Peter O’Toole

1 .  Montgomery Clift, Suddenly Last Summer, 1959.  
Clift was in a bad way.  Rolling in agony on the carpet, suffering from drugs,  drinking himself blotto. And trembling  – not good for a psycho-surgeon like Dr Cukrowicz.  Producer Sam Spiegel wanted to sack him after the first rushes.  “Over my dead body,” stormed Liz Taylor, banning the producer from his own set. He secretly engineered a replacement but during his test as the surgeon, O’Toole  held an x-ray and then looked directly at the camera and said: “It’s all right, Mrs  Spiegel, your son will never  play the violin again!”  Spiegel was furious: “He’ll never work for me again!” Well, not until he really needed him for…  Lawrence of Arabia, 1962.  (O’Toole’s manager, Jules Buck, had been part of the Spiegel-John Huston’s Horizon Pictures, and  Huston’s cameraman for his classic WWII documentary, The Battle of San Pietro).   

2. –  Stanley Baker, Blind Date (US: Chance Meeting), 1959.    Impressed by “his prodigious talent” at the Bristol Old Vic, the exiled US director Joseph Losey and scenarist Ben Barzman wrote Inspector Morgan for O’Toole, right  down to the cold the actor had when they met. But a British star name was required to off-set the foreign leads: German Hardy Kruger and French Micheline Presle.  Losey  said, sadly, that O’Toole was later persuaded to  change  his nose.  “A grave error. His nose wasn’t ugly.” Losey recommended Peter to Nicholas Ray for The Savage Innocents.   Ian Holm on Peter: “There was something gladiatorial and threatening about him. An enigma, wrapped in charisma and sprinkled with booze.”  Drowned, more like it.

3. –    Kieron Moore, The Day They Robbed The Bank of England, 1960.    Rather than the obvious, “rather lunatic, mad Irishman,” he took the smaller role of a young Guards officer. “A bit of an idiot -or is he?”This was O’Toole’sway to battle typecasting. “I was then playing in The Long, The Short and The Tall onstage and Jules Buck was one of the few American producers who could see me in any other way than a Cockney savage.” By the end of their first meeting, they were friends and forming Keep Films.

4. –    Laurence Harvey, The Long, The Short and The Tall (US: Jungle Fighters),   1960.  WWII in the Malaysian jungle and the Japanese zone… UK director  Leslie Norman wanted O’Toole, who’d made his name on stage as Private ‘Bammo’ Bamforth (when the signed star, Albert Finney, got appendicits).  For the film, Hollywood wanted a name even though Harvey was as unsuitable as he had been for Room At The Top.  “They made me have Harvey…  He and Richard Harris let the film down. Harris because he resented Harvey, despised him – and they didn’t get on with Richard Todd.” Norman (Barry’s father) was miming all the dialogue when  I was on the set. Michael Caine, who’d served in Korean war,  was O’Toole’s stage understudy but never went on. O’Toole just always made it  in time. Just. Caine had the role for the Scottish  tour (“my first  step towards becoming a star”)  and his mate, Terence  Stamp,  was Sammy Whitaker, the wireles operator.

5. –    Albert Finney, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, 1960.     Future 007 producer Harry Saltzman’s idea for Arthur Seaton was not really dangerously macho enough for his credo – “don’t let the bastards grind ya down!”

6. –   Richard Harris, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1962.    One Irishman or another seeemed to be the MGM thinking regarding the role of Seaman John Mills. O’Toole, of course was otherwise engaged with a much finer epic. Lawrence of Arabia.   Harris, like Finney, was one off Peter’s boozing buddies. He called Harris:  The Mixster. 

7. –    Richard Burton, Cleopatra, 1963.

8. –  Sean Connery, Marnie, 1963.      After Marlon Brando and Paul Newman passed, Alfred Hitchcock  looked at O’Toole and Rock Hudson for his hero, Mark Rutland.   Then, Cubby Broccoli  showed  Hitch some glimpses of Dr No … and,  although, he didn’t match theAmerican aristocrat hero one jot, the role was Sean’s.  He took two more films  from O’Toole:  The Man Who Would Be King, 1975, and The Name of the Rose, 1986. 

