worldwide) and Oscars (11). Everybody on board "Titanic," it seemed, got nominated except its "King of the World."Furious, DiCaprio snubbed voters in return and refused to attend the ceremony where his movie sailed on to tie "Ben-Hur's" record for winning the most awards. Two years ago, however, all of that nonsense was forgotten and DiCaprio scored his first lead-actor bid for "The Aviator." But even though he won the Golden Globe, he lost the Oscar.If this really is a year when voters may play catch-up in the best-actor race, then Hollywooders may prefer to embrace the young heartthrob among them instead of an aging star in far-away Britain.DiCaprio has two movie options for them to choose: as a gem-chasing mercenary in "Blood Diamond" and as an undercover cop who infiltrates the mob in "The Departed." It helps to have two films in the running, as Oscar-overdue Sean Penn learned when he won for "Mystic River" the same year he wowed film critics and audiences in "21 Grams" (2003).That's the same situation DiCaprio's "Departed" costar is in, too -- Matt Damon, who earned an Oscar for co-writing "Good Will Hunting," but has yet to win for acting. In "The Departed," he portrays DiCaprio's opposite -- a mobster who infiltrates the police -- but he may have a better chance to prevail with voters in "The Good Shepherd." That's because his role gets more screen time and is more fully etched out psychologically as he potrays an early founder of the CIA."

September 18, 2006

'Venus' director talks of talent and O'Toole

THE BIG PICTURE EXTRA
'Venus' director talks of talent and O'Toole
By Patrick Goldstein, Times Staff Writer
TORONTO — Peter O'Toole and I were supposed to have lunch Saturday, but the crown prince of British theater and film became ill at the last minute and, under doctor's orders, was forced to stay in London. In his stead, he sent along Roger Michell, who directed him in "Venus," a delightful romantic comedy due out in December that has already made a splash at the Toronto Film Festival. Michell arrived armed with a bevy of O'Toole anecdotes, as well as a note from the actor that he planned to read at an upcoming premiere here.
The note neatly captures the 74-year-old actor's mischievous charm. "The disease that's killing the chestnut trees has felled me," O'Toole says. "Or so I chose to believe until the doctor disabused me of such a grand notion and told me I had a commonplace but severe touch of the gastric nasties. That I was not to travel, go to bed, take the tablets and lay off the turps."

The beautiful, pale-blue-eyed god we saw in "Lawrence of Arabia" is in fragile health these days. But that only lends an extra layer of gravitas to his performance as Maurice, an aged actor reduced to playing corpses in TV dramas who finds new life through an unlikely friendship with a young woman (newcomer Jodie Whittaker) hired to take care of another elderly actor chum, played by Leslie Phillips.
O'Toole's deft performance, which gives him the chance to recite Shakespeare and mutter backstage epithets ("Bloody Peter Hall!") could be a last Oscar hurrah for the actor, who's been nominated seven times without a win, although he got an honorary statuette several years ago. It's poignant seeing O'Toole, jaw slack, hair permanently askew, wheezing up to the bar to order a "whiskey with a whisker of water," not knowing for certain how much of the great show is age and how much is acting.
Michell had never met O'Toole before, although as a schoolboy in Bristol he'd seen him onstage in "Uncle Vanya" and later in shows in the West End. Michell sent O'Toole the script, written by Hanif Kureishi, and arranged a meeting at the Garrett Club, an old theater hangout in London. It was the day of English actor John Mills' funeral and, as Michell recalls, the club — which serves as the actors' haunt in the movie — was filled with a host of venerable thespians, all of whom could've played Maurice in the film.
"There I was waiting," Michell recalls, "when up this long flight of stairs, wheezing, groaning … comes Peter, supported by an old actor friend, laughing and telling outrageous stories as he occasionally paused for breath. Over lunch, he was sensitive, funny, thoughtful, quite delicate and pretty much perfect. I knew the man I met that day should play Maurice."
I'd always heard that O'Toole never got along especially well with directors. As English actor Roy Kinnear once put it: "Peter would just tell the director how he was going to do the scene and then do it." But Michell says O'Toole was far more prepared each day on set than many younger actors. "I don't think Peter likes directors, as a species, because most directors aren't particularly good with actors," he says. "But Peter was a true collaborator. And when we disagreed, he was very forthright."
There was little doubt about O'Toole being the right man for the role of an old man still wondering what makes himself tick. Michell says he needed someone who, in addition to being able to play Hamlet, "was intellectual and profoundly clever but filled with doubt and skepticism. He's also profoundly heroic, in the sense that he's concerned with the world around him but doesn't fully understand it. He's 80, but as Peter says in the film, 'I still don't know anything about myself.' "
For me, the most astounding moment in the film comes early on when O'Toole, as Maurice, learns he must have surgery for prostate cancer. Looking more haggard than ever, he finally rallies, slapping himself hard in the face, saying fiercely, "Come on, old man!" I asked Michell if that was in the script or an inspired O'Toole improvisation.
Michell beamed. "It was in the script. But I had no idea of the intense fury and hatred of age that would come across in the scene. When Peter gives a performance, it always feels like everything is coming straight from him."

