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Peter OToole poses with actress Meryl Streep on stage after receiving his Oscar during the 75th Anniversary Academy Awards on Sunday, March 23, 2003. / Peter OToole and Omar Sharif (not pictured) appear in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. - Provided courtesy of AMPAS / Columbia Pictures

Peter O'Toole of 'Lawrence of Arabia' retires at age 79

Get more: Celeb Lives
07/10/2012 by Corinne Heller

Peter O'Toole, a veteran British actor who starred in "Lawrence of Arabia" and was nominated for eight Oscars for his acting work, has announced his retirement just weeks before his 80th birthday.

"It is time for me to chuck in the sponge," he said on Tuesday, July 10, in a statement to People magazine.

"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," he added. "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, who lives in London, plans to now spend time working on the third volume of his memoirs, his spokesperson said.

O'Toole was born in Ireland on Aug. 2, 1932 and was raised in Leeds in England. He served in the Royal Navy, attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and appeared in Shakespearean plays in his native United Kingdom before he began his on-screen career in the 1950s. He played a soldier on an episode of the British series "The Scarlet Pimpernel."

He would later play a different military role that would launch him to international stardom - O'Toole starred in the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia as real-life British Army Officer T.E. Lawrence. The iconic movie depicted the military figure's experiences and conflicted loyalties during the Allies' campaign in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I.

The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. O'Toole was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role but lost to Gregory Peck of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

O'Toole was later nominated in the same category seven more times. He scored nods for playing 12th-century King Henry II in both "Becket" (Rex Harrison won for "My Fair Lady") and "The Lion in Winter" (Cliff Robertson won for "Charly").

He was also nominated for Academy Awards for his performances in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (John Wayne won for "True Grit"), "The Ruling Class," (Marlon Brando won for "The Godfather"), "The Stunt Man" (Robert De Niro won for "Raging Bull"), "My Favorite Year" (Ben Kingsley won for "Gandhi") and "Venus" in 2007 (Forest Whitaker won for "The Last King of Scotland").

O'Toole did, however, receive an honorary Academy Award in 2003. It was presented to him by Meryl Streep. The actor said in his acceptance speech: "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride  my foot! I have my very own Oscar now to be with me till death us do part."

O'Toole also had his handprints and footprints immortalized in cement at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 2011.

In 2007, Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling was also nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role in "Half Nelson."

"I thought there was nothing cooler than losing with Peter O'Toole, so I felt like I won," he said on "The Late Show with David Letterman." "And then he gave me a piece of Oscar[-shaped] confetti and then he said, 'I'd like to present you with your Oscar. And then he said, 'I have one too' and then he said, 'Cheers.' And then we 'Cheersed' our little Oscars."

In addition to his Oscar-nominated performances, O'Toole also starred in the 1984 sci-fi film "Supergirl," which was a box office flop. He played Zaltar, the mentor of main character Kara Zor-El, played by Helen Slater. The movie also starred Faye Dunaway as the villain, Selena.

In 1991, O'Toole starred in the comedy "King Ralph," playing an advisor to John Goodman's title role of an average American Joe who is made king of England after the British royal family is wiped out in a "shocker" of an accidental death.

O'Toole also played Priam in the 2004 blockbuster "Troy," which starred Brad Pitt as Achilles and provided the voice of acerbic food critic Anton Ego in Disney-Pixar's 2007 animated hit "Ratatouille."In 2008, he played Pope Paul III in the Showtime series "The Tudors." O'Toole's daughter Kate, who is also an actress, played Lady Salisbury on the show.

O'Toole's most recent role was as a Catholic priest in the movie "For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada." The film was released in June and stars Eva Longoria and Andy Garcia as a rebel couple during the 1920s Cristeros War in Mexico, pitted an atheistic Mexican government against religious Catholic citizens.

O'Toole recently filmed the movie "Katherine of Alexandria." It depicts the life of Saint Catherine, a 4th century Christian touted as a martyr who sacrificed herself for her beliefs when she was killed by order of a Roman emperor. The movie's release date has not been announced.

(Pictured above: Peter O'Toole poses with actress Meryl Streep on stage after receiving his honorary Oscar during the 75th Anniversary Academy Awards in Hollywood on March 23, 2003. / Peter O'Toole appears in a scene from the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia.")

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