9. –    Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins, 1963.    
OK, chimney sweep Bert had to sing and dance it up. But he also had to be at home with a Cockney accent. Only a few US stars could manage that. Sadly, Van Dyke was not among them. Nor were Fred Astaire, Cary Grant or Danny Kaye…UK author PL Travers didn’t like how books were Hollywoodised and took 25 years to accept Walt Disney’s plan for her governess. She then felt the result “vulgar and disrespectful” – and, like most Brits, loathed Van Dyke’s Bert. But then she knew nothing about cinema, having suggested the august (and aged) Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison. Even Laurence Olivier  – To sweep, or not to sweep… Plus Richards Burton and Harris, Peters O’Toole and Sellers. (Only Sellers made sense). Disney wanted Stanley Holloway – busy reprising his My Fair Lady stage role. Loving the movie but feeling miscast, Van Dyke nominated Jim Dale (a Disney star in the 70s) and agreed with Travers about Ron Moody… who would have frightened not only the horses but the kids, as well.

10 – Tom Tryon, The Cardinal, 1963.   The sudden blip in producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger’s track record was caused by lamentable casting. Tyron, happier later as a novelist, was never the actor Otto tried to force him to be… during the rise and rise of the titular Vatican favourite, reportedly based on New York’s powerful (and Senator Joe McCarthy loving) Cardinal Spellman. Preminger tested three bores Tyron, Bradford Dillman, Cliff Robertson; considered total opposites Hugh O’Brian, Stuart Whitman; and, according to Tyron, refused the better O’Toole, Albert Finney, even the (way too old) Gregory Peck. O’Toole replaced Robert Mitchum when Preminger sacked him during Rosebud, 1974.

11 – Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady, 1963.  
To protect the  $5.2m  he paid for the rights, Jack Warner wanted star power – like Audrey Hepburn and Cary instead  of Broadway’s original Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins: Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. Warner had  several other Professors in mind. From the inspired (Grant, Noël Coward, Peter O’Toole (too pricxey), George Sanders) to the plain stupid (Rock Hudson as a grumpy English gentleman?). Plus dowdy Michael Redgrave, who had the style but the box-office appeal of George Zucco.  (Who?)  (Exactly!) Refusing $1.5m, Grant declared, as he said about  Robert Preston and The Music Man in 1961:  Not only will  I not play it, but if you don’t put Rex in it, I won’t go see it.”
O’Toole, was too pricey after Lawrence of Arabia to be Higgins of London. His agents wanted $400,000. Harrison’s accepted half that He was livid on finding co-star Audrey Hepburn (35 playing 19) was on a cool $1m. O’Toole  finally showed off his Higgins in a tele-movie of Pygmalion – the basis of My Fair Lady – in 1984.  And a Broadway production three years later

12 – Richard Harris,The Bible: In the Beginning, 1964.    Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted each Old Testament filmed by such notables as Bergman, Fellini, Visconti, Welles. John Huston replaced them all for just 20 Genesis verses – “I wouldn’t go a verse furtherAnd played Noah and played God talking to Noah…  He wanted his new drinking buddy for Cain but Dino signed Harris first, so O‘Toole became The Three Angels and really stoie what Time Magazine famously compared to being swallowed by a whale. Huston tried to work with O’Toole again but Waterloo, The Man Who Would Be King and Will Adams, co-starring Toshiro Mifune, never happened.16 –   James Mason, Lord Jim, 1965.      Feeling too old (at 33!) for another action hero, O’Toole said he’d prefer to be Gentleman Brown. Auteur Richard Brooks said No. “You have to be the hero!”

13 –   Richard Burton, Becket, 1964.    The pals swopped roles – at Liz Taylor’s canny suggestion. O’Toole became Henry II saying: “Nobody could play Becket like he did – as a sort of sacred coal-miner!”

14 – George Segal, King Rat, 1964. Blacklisted Hollywood writer Carl Foreman (High Noon) decided to film James Cavell’s tough book about his three years as a WWII prisoner of the Japanese. With the finest UK actors:  new guys Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole, veterans Trevor Howard, John Mills.  He then felt he had no more to say about war after The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone and The Victors. UK writer-director Bryan Forbes made it his Hollywood debut, bravely side-stepping Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra for the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf find, George Segal – as the titular wheeler-dealer-fixer-conniver who all but ends up running the jungle camp.  What was “lacerating” for The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther was, said the  ingloriously acidic critic Rex Reed,  “the worst thing that has happened to movies since Lassie   played a war veteran with amnesia.”

15 – Richard Burton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1965.  Thinking of their image, most actors were scared of being the emasculated husband of a blowsy, loudmouthed Elizabeth Taylor. Ernest Lehman was the producer and scenarist – well, the Burtons put all of playwright Edward Albee’s lines back into the script, leaving just two by Lehman!.  He wanted Peter O’Toole as George. (The wife was Martha!). Liz liked Broadway’s George, Arthur Hill, but Jack Lemmon actually accepted the role – and changed his mind next day. (A matter, said insiders, more of money than fear).  Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, James Mason and, amazingly, Glenn Ford, were also in the frame before Liz simply said: “What about Burton?”   Just like she’d said about directors: “You know who’s a genius? Mike Nichols.” That’s how Broadway’s king started his amazing  film-directing career – after  studying the George Stevens classic, A Place in the  Sun. The star was… Liz Taylor.  Mike Nichols, played the role opposite hs comedy  partner, Elaine May, on stage in 1980.

