O'Toole in Laurence of Arabia
O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

Renowned actor Peter O'Toole, star of Lawrence of Arabia, has died aged 81.

O'Toole, who began his acting career at the Bristol Old Vic and went on to appear in countless stage and screen roles, received an honorary Oscar in 2003 having been nominated eight times previously.

He had been undergoing treatment for a long term illness at London's Wellington hospital, where he died yesterday, his agent Steve Kenis confirmed.

O'Toole was "one of a kind in the very best sense and a giant in his field," Kenis said.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute: "My thoughts are with Peter O'Toole's family and friends. His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning."

Irish President Michael D Higgins described O'Toole as "one of the giants of film and theatre".

O'Toole's many stage credits included leading a production of Hamlet in 1963 that marked the opening of the National Theatre at the Old Vic.

Besides his star-making turn in Lawrence of Arabia he was well-known for his film roles in epics such as Becket - alongside famed drinking companion Richard Burton - and The Lion in Winter.

With his piercing blue eyes and powerful voice, he was considered one of the great leading men of his generation.

His daughter Kate, from his 19-year marriage to actress Siân Phillips, said the family was overwhelmed by "the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time."

She added: "In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished."

Read Michael Coveney's obituary