Peter O’Toole announced his retirement from acting Tuesday, telling fans it’s time for him to “chuck in the sponge.” In a statement, the 79-year-old actor acknowledged that his career has brought him “public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort,” but admitted that his heart is no longer in it. “It’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay,” he said.
Peter O’Toole’s full statement is below.
It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back.
My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.
However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay.
So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.
O’Toole’s acting career began on the British stage, where he garnered acclaim for his lead roles in productions of Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. He transitioned to film in 1959, with a small role in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England. The Irish-born actor would ascend to movie stardom just three years later, with the release of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. His performance as T.E. Lawrence put O’Toole at the epicenter of the Hollywood mainstream, and to this day it remains the role for which he is best known.
The film also resulted in O’Toole’s first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He would go on to receive seven more nominations over the ensuing four decades, and although he came home empty-handed on each occasion, O’Toole remained delightfully good-natured about it. In 2003, he accepted an honorary Oscar with a dash of sarcasm. ”Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,” he said at the time. His most recent nomination came in 2006, for his performance in Venus. When the Academy announced his nomination that year, O’Toole issued a statement reading, “If you fail the first time, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.”
Below is one of the most poignant clips from Venus. Here, O’Toole bids a very different kind of farewell, albeit one rife with the same emotional depth and brilliance he brought to the screen so many years ago.