16 –   Omar Sharif, Doctor Zhivago, 1965.     Close to the top of impeccable director David Lean’s thoughts, despite being too extrovert. “I’d rather suppress his exhibitionism than attempt to coax strength out of a lily.”Never happened because (a) Lean’s previous producer, Sam Spiegel, refused to release O’Toole from two movies(b) someone slipped him an unimpressive script draft and (c) he had not recovered from the gruelling Lawrence of Arabia shoot with Lean. O’Toole’s refusal caused a rift between the two that never healed.

17 –  James Mason, Lord Jim,  1965.    Feeling too old (at 33!) for another action hero, O’Toole said he’d  prefer to be Gentleman Brown. Auteur Richard Brooks said No.  “You have to be the hero!”

18  – Sean Connery, Thunderball, 1965.

19 –    Rod Taylor, Young Cassidy, 1965.    While director John Ford debated Harris v O’Toole, to play Sean O’Casey, the dying playwright recommended Donal  Donnelly or Norman Rodway to play his early days. Fortunately, poor O’Casey was dead by 1964 and never saw the mess – finished by director Jack Cardiff.

20 –    James Fox, The Chase, 1966.
Livid that his contract with producer Sam Spiegel prevented him being Doctor Zhivago, O’Toole  decided to refuse this “ghastly” Spiegel movie.    “I have a block. I can’t play Americans.  Anybody, any accent, but American. It’s like Americans speaking English. Never works, misses by an inch out of synch, out of juxt. Only Sellers can do it perfectly.”  Fox proved he could talk Texan but embarrassed, he told me, when finding his screen lover Jane Fonda was totally naked under her gown… Spiegel made money out of his other Lawrence of Arabia find, Omar Sharif, playing Zhivago, so why not  let OToole do it? Sam then inisisted the Irishman and  Egyptian, play Nazis  in  The Night of the Generals. This was the first of Sam’s  seven  consecutive flops 1965-1983. Minus  David Lean, Sam was a zero.  


21 –    Oskar Werner, Fahrenheit 451, 1966.   Who should the nouvelle vague icon  François Truffaut choose to be Ray Bradbury’s fireman, Montag? Charles Aznavour star of his second feature, or  Oskar Werner, a new global star due to Truffaut’s Jules et Jim?  He also contacted Warren Beatty, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Marlon Brando, Montgomey Clift, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole – and even signed Terence Stamp, before making the mistake of his life and giving the fireman to Werner, originally booked as Montag’s boss. Any of the others asleep would have better. As if Truffauit did not have enough to contend with – his first film in colour and in English – he found  Werner had turned prima donna, his head enlarged by his Hollywood debut, Ship of Fools. He was jealous that Julie Christie had a double role and he did not,, he argued constantly over (his dull) interpretation, refused one “dangerous” scene  (as if a fireman would not have to deal with fire),  even deliberately cut his  hair to ruin continuity. If Truffaut  hadn’t spent  six years planning the film, he would have walked. Ran!  Instead, he simply truncated Werner’s later scenes – and  used a double, John Ketteringham,  in most of them!

22 – Robert Shaw, A Man For All Seasons, 1966.     One dream line-up featured Laurence Olivier and Alec Guinness, with O’Toole promoted from Becket’s King Henry II to King Henry VIII.  O’Toole and Shaw were, of course, drinking buddies and once raced their Rolls-Royces from London to Brighton.  Boozing pals waved them off. No ne knew who won as they were not seen again for three days. 

23 –    Guy Stockwell, Beau Geste, 1966.      Universal had fleeting thoughts about a British superstar version – with Richard Burton, Albert Finney, O’Toole – until counting the cost and relegating it tocontract slaves on the back lot desert.

