Lessons From a Legend: Peter O’Toole


“I will not be a common man,” Peter O’Toole once wrote in one of his journals. “I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.” The stage and screen legend died Saturday, at the age of 81. He was known for his breakout and genre-defining performance in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and My Favorite Year (1982). He somehow never won an Oscar, despite being nominated eight times, until the Academy gave him an honorary one in 2003.

Peter O’Toole was a classic actor and class act. He spoke his mind and drank hard, but carried himself with a style, composure and a biting wit that doesn’t compare to any actors today. He even stole scenes under Brad Pitt’s wooden nose in 2004’s Troy.

Here are some MF-approved thoughts on life, love and drinking from one of the men who inspired a generation of gentlemen.

Be a man

“If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it. If you give up drinking, don’t go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt.”

Just show up

“I’ve never looked for women. When I was a teenager, perhaps. But they are looking for us, and we [men] must learn that very quickly. They decide. We just turn up. Never mind the superficialities – tall and handsome and all that. Just turn up.”

Just show up… again

“I take whatever good part comes along. And if there isn’t a good part, then I do anything, just to pay the rent. Money is always a pressure. And waiting for the right part – you could wait forever. So I turn up and do the best I can.”

Beauty isn’t everything

“People have always talked about beauty. It has been an obsession throughout millennia but it doesn’t mean a bloody thing… As I have said to many a drama teacher over the years, pity the pretty. Into a room walks a beautiful girl or into a room walks a beautiful man and everyone thinks they’ve got it made. Well they ain’t. In fact it can be much more difficult.”

The love of his work

“The love of it is great, huge and it will be with me forever. I blundered into it, found I could do it well. It has raised me from nothing into something, not a lot, but something. If you do something well and you enjoy it, what more can you bloody well ask?”

Sources: BBC, Telegraph UK

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