No star ever seemed quite as delighted to play himself as Peter O’Toole. The actor, who died Sunday at the age of 81, earned innumerable accolades for his stage and screen work, but just as important in cementing the image of Peter O’Toole in the public consciousness were his decades of talk-show appearances, nearly all of them performed through a smirk, a twinkle, and just as often, a large amount of vodka.
As we remember O’Toole, let’s look back at some of his most memorable television appearances.
There’s no better place to begin than the classic spot from Late Night with David Letterman that you see above. O’Toole enters on the back of a camel while the Lawrence of Arabia theme plays, and it just gets better from there. (“The trouble is parking” is a mini-masterclass on comic timing.)
Decades later, O’Toole would appear on Late Show with David Letterman to discuss possible epitaphs. Here’s hoping he actually went through with the one he talks about here.
From the same Iris press tour, here’s O’Toole giving Jay Leno his secrets for aging well: “The only exercise I take is following the coffins of friends who took exercise.”
And here he is on Today, promoting The Tudors and confusing everyone with the phrase “apostolic succession.”
On this late-’80s appearance on British TV, O’Toole discusses the play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell and gives his thoughts on drunkenness, a vice he was known to indulge in from time to time: “There is not a baby born, a body buried, a head crowned, a ship launched, a deal struck, a knot tied, without there being a bottle of liquid light.” (Interview begins at 3:30.)
On a related note, here’s a clearly ticked-off Johnny Carson upbraiding O’Toole for a previous incident of intoxication in 1978:
Finally, we’ll close with this clip from Britiain’s TFI Friday, in which O’Toole essentially invents the “Fancy Actor Reads Unfancy Prose” trope that is still with us today.
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