“I woke up one morning to find I was famous. Bought a white Rolls-Royce and drove down Sunset Boulevard wearing dark specs and a white suit, waving like the Queen Mum. Nobody took any f—ing notice, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”
—Peter O’Toole on his sudden fame and fortune after Lawrence of Arabia.
Faye Dunaway once told me that playing the notorious outlaw Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde (’67) was the greatest gift, and the greatest curse, of her legendary career. Bonnie’s character, said Faye, most closely resembled who she was. “Playing her was not a great stretch. I just dug deep.” “And of course,” continued Faye, “I was young. I thought that great roles come along all the time. Which, of course, they don’t.”
I pointed out that her role in Network (’76) was great, and her work as the heartless, TV exec, was brilliant. Faye agreed that the role of Diana Christensen was spectacular. But, Faye insisted, no film, no performance, will ever equal the personal and professional tsunami that was Bonnie.
When I heard that Peter O’Toole died, I immediately flashed back to my conversation with Faye. Like Faye, O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia was a brilliant film with an incandescent performance that made the young Irishman an international star. Like Faye, O’Toole’s subsequent career existed under the endless shadow of his Lawrence.