BBC News reports that the 70-year-old thespian is expected to receive his Academy Award — his first — in person at the March 23 ceremony in Hollywood. O'Toole's manager, however, would not confirm the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences' announcement, explaining the actor's appearance was being kept a surprise.
When it was originally announced that O'Toole would receive an honorary Oscar, the actor sent a handwritten letter to the Academy, which thanked the organization for the gesture but also asked that since "[I am] still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright, would the Academy please defer the honor until I am 80?" Frank Pierson, who is president of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, told Variety, "We will have the Oscar for him and if he cares to pick it up, that would be great . . . it would be great if he decides to change his mind and join us."
Pierson also sent a reply to the actor, which stated, "The board unanimously and enthusiastically voted you the honorary award because you've earned and deserved it. As to being 'in the game,' nobody ever thought you were out of it. The award is for achievement and contribution to the art of the motion picture, not for retirement."
As a young actor, Peter O'Toole worked for four years with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company, one year each at the Royal Court and the Stratford Memorial Theatre and six months with the National Theatre. He was also a member of the Abbey Theatre Company, artistic director of the Royal Alexandra Theatre and associate director of the Old Vic. His performance as T.E. Lawrence in the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia" catapulted the actor to international stardom. He has since appeared in more than 60 films and received Oscar nominations for his work in "My Favorite Year" (1982), "The Stunt Man" (1980), "The Ruling Class" (1972), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), "The Lion in Winter" (1968), "Becket" (1964) and "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962).
The 75th Annual Academy Awards will be presented March 23, 2003, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland. ABC will televise the ceremony beginning at 8:30 PM ET.