Personal detailsName: Peter O'Toole
Born: 2 August 1932 (Age: 81)
Height: 6' 3"
Awards: Won 1 BAFTA, 3 Golden Globes and nominated for 8 Oscars
All about this star
A quick quiz question for you. What do the following performances have in common? Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, Rex Harrison as Professor 'Enry 'Iggins, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, and Cliff Robertson in Charly. Well, one answer is that all the gentlemen mentioned won an Best Actor Oscar for their efforts. Another is that they all did so by beating off a challenge from one of Britain's greatest thespians - Peter O'Toole.
Seven times nominated, seven times defeated. Most would have given up the ghost, spent their final years hamming it up in BBC period dramas. Not O'Toole. When offered a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2003 he came close to turning it down. He felt he was still capable of winning one of the "lovely buggers" outright. He was, he said, still in the game. And, come 2007 when he was nominated for Venus, there could be no doubt that he was right. Eight times nominated, eight times defeated, but still in the game.
He was born Peter Seamus O'Toole in . . . actually, we can't be entirely sure. According to his own autobiography, he's registered as arriving in an English accident hospital in August, 1932. His family, though, always claimed he was born in Ireland two months before that. Given his father's Irishness and reputation for advanced dodginess, either could be true.
O'Toole's father, Patrick Joseph, had been an apprentice metal plater and shipwright in the north-east of England, where his own mother dealt in second-hand furniture. Throughout his twenties he captained a minor pro football team then, after WWI, turned increasingly to gambling. Self-titled Captain Pat O'Toole, he became a racetrack bookmaker, himself betting on boxing, roulette, dice, the dogs, anything. Once refusing to pay protection money, he'd be cracked about the head with a coke hammer. Whenever drawn into fights, tears would run down his face.
One time at the racetrack, Captain Pat would meet a pretty young nurse, Contance Jane Eliot Ferguson. Partly named after Jane Elliot, who around 1750 had written The Flowers Of The Forest, Constance had been orphaned early and raised in Scotland. She liked to drink whisky and recite the poems of Robert Burns. Captain Pat, with his charming blarney, his wads of cash and racetrack status, must have seemed a bright prospect. Her life with him would not be as comfortable as she might have hoped.
Up to the age of 5, O'Toole has said, he doesn't know where the family lived. Patrick, Constance, Peter and his sister Patricia would wind up, though, in Leeds - known to the racing fraternity as Golden City - in a small stone house beside a dairy in a hilly suburb near Roundhay Park.