24 – Richard Harris, Camelot, 1966.
For his last hurrah after 45 years running Warner Bros, head bro Jack L Warner – having learned his lesson the hard way by ruining My Fair Lady – wanted the original Broadway stars to reprise their 1960 roles of King Arthur and Guenevere. Burton was not keen (or not for the money being offered).  Nor was Julie Andrews, certainly not after the way Jack Warner dumped her from My Fair Lady (even though that led to her Mary Poppins Oscar).  “OK, we’ll take Liz, as well,” said Warner.  And why not their mate, Peter O’Toole, as Lancelot.  However, Elizabeth Taylor was not going where Burton was not going…  He regretted spurning the crown and headed a 1980 stage tour, before quitting due to health issues. His replacement on stage, as on screen, was Richard Harris.  Other royal contenders had been, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, Peter O’Toole, Gregory Peck and Robert Shaw. Harris first heard about the film when making Hawaii with Julie Andrews (the very reason she refused the musical, she did not get on with Harris). The Irishman pushed hard for the role, Including this do-the-math note to Warner: “Height of Vanessa Redgrave: 5 feet 11 inches. Richard Burton: 5 feet 10 inches. Richard Harris: 6 feet 2 inches”!   He even paid for his own screen test, directed by Nicolas Roeg! Harris later  paid $1m for the Camelot rights for his stage your, making more millions  than even  from his Harry Potter years.


25 – Maurice Roëves, Ulysses, 1966.  Wolf Mankowitz adapted the James Joyce classic for his then pal – and business partner – Peter Sellers as Leopold Bloom, Diane Cilento as his wife, Molly, and  O’Toole as Stephen Dedalus in Dublin on June 16, 1904.Keeping the faith with the Joyce text, Barbara Jefford (as Molly) was the first person to use the F word in a UK film – one reason, among the many why the BBC demanded 29 cuts before  a tele-broadcast (director Joseph Strick refused))  and the Irish  censors reused to pass the film for release until the year 2000…!

26 –    Rex Harrison, Dr Dolittle, 1966.    O’Toole let it be known, as they say, he was keen on being the top-hatted doctor who wished he could walk, talk, grunt,  squeak and squawk with the animals. “But they didn’t like that at all.” Fox worked through a short-list of Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Jack Lemmon, Peter Ustinov and (as he was called behnd his back, Tyrannosaurus Rex.  

27 – David Niven, Casino Royale, 1966.


28 –    Terence Stamp, Histoires extraordinaires (UK: Tales of Mystery and Imagination; US: Spirits of the Dead), France-Italy, 1967.    

Getting back into action after the collapse of The Voyage de G Mastorna (the best film he never made), Federico Fellini joined the Edgar Allen Poe sketch project. (The other directors, Claude Chabrol, Joe Losey, Luchino Visconti, Orson Welles shrunk to just Louis Malle and Roger Vadim). Fellini fell for Poe’s Never Bet The Devil Your Head, with a celeb-stressed actor, the titular Toby Dammit, running amok at Cinecittà.   A cordial meet in London later turned nasty…  With O’Toole screaming “Fascist!” and Fellini replying FU!   Also disappointed by Burton and James Fox, Fellini   then called casting director Dyson Lovell: ”Send me your most decadent actors.” Stamp was among them…. “I do think about my career as before and after Fellini,” Stamp told Alex Simon, “because that was such a landmark for me. I knew he’d written Toby for O’Toole and I knew Peter wouldn’t do it. I knew I was the second choice. But he loved me and the price was that I love him back, which wasn’t hard. So those four weeks were a real rush for me and it was only because of what had happened to me during the Fellini shoot that I was able to give the kind of performance in Teorema that I was able to. Fellini got the best acting out of me I’d ever done at that point.”


29 –    Dirk Bogarde, Sebastian, 1967.     Failing to get any of the New Wave Brits (Michael Caine, Patrick McGoohan, O’Toole), director Michael Powell settled for The Old Guard who had Ill Met By Moonlight for him in1957. “I was lost, the picture was lost and I lost control of the picture.

30 – Ron Moody, Oliver! 1968.       Composer Lionel Bart sued O’Toole who, allegedly,had said he wouldplay Fagin – for free.And didn’t. Moody never dreamt he’d be offered the film “because of the backstage hostilities during the original stage show. Carol Reed had never directed a musical before, and took me to lunch to ask me how he should go about it. Once I was officially given the role, I was allowed the freedom to direct myself.”

31 –   Franco Nero, A Professional Gun, Italy-Spain, 1968.    He topped the tortilla Western cast when producer Alberto Grimaldi first announced Il mercenario for O’Toole, Burt Lancaster and Antonella Lualdi for director Gillo Pontecorvo in1967. When Sergio Corbucci started helming a year later, his stars were Nero, Tony Musanteand Giovanna Ralli.

