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'Lawrence of Arabia' actor Peter O'Toole dies aged 81

Irish actor Peter O'Toole has died aged 81 after suffering from a long illness, his agent has confirmed. O'Toole shot to fame after starting in the Oscar-winning epic "Lawrence of Arabia."

Peter O'Toole died in hospital in London on Sunday at the age of 81, his agent Steve Kenis announced.

"Peter O'Toole's family announced today that very sadly Peter died yesterday, peacefully in hospital. He had been ill for some time," Kenis said in a statement on Sunday.

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

O'Toole achieved instant stardom after appearing in the international blockbuster "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962.

He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as the gallant British army officer T.E. Lawrence. He went on to set an Oscar record for receiving eight nominations without a win. His final nomination was for "Venus" in 2006, before he was given an honorary award in 2003.

Famously handsome and charismatic, O'Toole had long suffered from ill health - caused in part by years of heavy drinking and chain-smoking.

"If you can't do something willingly and joyfully, then don't do it," he once said. "If you give up drinking, don't go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt."

In a statement his daughter Kate said his family was overwhelmed "by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. ... In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished."

ccp/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)