He stirred the smooth sands of monotony…

“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'TooleO’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…..


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