I’ve been putting this off for a while now, but the continued absence of presumed Best Actor contender Peter O’Toole is becoming more and more of a factor. By that I mean a kind of puzzlement. He almost didn’t accept his honorary Oscar in ’03 because he felt he was still very much in the game and wanted to win an acting Oscar for a particular performance instead. And now that his brilliant Venus performance as an aging but randy British actor has made this a real possibility, O’Toole is suddenly a non-campaigner and a no-show. Something isn’t right.

The decision by the 74 year-old veteran to not “make the rounds” at this critical juncture (between right now and Christmas is peak Oscar campaigning time — everyone is doing post-screening q & a’s and attending parties like mad right now — even the campaign-shy Meryl Streep is doing a couple of events next week) means one of two things: (1) O’Toole and his people are banking that he’s Roman Polanski and can take the prize without actively campaigning (a la Polanski’s Best Director Oscar for The Pianist) or (2) health issues are perhaps more of a factor that his people are letting on.
He bailed on visiting the Toronto Film Festival over health issues, and at the last minute. He didn’t show up for the Los Angeles Venus press junket, presumably for the same reason. He’s not attending next Monday’s big Oscar-push Miramax party. And he won’t be in L.A. through all of December, and he’s not even planning to visit here until mid-January, according to a 42 West publicist who’s working on the Venus campaign. So if he does anything in the way of parties and/or personal appearances, O’Toole will basically be doing of those “sorry I’m late but better late than never” Phase 2 routines.
Maybe less-is-more and later-is-better will turn out to be a brilliant move, but O’Toole is, let’s face it, not altogether a widely beloved figure and he could probably do with a little flesh-pressing and image-buffering. On top of the fact that reactions to Venus itself have been admiring and respectful, yes, but not 100% ecstatic. I’m only mentioning this because I’ve loved the guy and his work for years, and I’d hate to see him not win the Best Actor Oscar because he didn’t “work it.”