After 50 years on film and eight Oscar nominations, the giant is ready to "chuck in the sponge"

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 10, 2012 01:40 PM
Mike Marsland/WireImage

Lawrence of Arabia is folding his tent.

Peter O’Toole, the eight-time Oscar nominee and honorary Oscar winner who first blazed across the screen in David Lean’s desert epic 50 years ago, announced Tuesday that he is retiring from acting. He is 79.

“Dear All,” began his message, released by his reps. “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.”

He signed it, “Ever, Peter O’Toole.”

From his blond, blue-eyed beauty days playing T.E. Lawrence and the anti-hero of Richard Brooks’s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, O’Toole delivered indelible performances as King Henry II opposite Katharine Hepburn’s Oscar-winning Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, followed by his definitive schoolmaster in Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

Lighter roles included those as the eccentric Earl in The Ruling Class; the dissipated John Barrymore-esque matinee idol in My Favorite Year; and the imperious filmmaker in the satirical The Stunt Man, whose outlandish character was loosely based on larger-than-life director Lean.

In releasing the statement about O’Toole’s retirement, the rep said no interviews or further statements would be given, and that the Irish-born, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art-trained legend is focusing on the third volume of his memoirs.