Peter O'Toole quits acting at 79

Peter O'Toole Eight-times nominated O'Toole was given an honorary Oscar in 2003

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Veteran actor Peter O'Toole has announced he is retiring from the stage and screen, at the age of 79.

The Irish-born star - best known for playing Lawrence of Arabia in Sir David Lean's 1962 film classic - said it was time to "chuck in the sponge".

After a career spanning 50 years O'Toole said: "I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.

"The heart for it has gone out of me," he added. "It won't come back".

After starting out on the stage in Bristol and London at the age of 17, O'Toole's big break came when Lean cast him as British adventurer T E Lawrence.

The role earned him the first of eight Oscar nominations, with others coming for such films as Becket, The Lion in Winter and Goodbye, Mr Chips.

O'Toole was given an honorary Oscar in 2003, an award he had initially refused to accept.

In a letter he asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to delay the award until he was 80, saying he was "still in the game and might win the bugger outright".

'Good companions'

"My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfilment and material comfort," the actor said in a statement.

"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," he went on.

O'Toole's most recent Oscar nomination was for Venus in 2006, when he lost out to The Last King of Scotland star Forest Whitaker.

The Connemara native, who turns 80 next month, was raised in northern England and initially became a journalist and a radioman for the Royal Navy.

He went on to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where his classmates included Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Richard Harris.

The actor, a legendary hellraiser, said he would now focus on writing a third volume of his memoirs.

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