Yesterday, we lost Peter O’Toole, the actor who first came to fame portraying Lawrence of Arabia.
While much can be said of his brilliant career, it’s worth noting that O’Toole was the rare actor who would not have thanked God if he had ever won an Oscar. In a 2007 profile in the New York Times, he said:
“I am a retired Christian,” he announced playfully, relaxing in his trailer at the end of a hard workday. His costume had been replaced by sweater, jacket, pants and an ascot.
Six decades after his altar-boy childhood and subsequent loss of faith, Mr. O’Toole said he looked elsewhere for life guidance. “I suggest that an education and reading and facts aren’t bad things on which to ponder a few notions,” he said. But he acknowledged a “very strong and very real” spiritual side to his nature.
“No one can take Jesus away from me,” he said, having just expressed an affection for the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are the meek,” etc.). “There’s no doubt there was a historical figure of tremendous importance, with enormous notions. Such as peace.”
He did what we all should do: Respect the Bible as a work of literature and take lessons from it as you would any other book. Nothing more than that.
In 2008, he talked about religion with Charlie Rose:
His best statement, however, may have been from one of his own characters. In 1972’s “The Ruling Class,” O’Toole played the paranoid schizophrenic character Jack Gurney, who says in the movie, “When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself.”