Film Studies: Please act


Film Studies: Please act your age, Peter
(independant.co.uk) -
By David Thomson
Published: 17 September 2006
Three years ago, in this column, I reported on how the Telluride Film Festival was giving a tribute to Peter O'Toole. It was a momentous event and it surely played a large part in persuading the Academy to give O'Toole an honorary Oscar at the next possible occasion. This was deemed necessary in that O'Toole had so far been nominated seven times for the best actor Oscar, without a victory. Now I bring news from this year's Telluride festival that O'Toole - still unmistakably alive - may have delivered the performance that will get his eighth nomination. And maybe his first victory.
The occasion is a small film named Venus, written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Michell. O'Toole plays an elderly actor who has every possible indication that he is dying. He has a chum, another actor, admirably played by Leslie Phillips, who has a niece called Venus (Jodie Whittaker). Despite the mythological name, Venus is an acrid, rather mean-spirited, poker-faced young girl from the London area; a modern girl without unusual aptitude for sentiment. But O'Toole's character fixes on her. He loves her.
He has a lech for her. He just needs her to be around to watch over him, to let him kiss her neck at vulnerable moments and - in a crisis, if a crisis should occur - to show him her full-stop breasts.
Of course, the man dies, with not much more than a glimpse, a whiff and a brief kiss from his beloved Venus. She thinks he's a dirty old man, weird and amazingly old-fashioned. He knows she is the life force and capable, possibly, of giving him a few extra days with fun. At the end, she goes with him to the sea shore at Whitstable, and it is watching the waves come in that takes him away.
It is a small situation to build a whole movie on. But if you have a situation that will affect people, and if you write it well with a good actor, you may end up with a movie. This is the first leading role O'Toole has had since the era of My Favorite Year. Since then, picture people have been generously inclined to him, but always on the assumption that it would be risky expecting more than a few days of his time. Now, someone has had the wit to see the richness of that exact dilemma and asked O'Toole to be the centre-piece of a film. He looks as if he could play a dying man forever.
To say it is touching is not enough. There is a sequence where O'Toole and Phillips go to the Garrick Club and then to a church for actors. They pass the memorial plaques, for those like Robert Shaw: contemporaries of O'Toole once, but come and gone while he survives drastic surgeries and his own serene devotion to alcohol. There is a moment when we suddenly find that his character has a wife - estranged. She comes on with a limp and a stick, and it is Vanessa Redgrave, who had broken a bone just before shooting but who wasn't going to miss a chance like this. Venus could also bring her own seventh Oscar nomination.
For those of us who remember O'Toole dancing on the roof of the ambushed train - a romantic figure in white robes - or Vanessa hunched over her own breasts, begging to get the pictures back in Blow-Up, it's astounding to see the two great players looking like noble wrecks. Is it possible that the change that has overtaken them has affected us, too? Such thoughts are not common at the movies - and you are reminded of this all through Venus - because so few movies have the courage to compose themselves around the guttering lives of old people. By "old people", I suppose, I mean anyone over 32 or so, anyone whose mind has grown as their face has crumpled, anyone who can calculate a bargain with fate to hang on for a week or so more if this sharp, disagreeable girl will smile on him once or twice.
I know. It's very early to be talking about Oscars, and I share your feeling that too much hopeful spin may put a jinx on things. But at this stage of 2006 I can see a lot of actresses likely to be in contention, and not quite so many actors. Venus will not open until December, which means that the people behind it are taking a bet on the Academy. And the Academy is the one section of the movie business where the average age is above that of the audience these days. O'Toole is a great loser, and I think it's clear that he'd let Oscar go for a squeeze from a pretty girl. Venus is a film about that bargain. That's how it is able to be so candid and so merry about death.
Win or lose, it's one of the films this year that you don't want to miss. So let's hope that Mr O'Toole lasts long enough to see your pleasure.

September 13, 2006

First press for "One Night with the King"

Looks like O'Toole's next release is a biblio-pic. O'Toole plays "Samuel, the Prophet", and his old pal, Omar Sharif, stars as "Prince Memucan". -Hamish

Official Site here.
pot.jpg

Movie viral marketing on a biblical scale
(article)

It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Shariff, John Rhys-Davies and John Noble (both of Lord of the Rings), among others.

