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`MAGIC OF THE MOVIES' INSPIRES A GRATEFUL O'TOOLE.

Byline: Evan Henerson Staff Writer

In the end, neither pride nor the threat of war kept Peter O'Toole from his long-awaited date with a golden statue. Described by his introducer Meryl Streep as ``overlooked, but far from unnoticed,'' O'Toole finally took home the evening's only honorary Oscar on Sunday.

``Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,'' said the white-haired O'Toole. ``The magic of the movies enraptured me as a child, and as I totter into antiquity, movie magic enchants me still.''

A seven-time nominee but never a winner, O'Toole, 71, generated mild controversy when he considered not attending the ceremony. Figuring he still had enough of an active career to win an Oscar outright, O'Toole asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to postpone the honorary Oscar, potentially until he turned 80. The academy declined and O'Toole relented. And on Sunday night, the ever witty O'Toole was glad he did.

``I have my very own Oscar to be with me know until death do us part,'' he said on stage.

Born in County Galway, Ireland, in 1932, O'Toole studied at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts alongside classmates Richard Harris, Albert Finney, and Alan Bates. He spent several years at the Bristol Old Vic. He achieved international sensation when David Lean cast him as T.E. Lawrence in the 1962 film ``Lawrence of Arabia.'' The performance earned O'Toole the first of his seven Oscar nominations.

In the 1970s, O'Toole battled alcohol addiction. He returned in the 1980s to star in ``The Stunt Man'' and as a washed up Errol Flynn-like actor attempting a comeback in ``My Favorite Year'' (1982). Both roles earned him Oscar nominations.

More recently, O'Toole's film roles have ranged from supporting turns in such films as the Oscar-winning ``The Last Emperor,'' ``The Manor,'' ``FairyTale: A True Story'' and ``Molokai: The Story of Father Damien.''

He played the Emperor of Lilliput in the starry TV production of ``Gulliver's Travels,'' and he appeared in the 1999 miniseries ``Joan of Arc.'' He has frequently returned to the London stage in such productions as ``Jeffrey Barnard Is Unwell'' and as Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw's ``Pygmalion.''

``Now at last you've given me this delightful shock,'' O'Toole said from the stage Sunday. ``Well very good.''

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``Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,'' said Peter O'Toole as he received his honorary Oscar.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 24, 2003
Words:402
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