There are some people who, when you get the chance to hear them talk about their lives, you just have to stop what you’re doing and listen. The late Richard Harris was one such person — whenever he stopped by David Letterman’s set, I always tended to drop everything and just tune in 100 percent, because, well, first of all, he was so well-spoken, but also because he told such fantastic stories. Never mind whether or not they were all true or greatly exaggerated — they were entertaining as hell, full of ribaldry and drunken exploits, and often including fellow veteran actor Peter O’Toole. Of course, O’Toole is cut from much the same cloth, with the same legendary penchant for colorful excess as well as the gift of gab. And it’s O’Toole’s turn in the spotlight tonight in a one-hour special, Peter O’Toole: Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival, premiering on TCM at 8pm ET, immediately prior to several classic O’Toole films, including The Lion in Winter (1968), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960).
O’Toole: Live has the eight-time Academy Award-nominated actor sitting down in front of an audience — an appropriately comfortable place for O’Toole — and entertaining a conversation with Robert Osborne in which the venerable actor talks about the memories of his youth, like going to see A Day at the Races with his bookie father amid a crowd of other bookies, and how his brief career as a journalist led him to become an actor in spite of his early aspirations nearly being completely derailed by a call-up from the Royal Navy.
Of course, Osborne doesn’t let him get away without discussing some of his more memorable roles and the hallowed names with whom he’s worked throughout his incredibly varied and storied career. Like when director David Lean approached O’Toole on the first day of shooting for Lawrence of Arabia, saying, “Pete, this is the beginning of a great adventure.”
I’m not going to spoil it by going on, but even if I did, you know I can’t sell O’Toole the way O’Toole can. So do yourself a midweek favor and try to catch this guy while we all still can.
Photo: Mathieu Young/TCM