32 – Richard Burton, Anne of the Thousand Days, 1968.   Producer Hal Wallis was musing upon O’Toole for Henry VIII and Geraldine Chaplin, Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Olivia Hussey or Charlotte Rampling as his second, luckless wife, Anne Boleyn – mother of Elisabeth I. Oh and Elizabeth Taylor when Richard Burton finally became the king. O’Toole was too thin and Burton too short…

33 –  David Hemmings, Alfred The Great, 1969.    Announced in 1964. Two years before Hemmings exploded in Blow Up. Before he  took his throne, O’Toole had been short-listed for the English King Alfred (848-899) when the project was  called  A King is Born.   IMDb has the best story about the movie. Actress Vivien Merchant did not say one word as Freda.  Critic Pauline Kael suggested sarcastically that she’d probably refused to say her lines…  dialogue in the movie was unspeakably bad. That turned out to be the truth.

34 –  David Hemmings, The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1968.    In the saddle when producer Joseph E Levine tried to buy out LaurenceHarvey’s interest.

35 –  David  Hemmings, Fragment of Fear, 1969.       Billed as… A phantasmagoria of fright!.

36 – Robert Stephens, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1969.    First of O’Toole’s three invitations to be Sherlock Holmes. Iconic director Billy Wilder wanted Britain’s two Peter The Greats – O’Toole and Sellers –  as Holmes and  Watson in a musical planned with My Fair Lady’s Lerner & Loewe team.  Wilder then went straight. No music. No star baggage, either, once O’Toole dithered about the unfinished script and Wilder never wanted to see Sellers again after their 1963 Kiss Me, Stupid – a match for this debacle…  O’Toole voiced Holmes in four animated tele-movies produced by Australia’s Burbank Films in 1982).

37 – Richard Warwick, The Breaking of Bumbo, 1969.   John Osborne and Tony Richardson asked O’Toole to be  Bumbo Bailey, of the Fusilier Guards, during London’s Swinging 60s – but in amusical version of director  Andrew Sinclair’s novel.  He finally made it himself, unmusically – and unfunnily. He then won O’Toole as blind Captain Tom Cat,  having already won Richard Burton, for his next, slighly better but ever wordy adaptation of the Dylan Thomas radio play, Under Milk Wood,famously narrated by Burton in 1954. ”To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea…” The village is called Llareggub (try it backwards).Elizabeth Taylor turned up as Cat’s whore, Rosie Probert. ”She’s not even Welsh,” complained Sinclair. “Your problem,” he was told. “You’ve got her for two days – or no film!”   He made two more equally inconsequential films  – nothing since 1982.

38 –    Tom Baker, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1970.   Yul Brynner was keen. Lawrence of Arabia ,himself, Peter O’Toole, was not.  Anyway,  the Lawrence  producer, Sam  Sp[egel,  only  had eyes for Brando as  Russia’s infamous “mad monlk,” Rasputin.  And, oh boy,  the dull  film really needed star power. Despite  Sam’s track record, Columbia wouldn’t  give jhim enough money any. (So no Julie Christie, Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, either!).  Laurence Olivier, already booked for  Count Witte, recommended Baker, part pf his National Theatre troupe…. And the future fourth Doctor Who, 1974-1981. 


39 – Christopher Jones, Ryan’s Daughter, 1970.   Robert Bolt composed a new take on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for Sarah Miles and handed themselves to David Lean.  Hmm, sajd Lean, go away, try another take – no Bovarys and no France. Hence the film made in Ireland plus a stunning South African beach.     Sarah’s war hero lover was penned by Robert Bolt for Brando. Until he was delayed on his Italian film, Queimada(Burn) in Columbia. The writer then suggested Richard Burton, Richard Harris or O’Toole. “He ought to have some quite forbidding darkness in him,” said Bolt. “Brando and Burton could both do that. Peter might appear sullen or posturing.”  John Box was producing The Looking Glass War and invited director David Lean to take a gander at one of the cast: Anthony Hopkins. Lean fell, instead, for his co-star, Jones, much younger and very honest. “I’m not an actor,”” he kept saying. As if he needed to. He had to be dubbed in both films. 

40 – Robert Mitchum, Ryan’s Daughter, 1970.    David Lean also gave some  thought to having his Lawrence of Arabia as Charles O’Shaughnessy, the mild Irish schoolteacher with the adulterous wife. Thoughts unshared by O’Toole.  Mitchum gave an acting masterclass to his rivals for Sarah’s schoolteacher husband (including Patrick McGoohan, Gregory Peck, Paul Scofield  and George C Scott(!). Mitchum tried to refuse the role. “I was actually planning on committing suicide.” “Well,” said Bolt,“if you just finish working on this wretched little film and then do yourself in, I’d be happy to stand the expenses of your burial.”[

41  – John Mills, Ryan’s Daughter, 1969.  “Well, if you don’t want to be Charles,” David Lean Peter , “maybe you could be Michael.”  Who he?  “The  village idiot”! “Typecasting, isn’t it?” said John Mills, when he was first to sign up for the film – and collected a support Oscar for his mute performance.