It cost $20 million and was shot in palace locations in India.

And it opens on 1,000 screens on (as part of AMC's "select" program of speciality films, here) Friday, Oct. 13. No, it's not a horror movie, and no, you probably haven't heard a peep about it. But One Night With the King is being marketed, alright.This is a Christian-funded film, distributed (on DVD, at least), by Fox/Faith, the "Let's get that Mel Gibson kinda money" arm of 20th Century Fox.

Rhys: I sat in on one of the pep rallies/outreach sessions for it in Orlando Wednesday. A hundred or so ministers and their families heard from novelist Tommy Tenney and producers Matt and Laurie Crouch, of the evangelical TV (Trinity Broadcasting) Crouches. One Night is an adaptation of the Biblical story of Hadassah/Esther, the Jewish girl in Babylon who saved her people from the Persians by charming Xerxes. It's not a "political movie," Matt Crouch said, but he noted similarities between today's headlines about Iran and Israel, and the story from the Bible.

From Matt Crouch... A movie is a chance to get on the playing field. We're gaining access to the hearts of the ungodly without them knowing it. Go back to your people (congregations), and fill every theater that weekend. Set the stage for what God wants to do in Christian film.

From Laurie Crouch... Touch your neighbor and say, "I AM the merketing department" for this movie."Tenney joked about their movie being "good counter-programming" to the rash of horror movies opening in October, and went so far as to suggest that this might be "a dark horse at the Oscars."

The usual "us against them" boiler-plate popped up, as they noted how they had a "friendly" theater manager (somebody already familiar with the movie, i.e. a believer), and how they were pushing a "values based movie" into an industry that "discounts the success" of values-based movies, from Passion to Narnia, and how both of those films bested Brokeback Mountain at the box office. If you want values driven movies in the marketplace, you need to show up that opening weekend," Tenney said. "You GO God."

The Brokeback crack and the occasional Christian buzzphrase, "a mandate to take dominion" was a little chilling (I was invited, but got the impression they didn't realize a secular reporter/critic was there), frankly, given Christian conservatism's passion for blind-faith political judgments and homophobia. The military parlance about Hollywood ("get behind enemy lines") and their embracing of Apocalyptic movie claptrap like The Omega Code gives me pause.

Peter: But the movie looks pretty good (they had a rough cut of about 20 minutes of it), and seems a pretty inviting and positive expression of Christianity on film, as opposed to the torture and exclusionary (insider's) tone of The Passion of the Christ.

Michael O. Sajbel, a director with experience making Christian documentaries and Billy Graham films, directed. The winsome Tiffany Dupont plays Esther, Rhys-Davies is her dad, Mordecai (and apparently narrator, a great choice), O'Toole and Shariff, together again for the first time since Lawrence of Arabia made them famous, show up.

That Friday the 13th will see The Grudge 2 opening, which is counter-programming. And Man of the Year, a Robin Williams political satire. There's a conservative WWE-backed actioner, The Marine, which could draw away from One Night, but otherwise, it's only a low screen count holding the film back.Well, and the Sarah Michelle Gellar crowd.

Could make for an interesting box office sweepstakes, if the hundreds of pastors contacted across the country make it happen. And there's always room for an audience that Hollywood, frankly, doesn't care to serve.

Emanuel Levy's take on Venus

Emanuel Levy's take on Venus (thanks Marie-Noëlle!)

"Representing another fruitful collaboration of the team behind the widely acclaimed "The Mother," "Venus" reunites director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”), screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Laundrette,” "Intimacy") and producer Kevin Loader.

Not surprisingly, "Venus" represents the same modest, well-acted chamber piece that "The Mother" (which premiered in Cannes last year) was. Thematically, the new film is based on a similar character same juxtaposition, here in the form of an unexpected relationship between an old bitter charcater and a much younger and spunkier one that revitalizes the former, bringing joy to the autumn of his life.Reversing the genders of "The Mother" protags, in "Venus," the older character is a vet actor, Maurice, (Peter O'Toole) and the younger protagt is an uneducated woman named Jessie (well played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker).the grand-niece of Maurice's best friend, also a vet actor, Ian (Leslie Phillips).

