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Movie Editor's Blog

Peter O’Toole: The best drinking stories

Acting legend Peter O'Toole has sadly died, aged 81 years-old. The thesp with the piercing eyes scooped a whopping eight Oscar nominations during a glittering career for the likes of 'Lawrence Of Arabia, ' The Lion In Winter' and 'Venus'.

[Related story: Harrison Ford at 70 - his best bust-ups]

He was also awarded a lifetime achievement Academy Award in 2003 (he initially turned it down, famously saying "I want to win the lovely bugger outright"). 

Happy birthday!... Peter O'Toole is 80 (Credit: PA)

O'Toole was not just renowned for his monumental acting talent though. He was also infamous for his hellraising antics, along with fellow luvvies Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter Finch and Oliver Reed. Before ill health forced him to cut down on his drinking, the actor's boozy shenanigans were legendary.

Here's some of the best Peter O'Toole stories we could find… most are true, a few could be urban legends.

- While filming 'Lawrence Of Arabia', O'Toole organised a date for Omar Sharif with "sex-swap pioneer" April Ashley. When Sharif found out that, um, all was not as it appeared, he chased O'Toole around the house with a meat cleaver.

- Famously, O'Toole once went out for a drink in Paris… and woke up in Corsica. He's confirmed this actually happened.

Drinking buddies... O'Toole and Richard Harris (Credit: PA)

- He also loved climbing. His party piece was drunkenly scrambling up the wall of Lloyd's Bank in Covent Garden. He used to scale it in his "Sunday shoes".

- Richard Burton and O'Toole both said they were drunk throughout most of the shooting of 'Becket'. The pair were still awarded Oscar nominations.

- While shooting 'The Lion In Winter', O'Toole cut off the top of his finger in a boating accident. He popped the finger in some brandy he was drinking, before pushing it back into place and wrapping with a bandage. Three weeks later he took the bandage off, and found he'd put it on the wrong way round, "probably because of the brandy, which I drank," explained O'Toole.

- He went out boozing with Michael Caine when he was O'Toole's understudy for 'The Long And The Short And The Tall' at the Royal Court Theatre in 1959. The last thing Michael Caine remembered was eating egg and chips, before waking up in a strange flat with a headache. "What time is it?" he inquired. "Never mind what time it is," said O'Toole. "What f***ing day is it?" Two days had passed and they were due on stage in three hours.

Three's a crowd... O'Toole in play with pals (Credit: PA)

- On one epic session with Peter Finch in Ireland, they tried to order drinks at a small bar after closing time. The landlord refused to serve them, so they wrote out a cheque and bought the bar. Thankfully he didn't cash it, and they ripped it up the following morning.

- At one after show party in the 1960s, O'Toole was apparently spotted sitting on a throne onstage, with two pedal bins besides him. One contained beer, the other vodka.

- Another possibly apocryphal story that we hope is true. He once went out for a boozy lunch with pals and by the evening they decided to take in a play. O'Toole took his seat, only to bolt towards the stage when the curtain went up. He had a part in the show.

- And finally, while we're fairly sure he wasn't drunk at this point, his brilliant reading of the lyrics to The Spice Girls' 'Wannabe', in a spot called 'Peter O' Toole Delivers Lines That Are Plainly Beneath Him' on TFI Friday, is surely worth another look.

This article was first published in 2012 to celebrate the late actor’s 80th birthday.