Born in Great Britain, O'Toole initially pursued a career in journalism and served in the British Navy before being awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art. He began his acting career on the stage in Britain in the 1950s, appearing in Hamlet and other productions.
Though he had a reputation as a hellraiser offstage, O'Toole received eight Academy Award nominations throughout his career, including for roles in Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips and most recently 2006's Venus. He never won and holds the record for most nominations without a win. He was, however, given an honorary Oscar in 2003 — an accolade he initially refused, saying he believed he still had time to win the award competitively. (He later agreed to appear at the ceremony and accept the honor.)
O'Toole announced his retirement in 2012 and said he would focus on writing the third volume of his memoirs, according to the AP. He is survived by three children.