Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peter O'Toole...hilarious Katherine Hepburn encounter! Most Oscar-abused actor?

Last night, an insightful (almost reverential) interview with Peter O'Toole live from the TCM Film Festival, triggered a pleasant memory.

I was strolling down the street a few months ago, when a stranger dashed up to me out-of-the-blue.

"You know who you look like," he quizzed excitedly.

As I grappled for a witty response, the tall lanky dude beat me on the uptake.

"Peter O'Toole," he blurted out loudly in the street.

"When he was young and glamorous," he added, with a wide smile on his face.

I laughed-out-loud.

After all, I've been told that on a number of occasions.

In fact, just this past weekend I was chowing down on some grub at a burger joint in Hollywood, when a middle-aged man strode over to scrutinize me more closely.

Just as I spotted him giving me the once-over, he spoke up.

"Do you know who you look like?"

I chuckled aloud (as I smiled inside).

At this juncture, I relayed the story about the man who thought I looked like Mr. O'Toole when he was "young and glamorous".

I guess it's the blue eyes!

"You should get your SAG card. Then, you could play the part if they ever do a screen bio on him," he suggested, almost as an afterthought.

"I already have my SAG card," I chuckled.

Then, we both proceeded to gush over a couple of O'Toole's best films.

Obviously, the man was a fan!

After chatting about - "The Stunt Man" and the exquisite "Lawrence of Arabia" - I couldn't help myself.

As I stood up to refill my beverage cup, I bellowed out:

"I am not an actor! I'm a movie star."

Well, I guess the dude wasn't THAT big a fan, 'cause he didn't recognize the well-known line from the "Stunt Man" flick.

Although O'Toole and I may have some similarities in appearance, in other respects, we're quite different.

His speech patterns are quite measured - with reflective undertones - while mine tend to be spontaneous and flowing.

Though his anecdotes "drag on" in the telling (setting the stage is important to an actor, after all) the punch lines are worth waiting for, you betcha.

For example, O'Toole recalled that once - when he mentioned to Hugh Miller (who was known as the "Sword of the British Theatre) that he landed a small part in a play - the celebrated gentleman coined a phrase right on the spot.

"There are no small parts, only small actors."

Imagine that!

That must have been like being in the "Garden of Eden" when God first created it (for an actor, anyway).

And, his first encounter with Katherine Hepburn was downright hilarious.

Apparently, after a performance in a play one night, O'Toole went backstage to wash his hands in the restroom.

Suddenly, without warning, the door behind him opened up.

"Shut the fu**ing door," he shouted.

"I'll close the fu**king door," a woman shouted back.

O'Toole turned around to find himself face-to-face with Ms. Hepburn who had strolled backstage to compliment him on his acting on stage that night.

When the respected actor first read the well-written script for the "Lion in Winter", his first choice for the female lead was Katherine Hepburn, of course.

"Who would have been your other two choices," the affable host - Robert Osborne - quizzed.

"Vivien Leigh or Margaret Rutherford," O'Toole shot back, without hesitation.

The crowd roared.

At this point, O'Toole did an impersonation of Ms. Rutherford that was a laugh riot.

Bang on, too!

Mr. O'Toole noted that getting old has its downside.

Names elude him these days, for instance.

"And, I tend to ramble on," he kidded.

You don't say!

Even so, the fans - Osborne, too - were on the edge of their seats totally captivated by his vivid tales from starry beginning to starry end.

How does Mr. O'Toole select a role?

"I don't choose a role. It chooses me," he stated matter-of-fact.

Although few may be aware of it, Mr. O'Toole actually resided in Hollywood for a brief stint in 1963.

"It was exciting," he admitted.

"But, I am basically a European man."

The host jokingly pointed out that O'Toole must be the most "Oscar-abused" actor in show business.

After all, the seasoned pro has never won the coveted statue for any of his glowing performances over the decades.

He was blessed with an honorary Oscar, though.

Trivia buffs may be fascinated to hear that the charismatic actor read from the "7 Pillars of Wisdom" when he screen-tested for the wide-screen epic "Lawrence of  Arabia".

By the way, O'Toole turned down Dr. Zhivago.

What an entertaining night.

Robert Osborne was literally over-the-moon at press time.

"It's no secret Peter O'Toole is a very private man, so we were especially pleased when he accepted our invitation to fly from his home in London to join us at the second TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. During his visit, he was given the rare honor of placing his hand and footprints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I was very pleased to host the ceremony, which was attended by many of Peter's friends, his family and his fans. Then Peter and I sat down for an in-depth interview in front of a live audience. He was charming, delightful, classy, very funny and a perfect guest. We had a wonderful time."

What does my crystal ball see in Mr. O'Toole's future?

An Oscar, of course!

Break a leg, Peter.

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