Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013) achieved instant stardom playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for which he received his first Academy Award nomination. O’Toole received seven further Oscar nominations: Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). O’Toole never won the Oscar. But he’s in great company. Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock were also snubbed by the Academy.
Here, O’Toole gives some great pointers on acting technique. This is the kind of real life experience students of Stanislavsky, Strasberg and Adler never received.
“In Lawrence of Arabia, there was a famous scene of a charge in which my face was described by Time magazine as with a look of ‘messianic determination’ as we charged.
…The day of the charge, we were given Moroccan plow camels, who had never had a human being on their hump. We were doing a mile down a shaley hill – 50 camels and 400 horses. It was going to be very dangerous indeed. So I went to the caravan which Omar [Sharif] and I were sharing. As you may know, Omar is a gambling man. He was looking very solemn.
He said, ‘I’m working up the odds, Peter….whether or not the camel will fall over, or whether I will fall off the camel. The odds on the camel falling over are 6:4 against, but the odds of me falling off the camel are even money.’ I saw the sense of that so I asked, ‘What do you intend to do?’ He said, ‘I’m going to tie myself onto the camel.’
I thought, well, I don’t really fancy being adhered to a camel. So I said, ‘I’m not going to do that, Omar. I’m going to get drunk.’ And Omar said, ‘Oh, I’m going to get drunk as well.’ So we got a bottle of brandy and two bottles of milk and we drank the brandy and the milk. And of course by this time we were supremely confident of doing anything. So he was tied to the camel. Off went the rockets – boom! – and of course the camels, out of sheer terror, bolted.
And this look of ‘messianic determination’ on my face was, in fact, a drunk actor.”