42 – Dean Martin, “something big,” 1970.   That’s the correct title because that’s what Dino, Brian Keith and Ben Johnson keep saying in the odd Western penned by James Lee Barrett for O’Toole of Arabia. It reminded critic Roger Ebert of Sinatra’s final films, where “the personality and off-screen persona of the star is actually thought to be more important than what’s going on.” Sinatra’s British friend, Carol White (or as he called her: Carolwhite), was the Dino-chasing Dover McBride.


43 –  Christopher Plummer, Waterloo, 1971.
Director John Huston dreamt of...  Burton and O’Toole as Napoleon and Wellington “It got postponed, rather unhappily because that was going to be a real jump-in,” said O’Toole. “A character part in probably the most mliterate script I’ve read since Becket – and The Big Fella directing!”  In  fact, O’Toole was so keen that he and his business partner, Jules Buck, seriously thought of buying the project from Italian producer Dino de Laurentiis and  Russia’s Mosfilm. When that didn’t work, nor did O’Toole. Russia’s Sergei Bondarchuk selected  Rod Steiger and Plummer (another O’Toole mate)


44 – Zalman King, The Ski Bum, 1971.   A preposterous 1967 notion from producer Martin Poll.  And yet, out of it came Poll’s next offer, The Lion in Winter. Might as well do it before I die.” So, he was Henry II again, older, wiser, sinceBecket – opposite Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine Kate (he named his daughter after her) called him Pig, he called her Nags, because she did. “But I adored the girl.” “He was the most extraordinary actor I’d ever seen,” said Anthony Hopkins, playing one of the kingt’s three argumentative sons.  But back to Ski Bum– it was the reason Zalman King quit acting.  He later scripted 9 1/2 Weeks and directed a succession of copy-cat soft-core bores like a cut-price John Derek.

45 –    Robert Foxworth, Hogan’s Goat, TV, 1971.     A notion more grandiose than the script the Burtons, O’Toole and Spencer Tracy! William Alfred’s blank-verse Broadway play was just not importantenough.It wound up as a PBS special.

46 – Del Henney, Straw Dogs, 1971.  Director Sam Peckinpah already had Dustin  Hoffman as his hero (as weak as the film), but still wanted O’Toole or Richard Harris as the Cornish lout raping Hoffman’s screen wife, Susan George. Twice – “raped and then buggered,” as Peckinpah told her.  Sue bravely said she’d quit rather than agree to his overly explicit portrayal of the assaults. He gave in and kept his camera on her face, not her body.  Cuts by the UK censor made the whole three minute sequence worse by actually implying sodomy.

47 –    Michael Caine, X  Y and Zee, 1971.    O’Toole wisely avoided being the swanky architect flaunting his latest mistress before his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The script , by Irish novelist Edna O’Brian, had marked similarities to  her previous scenario, Three Into Two Won’t Go – and even more so with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Probably why Liz loved it.   The sets were better…   The film“Under-rated,” said O’Toole, “because the early 70s went right out of fashion, even more than the 60s.” Caine had been O’Toole’s understudy in the London stage production of The Long and the Short and the Tall in those same 60s.

48 –    Franco Nero, Le Moine/The Monk,France, 1972.    His interest vanished once the package no longer included Spanish director Luis Buñuel and O’Toole’s Great Catherine in 1968: Jeanne Moreau.

49 – Paul Scofield, A Delicate Balance, 1973.   “There’s a tinker woman coming up the drive,” said his daughters. It proved to be Katharine Hepburn but shel’d chosen the wrong momet to visit O’Toole witth a joib offer at his Irish home at Clifden. He was 40, Man of La Mancha had flopped and he’d plainly had enough of movies. Even one  based on the Pulitzer Prize-wnning Edward Albee play. Kate understsood and turned to Scofield and… yes, O’Toole’s dispair dissipated and he played a further 72 screen roles until 2014. However, for every Last Emperor there was a Caligula, for each Stunt Man, a Supergirl… He was right. The best roles were behind him.

50 –  John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.      The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus four of Katharine Kate’s previous co-stars – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!).  (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigley in 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.”  