As in most British drama, particularly in Kureishi's work, there's a huge gap in age and social class, and here also erotic tension between the two central figures.Was Peter O'Toole "prophetic" in 2004, when he initially rejected the Honorary Oscar from the Academy, based on his belief that he was still in the run for a legit recognition, not quite ready for a career achievement trophy? (In the end, you may recall, O'Toole consented and accepted the award). I mention that, because O'Toole astonishingly subtle performance as the seventysomething thespian should earn him his eighth Oscar nomination (and perhaps the coveted award itself), when Miramax opens the movie stateside December 15. (See Oscar Alert)

Right now, "Venus" plays the major film festivals. It premieres this weekend in Telluride and goes to Toronto next week, where O'Toole is bound to be critically acclaimed, giving Miramax enough ammunition to plan a strategic Oscar campaign for him at year's end.Drawing on the narrative paradigm of the "Outsider," a stranger who changes peoples' lives dramatically just by sheer physical presence, “Venus” tells the story of Maurice and Ian, a pair of cantankerous, though not devoid of humor, old thespians, whose comfortable daily routine is disrupted by the arrival of Ian’s grand-niece Jessie.

In the first chapters, Maurice and Ian, two vet actor friends are seen chatting about their deteriorating health, increased reliance on medication, declining memory, and so on. Comfy with each other, they bicker and exchange witty barbs affectionately in their regular meetings in their modest London flats and coffee shops. Occasionally, they are joined in the coffee shop or pub by a third actor friend, Donald (Richard Griffiths, soon to be seen as the teacher in "The History Boys").

Ian is preparing for the arrival of Jessie, his niece’s teenage daughter, who is arriving from the more provincial North of England to stay with him, hoping she would take care of his needs. However, initially, Jessie proves to be your typical "irresponsible" girl, lazy, crass, hard-drinking, and cuursing, making it clear she has no intent of becoming Ian's maid, nurse, or even social companion.

To help his friend, Maurice takes Jessie under his wing and starts showing her London. He takes her to see a play, to movie set to watch him play a bit role, and to the National Gallery to see (again) his favorite painting, Velazquez's portriat of Venus (thus the picture's title). The film's very last scene makes the title even more poignant.

Gradually, to Maurice and Jessee's surprise, they grow fond of and become attached to each other. A brief scene to his former wife (played by the still regal Vanessa Redgrave) shows that Maurice has probably never met an abrasive girl like Jesse. Even so, more open-minded than his age or position would suggest, he dubs Jessie his Venus.

At this point, living a life of quiet desperation, Maurice is resigned to the fact that his own life is coming to an end, but through Jesse, he rediscovers repressed feelings and desire that's been dormant for years. For her part, Jessie is drawn to Maurice, confiding in him.

The film takes a turn when Jessie starts dating a loutish youth, and soon abuses Maurice's trust by asking for money and other favors. Maurice consents, aware that his romantic hope for Jessie are futile, but also recognizing the last taste of youth and passion she has been granting him.

Under his tutorship, a deeper, more intimate, and even erotic relationship develops between the duo. Very much a journey of self-discovery movie, in due process, both Maurice and Jessie discover how little they each know each other's needs and desires, their expectations from others, and from life in general."Venus" could have ben called Educating Jessie, after the 1984 movie, "Educating Rita," with Michael Caine and Julie Walters as his student-hairdrsser. Indeed, along with conversations, educational sessions, visits to to museums and to the theater (one scene is set in the Royal Court Theatre), there are more intimate scenes. In time, Maurice sets a bath for Jessie and is allowed to watch her, and later, she lets him caress, but not kiss, her neck.

In position of undeniable power, Jessie sets the rules, at least as far as physical contact is concerned. When Maurice crosses the line and grabs her breasts (for example), Jesse gets upset, walks out, and disappears for a day or, only to come back later.Problem is, the film can't decide how far to go in exploring the relationship between Maurice and Jessie, and thus it unfolds as step and counter-step, until reaching a denouement in a satisfying if also predictable manner.

Let me explain. Since the female protagonist is very young, pushing the text into a too explicitly sexual direction might suggest that Maurice is a dirty old man and that his is a corruptive, damaging influence on a teenage girl. There's a boyfriend in the background, and in one scene, they even use Muarice's own flat to make out, only to be caught by him, but the boy is Jessie's age.

Vanessa Redgrave plays Maurice’s atill loving former wife and mother of his three children, whom Maurice had abandoned for another, younger actress. Restricted to two or three scenes, Redgrave's character is underdeveloped and so is Ian's. Is Ian gay? Is he infatuated with Maurice beyond the permitted professional camaraderie and personal friendship?

