“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony. I do not crave security. I wish to hazard my soul to opportunity.”
Peter O’Toole penned those words, a promise to himself, when he was 18 years old.
He died earlier today at the age of 81. A common man he most certainly was not.
O’Toole was a wonderful actor, and a wonderful raconteur. Rather than share any clips from his films, which I did in this post back in August, I’ll share a couple of hugely entertaining appearances he made on The Late Show With David Letterman.
Here, he tells Dave and the studio audience a tale about some of his drinking exploits with the late Peter Finch. I love the way he says ‘on the lash’, and the look on his face when he does so. He was impish well into his 70’s.
And here, he makes a memorable entrance on a show taped in London, back in 1995:
Of acting, O’Toole said that “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?”
Struck by the synchronicity of the Hitchens piece and O’Toole’s comment above: neither would accept the smooth (dull?) life of certainty.
“It distresses us to return work which is not perfect”. A fine epitaph for both men, eh?
I’m going to have to dig around and see if I can find any evidence that the two ever met each other and, if so, whether there’s any kind of record of what they talked about. Can you imagine?!
Ah, I am so sad at the passing of this gorgeous man. I learned of it on….this blog! And I’m so grateful to you for sharing that beautifully worded philosophy of his (at age 18!) Just days ago I finished reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence, and I was struck, in coming upon sketches (on the brittle pages of a copy of the tome that I borrowed from my local library) of the many personages involved in the account, with the similarity between the visages of T.E. Lawrence and Peter O’Toole — O’Toole was was born to play that meaty role! Didn’t like him as well in “My Favorite Year” as in the many more serious roles he played. Sometime I’ll re-watch “Mr. Chips.” Yes, his concision of thought (and expression!) was a delight in the numerous interviews he did toward the end of his life. And he was still just as gorgeous in his “dotage” as in his youth!
Did you hear his interview on NPR a few years back where he spontaneously recited Shakespeare’s sonnets? Amazing
Yes, I just heard that replayed this evening! He apparently knew all of them by heart, at 70+ years old, no less. Meanwhile, I can’t remember where I left my car keys…..
Thank you for this encapsulation – great homage paid.
Thank you, Mike, for your interest and feedback!