51 – John Hurt, The Naked Civil Servant, TV, 1975.    O’Toole as the titular Quentin Crisp – what a delicious idea!  Although, no one could have bettered Hurt.
52 – Nicol Williamson, The Seven Per Cent Solution, 1975.   Second  invitation to Holmes sweet Holmes…  Three years after The Seven Per Cent Solution , director Herbert Ross  ran into the same problem –  an old O’Toole-Olivier feud about nothing! – when asking them to be Holmes and Watson. Olivier refused until hearing O’Toole was out and Williamson had moved into 221b Baker Street.  Plummer was a cousin of Nigel Bruce, the most famous  Dr Watson (in the Basil Rathbone films) when  giving birth to the exact kind  of silly-ass buffoon that James Mason refused to deliver. O’Toole finally became Holmes in 1982 – voicing him in an elegant  quartet of  Australian 50-minute TV toons.

53 –  David Bowie, The Man Who Fell To Earth, 1975.
Director Nicolas Roeg was very keen on “his Garbo quality.” Or what Ian Holm called  “an enigma wrapped in charisma and sprinkled with booze.” Bowie told Movieline in 1982: ”It was the first thing I’d ever done… I was totally insecure with about 10 grams [of cocaine] a day in me. I was stoned out of my mind from beginning to end.”Cinematographer Tony Richmond could never visualize  anyone else as the alien, Newton. “Bowie was so strange, so ethereal, so androgynous.  Great to work with – a bit weird, but great. I never saw him using any drugs on set. He had a minder looking after him, as well as a chauffeur, Tony Mascia, who played the same role in the film.”  Bowie always said he built Newton upon his memories of Tony Newley’s cult TV series, The Strange World of Gurney Slade – a prophetic kind  of pre-Monty Python, too bizarre for the great unwashed, circa 1960, that ATV quickly switched it from prime time  to late night.  Blowe was not alone  among UK rock stars influenced by Newley and Gurney…  and Newley as Gurney.


  (Clic to enlarge)  

* The lanky Irishman was first choice. And for the same reason that David Bowie succeeded him.  Director Nicholas Roeg wanted “a definite, pointedly stark face.”  Or indeed… extra-terrestrial.   [Illustration by Graham Marsh, 1976]



54 –   Richard Harris, The Cassandra Crossing, 1976.   O’Toole sensibly rejected joining  the stars trying to survive a deadly virus on a train.  Rewriter Tom Mankiewicz) called it The Towering Germ.  (”This is how silly the movie was, OJ Simpson played a priest.”) To, known as Dr Mank for all he films he saved, did his best for the Euro-shoot while in the other Venice, writer-producing  Mother, Jugs & Speed – #1 film for all US ambulancers. 52 –    Ian McShane, Jesus of Nazareth, TV, 1977.        Ill health forced him to quit being Judas Iscariot in the The Bible according to Lew Grade’s apostles, Franco Zefferelli and Anthony Burgess.

55 –  Sean Connery, The Man Who Would Be King, 1975.

56 – Ian McShane, Jesus of Nazareth, TV, 1977.    Ill health forced him  to quit being Judas   Iscariot in the The Bible according to Lew Grade’s apostles,  Franco  Zefferelli and Anthony Burgess.

57 – Timothy Dalton, Sexette, 1978.      Happily passed on Mae West’s (lamentable) finale. Ian Holm again: “There was something unconsciously gladiatorial and threatening about him… strangely ridiculous, often riveting and unpredictably raw.” 

58 –  Donald Pleasence, Halloween, 1978.   
Hitchcock fan auteur John Carpenter searched high and low for his shrink, Dr Sam Loomis. Peter O’Toole and the Hammer horrors, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee versus Charles Napier, Lawrence Tierney, Abe Vigoda. The $300,00 shoestring budget couldn’t afford any of them! Same for Lloyd Bridges, David Carradine, Kirk Douglas, Steven Hill, Walter Matthau… even such off-the-wall surprises as John Belushi, Mel Brooks, Yul Brynner, Edward Bunker, Sterling Hayden, Dennis Hopper, Kris Kristofferson… and Dick’s brother, Jerry Van Dyke. Pleasence said he only made tthe film because his daughter told him to!  She’d loved Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13… He also told Carpenter he’d never hadn’t read the script, nor Loomis. “Only later,” said Carpenter, “after [we] became close friends, did I realise he was finding out how much I loved the movie I was making.” Incidentally, Loomis was named after John Gavin’s Psycho character; his screen lover was Janet Leigh, mother of Carpenter’s heroine, Jamie Lee Curtis. So it flows.