In remarkably subdued performance, O'Toole, an actor who often chews the scenery with his histrionics, portrays the kind of old man we have never seen before, certainly not in American films. Though not physically well, Maurice is not limping, and he is not crotchety, as Henry Fonda was in "Golden Pond," a film that won Fonda his first and only Oscar, just months before he died."Venus" doesn't make the mistake of de-sexualizing an old man. Reflecting the puritanical, hygienic, and perhaps even hypocritical nature of sexuality in American culture, Hollywood movies seldom depict desire, and if they do, it's in a pejorative and judgmental way. In American movies, the old men, usually grandparents, tend to bond not with their children as with their grandchildren. Refreshingly, there are no children and no such subplots in "Venus."

At times, the romantic and erotic scenes in "Venus" feel deliberately awkward, and they might make both younger and older viewers uncomfortable. It's like watching your old father or grandfather desire (and lusts after) a much younger alluring woman.In wish the resolution had not been so pat or moralistic in suggesting that it's not only the wise old who can teach the young in the ways of the world, but that the young may have profound influence on the older folks too. Subtle as it is, ultimately, "Venus" is a film about life lessons, and in the end, Jesse transforms from a boorish girl to a more sensitive, confident, and independent woman.

Ultra modest in scope and ambition, "Venus" is a two-handler "Relationship" film, and one about great acting. The story begins and ends with visual symmetry by the ocean. The outdoor scenes, depicting Maurice and Jessie's outings, are meant to open up the inherently indoor yarn, but succeed only partially in making the movie less static; in moments, the movie is a tad too dull and bleak.

"Venus" is not necessarily better acted than "The Mother" was, but it has a name-cast, headed by Peter O'Toole and Vanessa Redgrave in a small, supporting role.Oscar AlertLaced with a good deal of humor and irony, "Venus" is more commercially viable than "Mother," and Miramax could exploit its subject, high-caliber acting, and prestige, in a way that other small British movies have in the past. Peter Yates' "The Dresser, in 1983, also set in the theater world, with Oscar-nominated turns from Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, comes to mind.

Incidentally, Henry Fonda was roughly the same age as O'Toole is now, 74, when he won the Oscar for "On Golden Pond.""

O'Toole Continues to Own T.I.F.F. from Afar...

From this review at the Star-Telegram:

"And then there's the case of 74-year-old Peter O'Toole, who had to cancel a planned visit to Toronto due to illness. Nonetheless, he's turning out to be the star of the festival, for his widely beloved turn as an aging actor who falls in lust with a teenage girl in Roger Michell's Venus. Truth be told, I sat through the film grinding my teeth in irritation -- movies featuring randy old codgers who crack jokes about their failing prostates are definitely not my thing. But Venus played like gangbusters at its premiere here on Saturday night, and even those of us who didn't care for the film have to acknowledge that O'Toole's performance, with its mixture of slapstick and sentimentality, is the stuff of which long-overdue Best Actor Oscars are made."

And Reuters:

"The 74-year-old O'Toole, who is tied with Richard Burton for the most Oscar nominations without a victory, seven, is being touted as a certain nominee for his work as an aging English actor who falls for the grandniece of a friend.The Hollywood Reporter said the film "hands the accomplished actor one of his best roles in years and he masterfully runs with it."And when O'Toole canceled a trip to Toronto, many worried if he would turn out to be as ill and frail as he looked in the film. A spokesman said it was only a minor problem."

September 12, 2006

"Venus" inspires beautiful O'Toole performance

(via Reuters)By Michael RechtshaffenTORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - At 74, Peter O'Toole could well earn an eighth Oscar nomination, this time for his superbly rendered portrayal of a working English actor whose autumn years yield a surprise third act.While the vehicle that likely will take him there -- Roger Michell's "Venus," in which O'Toole finds himself falling hard for his best friend's cheeky grand-niece -- hits a few bumpy patches after a very promising start, it hands the accomplished actor one of his best roles in years and he masterfully runs with it.This performance alone should ensure the Miramax release brings in the audience that responded to the Weinstein Co.'s "Mrs. Henderson Presents," which bowed last year at Toronto.Something of a flipside to "The Mother," the previous collaboration between Michell and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi about an older widow who has an affair with her daughter's lover, this early May, late-December romance springs out of a wonderfully wry foundation.O'Toole is Maurice Russell, an actor whose phone continues to ring, but these days the jobs being offered tend to be playing dying hospital patients.Whiling away his growing free time in a cafe along with his longtime actor friend, the certified drama queen Ian (Leslie Phillips), the ailing Maurice is content to play things out to the final curtain.Enter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the typical teenager whom Ian's niece has shipped off to her uncle's home.Although Ian had envisioned someone who would draw warm baths and cook splendid dinners for him, the rather coarse Jessie proves clueless.But she also happens to stir something long forgotten in Maurice's heart (not to mention other places), and the old man risks being played the fool in the name of infatuation.Things inevitably turn darker, and the film loses its way somewhat while transitioning from all the early beautifully barbed banter to that later heavy dose of pathos.Although Michell's steady direction and Kureishi's lyrical writing might have trouble maintaining the right tragicomic balance, it's certainly not a problem for O'Toole, whose expertly modulated performance is a thing to behold.While casually commanding, it also is generous enough to allow a good deal of light to shine on the fine work of his fellow cast members Phillips and spirited newcomer Whittaker, as well as in tender scenes with Vanessa Redgrave who plays his long-estranged but still palsy wife.Production values are comfortably inviting thanks to Haris Zambarloukos' warm cinematography and John Paul Kelly's lived-in production design. Neatly completing the mood is the selection of breezy soul-pop tunes furnished by acclaimed British songstress Corinne Bailey Rae.Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

