Yesterday morning the great Peter O’Toole, 78, had a damp-cement moment in front of Grauman’s Chinese theatre. The ceremony was done in concert with the now-somewhat-devalued TCM Classic Film Festival, which I’ve come to see as a very pleasant, efficiently run but corporate-minded control-freak festival, run by people who regard serious press coverage as a mild problem, and which is primarily intended for over-50 tourists.
I interviewed O’Toole in London in December 1980, although with great difficulty. I had an interview scheduled for a GQ piece about his career resurgence due to his knockout performance in The Stunt Man, and flew to London with that deal supposedly in place. But when I got there I was told by one his reps, “What interview?” I obtained the address of O’Toole’s Hampstead Heath home, and began to leave daily, hand-written letters in his personal mailbox, begging him for a sit-down and stressing that I was a poor journalist who’d flown over from NYC, etc. His reps finally said okay.
O’Toole and I had about 30 or 40 minutes in a downstairs study at his home. It happened two or three days after John Lennon was killed. Not a great interview (O’Toole doesn’t talk to you — he stands upon a mountaintop and proclaims), and on top of which only half of it was recorded due to some glitch. I nonetheless managed to throw together a reasonably good article…whew.