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O'Toole: I win even if I lose the Oscar

Gold Derby: Peter O'Toole: I win even if I lose the Oscar

otoole.jpg"If you haven't read it yet, I recommend to you checking out Susan King's "lovely" chat with Peter O'Toole here at The Envelope — (see below). Most curious: at the end of it, Susan asks the seven-time loser if he'll have an acceptance speech ready in case he actually pulls off a victory this time."My expectations are low," he concedes. "It would be silly for me if I haven't learned from my experience [of losing] But it's fun, dear. It really is fun. I would be delighted to win. If not, I will be the record holder for the one who never won one."Peter's suggestion that he triumphs in an odd way even if he loses again shows a fine appreciation for the nature of his biz — of telling stories about losers struggling with foiled quests to succeed. That's the essence of almost every film, every stage play he's starred in. If Peter fails again in real life to achieve the approval of his peers and ends up reigning for decades ahead as Oscar's biggest loser, the irony is rich. And he ends up winning anyway, because he'll hold a highly notable place in the Oscar history books."


Eight-time nominee Peter O'Toole on "Venus," his early theater days and working with Katharine Hepburn.
Susan King
Contender Q&A
February 8, 2007

Will the eighth time be the charm for Peter O'Toole?The veteran actor, 74, received his eighth Oscar nod for his poignant performance in "Venus" as Maurice, a dying British actor who becomes besotted with a beautiful free spirit (Jodie Whittaker) -- the grand-niece of an actor friend.

O'Toole's released his reaction to the nomination in a simple, funny statement: "You fail the first time, try try try try try try try again. Yoicks!"

The tall, lanky blue-eyed Irish actor received his first Academy Award nomination 44 years ago for his indelible portrait of T.E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia." He's also received nominations for 1964's "Becket," 1969's "The Lion in Winter," 1969's "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," 1972's "The Ruling Class," 1980's "The Stuntman" and 1982's "My Favorite Year."Four years ago, O'Toole received an honorary Oscar for memorable work.On Feb. 5, the Academy held their annual nominees' luncheon and O'Toole, who was in attendance, received a rousing response from the steller crowd.

It was so lovely to see such a warm standing ovation for you at the Academy Awards luncheon.

Having somewhat presumptuously saying I was still in the game some time ago and to find out I still am in the game and to have been dealt a really lovely hand, I am going to play it for what it's worth, my darling, that is what I am going to doYou and newcomer Jodie Whittaker have such a wonderful chemistry in "Venus."Jodie is a delight and an accomplished young woman. She had such boldness and she was brave. And above all, she was beautifully prepared and we got on. Listen, if you got a good actress and a good part, those are the ingredients you need. I have been more than fortunate in my life with the parts I have had. Good parts make good actors . . .

With just your Oscar nominations -- you have had eight extremely good parts.Some people would love to have one of them.

I saw you on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and you talked about the fact that Katharine Hepburn was your favorite leading lady. Didn't you have nicknames for each other?

She called me "Pig" or "'Henry" depending on her mood. And I called her "Old Nags."

You did "The Lion in Winter" together shortly after Spencer Tracy died.

The script came my way -- "The Lion in Winter" -- and I was thinking who on earth could possibly play Eleanor. And I could see when I was reading it, Kate all the way through. I had known Kate since the 1950s. She was very kind to me since I was a young actor.

When you were doing theater?

That's right. She was a great encouragement to me. She made of point of telling people to come to see me do things ... Spencer had died and I knew she was alone on Martha's Vineyard. I thought if she wants to do it or not, it might cheer her up. So I sent her the script and about 10 days or so later, the phone rang. It was Kate and she said "Do it before I die." So we did it before she died. Long before she died. She went on over another 30 years,

Is it true that Eric Porter was the actor who influenced you the most? I remember him on the classic BBC TV series, "The Forsyte Saga."

He was the leading man at the Old Vic when I was at the Theater Royal, Bristol [The Bristol Old Vic]. It was my first job. He played Volpone, King Lear and Uncle Vanya. I was his understudy. Here was this young man who was 29. He was only a few years older than I was, but he had fire in his belly.

He had these wonderful black eyes, tall and splendid and this amazing, rapid voice -- that diction! And he was absolutely ruthless [to other performers]. He'd say "she'll never make an actress." "'You're a female impersonator" -- he would say to some actresses. But he took a shine to me and he took a shine to my friend Edward Hardwicke.

Did you ever go on for Porter?

No, I didn't, but I nearly did. You reminded me of something quite terrifying. I was playing Cornwall [in 'King Lear']. And I had done my best to learn [the role of ] Lear, but I was a 23-year-old kid -- what did I know?I was in the dressing room with Edward and I was making up as Cornwall and in comes the manager and he said, "Mr. Porter isn't here and this is the half hour [before curtain]. I think you better come down [to Porter's dressing room]."I sat in his dressing room and I had a little red Temple Shakespeare [version of 'Lear']. I was sitting there putting on the robes, the whiskers and the hair and what was I going to do? Go on and read it? Imagine the storm scene with a child reading fa little book. I was petrified. Suddenly, the door opened. There had been a car crash, but he was fine and he came crashing in just in time. My life was saved.

It must have been amazing to be involved in the theater in England in the 1950s because so much was changing -- new playwrights, directors ...We were no longer at war. We were no longer being bombed. We were children during the war and suddenly we were young men with a little education and we decided to get on with her lives and enjoy it.

Maurice, your character in 'Venus," would have been one of those post-war actors.

He finds his reason to live is not only this girl, which is very important, but he loves acting. He knows he's going [to die]. So he does something he loves, which is to act and he earns a few schillings for it, and he takes a pretty girl to the seaside and buys her champagne and oysters and his life is rounded.

Wasn't the seaside scene the last you shot in the film?

It was.

It must have been freezing.

Oh baby, it was cold.

You made such a lovely acceptance speech when you received your honorary Oscar four years ago. Are you working on another one if you win?

My exceptions are low. It would be silly for me if I haven't learned from my experience [of losing] But it's fun, dear. It really is fun. I would be delighted to win. If not, I will be the record holder for the one who never won one.

Copyright © 2007, Los Angeles Times.