September 11, 2006

Many more pictures added to "unsorted"!

I've added about 30 or 40 new images to the 'unsorted' area (see the side bar)... courtesy of Marie-Noëlle, who has been kind enough to scan some of her collection of French entertainment magazines from the 60's, apparently! Thank you SO much, Marie! There are lots of images I've never seen before - particularly showing O'Toole's relationship with Sian Phillips, and pictures of his daughters Patricia and Katherine when they were very young.

O'Toole makes appearance at the T.I.F.F. (sort of)

Well, even if he can't be here in the flesh, at least the good people at the William Ashley store in Yorkville (right outside the ticket office for the T.I.F.F.) were nice enough to include Peter's image in a series of caricatures in their main window. It's quite a good likeness, don't you think?

otoolecaric.jpg

September 10, 2006

O'Toole sent a note along to the T.I.F.F. in his absence...

From the L.A. Times:
"Peter O'Toole's Last Oscar Hurrah?
Columnist Patrick Goldstein is at the Toronto Film Festival this week.
By Patrick Goldstein, Times Staff Writer
September 10, 2006TORONTO -- Peter O'Toole and I were supposed to have lunch on Saturday but the crown prince of British theater and film became ill at the last minute and, under doctor's orders, was forced to stay in London. He sent along Roger Michell in his stead, who directed him in "Venus," a delightful romantic comedy due out in December that has already made a splash here at the Toronto Film Festival. Michell arrived armed with a bevy of O'Toole anecdotes, as well as a note from the actor that he planned to read at an upcoming premiere here.

The note neatly captures the 74-year-old's actor mischievous charm. "The disease that's killing the chestnut trees has felled me," O'Toole says. "Or so I chose to believe until the doctor disabused me of such a grand notion and told me I had a commonplace but severe touch of the gastric nasties. That I was not to travel, go to bed, take the tablets and lay off the turps."

After years of boozing and revelry, the beautiful, pale blue-eyed god we saw in "Lawrence of Arabia" is in fragile health. But that only lends an extra layer of gravitas to his performance as Maurice, an aged actor reduced to playing corpses in TV dramas who finds new life through an unlikely friendship with a young woman (newcomer Jodie Whittaker) hired to take care of another elderly actor chum, played by Leslie Philips.

O'Toole's deft performance, which gives him the chance to recite Shakespeare and mutter backstage epithets ("Bloody Peter Hall!") could be a last Oscar hurrah for the actor, who's been nominated seven times without a win, though he got an honorary statuette several years ago. It's especially poignant seeing O'Toole, jaw slack, hair permanently askew, wheezing up to the bar to order a "whiskey with a whisker of water," not knowing for certain how much of the great show is age and how much is acting.

Michell had never met O'Toole before, though as a schoolboy in Bristol, he'd seen him on stage in "Uncle Vanya" and later in shows in the West End. Michell sent O'Toole the script, written by Hanif Kureishi, and arranged a meeting at the Garrett Club, an old theater hang-out in London. It was the day of John Mills' funeral and, as Michel recalls, the club -- which serves as the actors' haunt in the movie -- was filled with a host of venerable thespians, all of whom could've played Maurice in the film."

There I was waiting," recalls Michell, "when up this long flight of stairs, wheezing, groaning and farting, comes Peter, supported by an old actor friend, laughing and telling outrageous stories as he occasionally paused for breath. Over lunch, he was sensitive, funny, thoughtful, quite delicate and pretty much perfect. I knew the man I met that day should play Maurice."I'd always heard that O'Toole never got along especially well with directors. As Roy Kinnear once put it: "Peter would just tell the director how he was going to do the scene and then do it." But Michell says O'Toole was far more prepared each day on set than many younger actors. "I don't think Peter likes directors, as a species, because most directors aren't particularly good with actors," he says. "But Peter was a true collaborator. And when we disagreed, he was very forthright.