59 – Christopher Plummer, Murder By Decree. 1978.  Three years later, director Bob Clark ran into the same problem –  an old O’Toole-Olivier  feud about nothing! – when asking them to Holmes and Watson.   Plummer was a cousin of Nigel Bruce, the mosty famous  Dr Watson (in the Basil Rathbone films) when  giving birgth to the exact kind  of silly-ass buffoon that Mason refused  to deliver. O’Toole finally became Holmes five years later – voicing him in an elegant quartet of Australian 50-minute TV toons.


60  – David Warner, TRON, 1981.     When invited to play the villain, Dillinger, and his digital world version, Sark, O’Toole studied the scenario and…

61 – Bruce Boxleitner, TRON, 1981.   … said he’d be far more interested in playing Alan Bradley and his digital counterpart, Tron. Disney, however, was aiming younger.  If it could be said that the nonsense was aimed in any other direction  than dullsville.   


62 –     George Segal, Killing ’Em Softly, Canada, 1982.    From same book that led to French realisateur Louis Malle’s Atlantic City, 1980. Max Fischer intended shooting around O’Toole, while busy in Hollywood.Then, due to tax deadlines, he had to quit. Enter: Segal. Exit: the film! 

63  –    Jonathan Pryce, Something Wicked This Way Comes, 1983.   Something awful that way went. 

64 – Tatsya Nakadai, Ran, Japan-France, 1984.   O’Toole was usually  better on stage than screen where he was often more ham than mustard.  Laurence Olivier said his Hamlet came closest to the man – while crtitics felt his Macbethwas absurd, (yet he  hoped  to film it with Meryl Streep, Bryan Forbes directing). Earlier, he planned aLear film with a more iullustrious maestro, the Japanese, Akira Kurosawa. “He knew Lear in his bones, that monolithic feudal thing,” he told Playboy in 1965.  Nobody stumped up a budget. Then, with the aid of fanboys George Lucas and Steven Spileberg, he made Kagemushaas a 1979 rehearsal for his very own Lear (three sons,  not daughters, similar to his  three agumentative sons when Henry II again in The Lion in Winter), backed by Luis Bunuel’s Paris producer Serge Silberman after ten years of scripting and story-boarding, painting by exquisite painting – an invaluable guide to his assistants when his eye-sight was fading.


65 –  James Fox, A Passage To India, 1984.

His Lawrence director David Lean thought of O’Toole only – for what proved his finale. Lean said that Fielding, based by  EM Forster  on himself,  could be played by any good character actor. “But it’s got to shine. Peter has that star quality.   He can be very sensitive to distress.   He also has another asset: a strange, sexual ambiguity which I played  up in Lawrence but would   play down with Fielding.”


66 – Sean Connery, HIghlander, 1985.   Sean brushed aside ooffers to be either the clansman, Connor MacLeod or the  villainous Kurgan, “strongest of all the immortals,”  in their tussle for… The Prize! He did exacytly the same with them on-screen in his preferred role of  the 2,000-year-old nobleman, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez… knowing full well, he could knock him off in a single week for his $1m. fee.  Connery had more panache than the movie or his rivals… and they weren’t exactly nobodies… but Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and Lee Van Cleef.

67 –  Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986.      The   French realisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud also considered Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Ian McKellen to incarnate Umberto Ecco’s monk detective, William of Baskerville.

68 –    John Neville, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1987.     Terry Gilliam’s first choices for his Baron were O’Toole, Michael Hordern and the third Docor Who, Jon Pertwee. Strangely enough, although Hordern, in particular, was also perfect for another Gilliam fixation – The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – he was never invited aboard the long-delayed dream movie, begun in 2000, finished (?) in 2017.

69 – Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.

70 – Lance Henricksen, The Pit and the Pendulum, 1990.        Quit due to production delays. Anthony Perkins, his first replacement as Torquemada, also had to leave.


71 –    Tommy Lee Jones, JFK, 1991.

72 –    Sam Waterston, Nixon, 1995.      He was on writer-director Oliver Stone’s must list as Richard Helms, the Director of Central Intelligence under Presidents LB Johnson and Richard Nixon.

73 –    Jeremy Kemp, Angels and Insects, 1995.      A coolly erotic version of AS Byatt’s novel by Mr and Mrs Philip Haas.

74 –    Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996. 

75 –    Freddie Jones, Married 2 Malcolm, 1998.    The titular Mark Addy has two wives… and a tedious scenario as O’Toole quickly noted. The next Jasper choice, Ronald Fraser, also fell out – by falling down and dying.

76 –    Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2003.      Did not take to the idea -suggested by Richard Harris’ family- to take over his late pal’s Albus Dumbledore (outed as gay by author JK Rowling in 2007).