"There was little doubt about O'Toole being the right man for the role of an old man still wondering what makes himself tick. "We really needed someone who could play Hamlet," says Michell. "We wanted someone who was intellectual and profoundly clever, but filled with doubt and skepticism. He's also profoundly heroic, in the sense that he's concerned with the world around him, but doesn't fully understand it. He's 80, but as Peter says in the film, 'I still don't know anything about myself.'.

"For me, the most astounding moment in the film comes early on when O'Toole, as Maurice, learns he must have surgery for prostate cancer. Looking more haggard than ever, he finally rallies, slapping himself hard in the face, saying fiercely, "Come on, old man!" I asked Michell if that was in the script or an inspired O'Toole improvisation.

Michell beamed. "It was in the script. But I had no idea of the intense fury and hatred of age that would come across in the scene. When Peter gives a performance, it always feels like everything is coming straight from him."

Update on O'Toole's no-show for the T.I.F.F.

from the L.A. Times' Goldderby:

"O'Toole falls ill, must skip TorontoJust one day before Peter O'Toole was scheduled to sit down with me and other journalists at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss his critically cheered new film, "Venus," word came that he's too ill to travel from Britain.The news has stunned fest-goers. Is the 74-year-old acting legend gravely ill or just temporarily indisposed? Miramax says the latter. A press rep told me, "Peter is having intestinal problems, which he's had before." But it's not like that gung-ho acting trouper to miss a curtain call — especially this one since it's clear that "Venus" seems likely to bring Oscar's biggest loser (7 defeats) his "lovely bugger" — what he calls the elusive statuette — at last. Peter wants the bugger so badly that he nearly refused an honorary Oscar from the academy three years ago because he feared it might affect his future chances in the best actor race. Only when he was reminded that Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and Charlie Chaplin all received a competitive Oscar after accepting an honorary one did he consent to the tribute.Venus1aNow "Venus" is in perfect alignment in the cinema firmament to deliver that win for him. When it debuted in Toronto on Friday, the audience was wowed and awestruck. He gives a tour-de-force turn as an aging actor facing his imminent death while shamelessly pining for a defiant teenage tart who reluctantly accepts morsels of his life's wisdom and his innocent advances while scarfing down cheese doodles and chow mein noodles. At first she rudely ignores him and gets nasty, then slowly warms to his brilliant glow within as she grows to depend on him for money and attention and knowledge about the world she's ignored for too long. The uneducated brat has good reason to shun him at the start. He shamelessly lusts after her, but she knows she's safe because he's really impotent after a prostate operation and she also comes to understand that he's just an expiring actor recreating his old randy role as lothario one last time with gusto. Their fierce love-hate relationship is all a bawdy game of sexual teases and power dominance plus a crash course on the meaning of life and love that must be taught before his light goes out.It's a bravura performance, screamingly funny and fiercely dramatic, that shouts "Oscar! Oscar!" Academy members are likely to give it to him, too because "Venus" is so good and they usually respond to guilt trips over their past oversights if enough fuss is made.That means Sir Peter's health must rally so he can get back out onto the campaign trail and seduce everyone with his charm, as he always does, and a fab film.Get better soon, Sir Peter. Your overdue moment of Oscar glory is nigh and we are cheering you on.

September 08, 2006

Crushed! O'Toole Will Not Attend TIFF.

I just received word from the publicist for VENUS that Peter will NOT be attending the Toronto International Film Festival this year. I'm crushed! The roundtable interview I was supposed to be part of has been cancelled. Ah, well. And that means he won't be there for the premiere, either. I'm still going to go check out the film but once AGAIN! I miss a chance to meet him in person. :-(

September 05, 2006

Venus Reviews starting to come in...

Update: Got two tickets to the premiere of Venus at the Toronto International Film Festival this Saturday at 9pm. O'Toole will be in attendance and I'm going to stake out the red carpet to get some shots as he enters the theatre.

View the trailer for Venus HERE. Peter has an awesome voiceover, doing the 'shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." sonnet by Shakespeare.

I'll use this post to keep track of reviews of VENUS as they come in (it's at the Telluride Festival at the moment)... Check back every now and then for updates.

Cinematical.com: "O'Toole still has that devilishly handsome charm he's always had." ... "His performance is flawless."

ScreenDaily.com: "O'Toole is a class act by any standards and his work here can't fail to draw attention from awards voters and audiences."

The Envelope (LATimes): "An Oscar, finally, for Peter O'Toole?"

September 02, 2006

"Unsorted O'Toole Pics" added to sidebar menu

I've been remiss in adding pictures that I've either found or been sent over the past while. This is due to time constraints mostly but, given O'Toole's recent upsurge in activity I will be attending to this site much more frequently. While I ramp up my input level, I've decided to create a 'holding pen' for images of O'Toole that I haven't slotted into the photographical area yet. It's on the sidebar to the left there, just above the hit counter. Click it, and you will see a quick-and-easy directory of the 84 images in my 'inbox'. Feel free to send me anything you might have for inclusion on the site.

I would like to reiterate my request for any and all anecdotes, stories, pictures, scans, recordings, etc. that you might have relating to O'Toole, that you think might make a good addition to the site. This place is nothing without the users - over the past eight years this site has been running, I've heard from so many of you and so many of you have made tremendous additions! Thanks again to all of you for making this site so terrific. It's the number one site for O'Toole stuff on the web!

September 01, 2006

Lassie Released in North America

Peter_O_Toole

User Jane T. forwarded this review of the North American release of O'Toole's film, "Lassie" from the Chicago Tribune...


'Lassie'

Dog and movie lovers, take note: Lassie has come home.

By Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
September 1, 2006

Writer-director Charles Sturridge's "Lassie" revives a well-worn, sometimes grand tradition begun in 1938, when Eric Knight's first Lassie story was published. Since then, Knight's tale, amplified in his later 1940 novel "Lassie Come Home" — about the magnificently faithful English collie who travels 500 miles to return to her youthful master Joe — has inspired more cinema and TV, some good, some fair, than any other dog story, including the collected movie works of Benji and Shiloh.

But the latest movie devoted to the canine legend is, surprisingly, something special. It's not another thin new concoction or glossy update. Set in the original place and period (Yorkshire and Scotland on the eve of World War II), starring a photogenic new collie named Mason, it's easily the best Lassie movie since the classic first film, 1943's "Lassie Come Home."

Like that great little picture, the new "Lassie" is faithful to Knight's story, capturing its sweep, Dickensian social contrasts and high emotion. All that is enhanced by a splendid cast that includes Peter O'Toole, Samantha Morton, Peter Dinklage, Steve Pemberton and Edward Fox — plus two delightful child actors, Jonathan Mason and Hester Odgers, as Joe Carraclough and Cilla (the old Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor roles).

Sturridge takes us to the prewar Yorkshire town of Greenhall, home of the Carracloughs, a sturdy lower-class mining family with a precious jewel of a collie. Though times are rough, 9-year-old Joe's mother and dad, Sarah (Morton) and Sam (John Lynch), initially resist the magisterial Duke of Rudling (O'Toole), who wants to purchase Lassie for his kennel and his spunky little granddaughter, Cilla (Odgers). When the mine closes, though, Joe's parents are forced to reconsider. Lassie is sold.

Unfortunately, the Duke's head kennelman, Hynes (Steve Pemberton), is a sadist who becomes infuriated when the dog keeps escaping to return to Joe. And Lassie's determination perseveres even when the Duke takes her to his distant castle up north, commencing on the odyssey that will carry her through many adventures — notably involving puppeteer Rowlie (Dinklage), a clownish dogcatcher (Gregor Fisher), a courtroom appearance and even (added for this film) a whimsical scene with absent-minded adventurer Fox and the Loch Ness Monster.

What makes Knight's story work so well, still, is its blend of character, action, realism, social edge, fantasy and humor. Lassie is a genuine heroine, and Knight's book, the 1943 movie and this one all make us care deeply about whether she gets home. The last 20 minutes or so had me, I confess, in tears.

They were fairly earned. Sturridge, a master at film literary adaptations, made both the superb 1981 TV serial of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" and the first-rate 1996 version of "Gulliver's Travels." He does just as well by Knight. What makes this film succeed are the director's quiet skill and the all-around excellence of his cast.

O'Toole gives Lord Rudling his old furious eloquence, and Morton and Lynch make a touching couple. The child actors are beguiling, and Pemberton is properly swinish as Hynes. The movie is also full of gem-like cameos and the collie actors (Mason and Dakota, Mason's stunt double) hold the camera as strongly as did Pal, the great first Lassie.

"Lassie's" most memorable performance is supplied by Dinklage, the powerful little actor of "The Station Agent," as the gypsy showman Rowlie. The scenes in his horse and carriage caravan and the feeling he gives of the special world of outsiders and artists have a discretion and subtlety that break your heart.

MPAA rating: PG for some mild violent content and language

A Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn release. Writer-director Charles Sturridge. Producers Ed Guiney, Francesca Barra, Sturridge. Director of photography Howard Atherton. Editors Peter Coulson, Adam Green.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes."