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Excusive Interview Wiith O'Toole
INTERVIEW: PETER O'TOOLE (ON 1/26/78)
by: GREGORY J.M. CATSOS
The subject of the interview was O'Toole's work in the Otto Preminger film "Rosebud" (1975). The movie was about Arab terrorists who take over a yacht. O'Toole played a CIA spy. According to Mr. Catsos, "My interview was done with Peter in Los Angeles, on Jan. 26. 1978. At this time, O'TOOLE was married (from 1959-79) to SIAN PHILLIPS, a Welsh actress. He had two daughters with her: Kate & Pat. In 1981, he married a California model, KAREN BROWN. That marriage lasted about a year and a half but produced a son, Lorcan. PETER O'TOOLE used to quip that his life "has either been a wake or a wedding.""
"I first met him backstage at the "TONIGHT" show. The next day, I did he interview. On the "Tonight Show" set I said to PETER that when I was a little boy, after I had seen "LAWRENCE OF ARABIA" I put a sheet around me, that summer, and ran around on the beach pretending I was him. PETER smiled and quipped, "After the picture, I did that, too!"
DID YOU HAVE TO AUDITION FOR YOUR PART IN OTTO PREMINGER'S "ROSEBUD"(1975)
I did not.
THE SCRIPT WAS SENT TO YOU?
YOU READ IT AND YOU LIKED IT?
AND THAT'S HOW IT HAPPENED?
It did. There's a "rider" to that-- it's that my friend Robert Mitchum (who had previously starred in Preminger's "Angel Face"-1953 and "River of No Return"-1954) was playing it originally, and he left.
DO YOU KNOW WHY HE LEFT?
I don't believe he was getting on very well, with Otto.
(Interviewer's note: Preminger was known for having outbursts of his
Austrian temper, on his film sets.)
THEY (MITCHUM & PREMINGER)NEVER DID GET ON, VERY WELL)
Robert and I came to a little exchange. He did the movie I was supposed to do in Mexico-- I've forgotten the title -- because I didn't get on with any of those people. So Robert and I are friends. And Otto and I have been personal friends for the best part of eighteen years, but we never worked together. It seemed we were to work together on a number of occasions, but it never happened. And the film industry used to say, "God help us! What would ever happen if Otto Preminger and Peter got together?" And Otto off-stage, as you probably know, is one of the most diarming men in the world and one of the most charming. And that is, more or less, the circumstances. Otto and I got on pretty well and we had a very nice relaxed picture. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
ABOUT YOUR FILM ROLE-- HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?
Not a great deal. I thought it was allright, but I felt the film was slipping badly. I think Otto did, too.
WHAT IS THE REASON WHY THE FILM WAS "SLIPPING"?
I think it-- I don't know. I really don't know.
YOU FELT IT WAS "SLIPPING" BUT YOU COULDN'T PUT YOUR FINGER ON THE REASON WHY.
That is quite right. Though I felt, "Allright!" and Otto and I got on, very well. And I was doing the best I could, professionally. Then I got ill, as you probably know. Otto was remarkably tolerant and very, very courteous. I think I have a feeling my heart wasn't in it, perhaps. And it was more highly technically competent than it was inspired.
ON WHOSE PART?
My part. My work was technically excellent. I think it was thoroughly competent throughout, but it wasn't inspired.
OTTO PREMINGER IS KNOWN FOR LOSING HIS TEMPER ON FILM SETS. DID YOU EVER EXPERIENCE THIS?
WERE THE OUTBURSTS DIRECTED AT YOU, PERSONALLY, OR AT PEOPLE AROUND YOU?
Well, it doesn't really matter when Otto "goes", does it? Everybody gets it directly-- yes, of course. (laughs) I remember one incident where it was very "noisy". Yes, I was on the receiving end of that. It was volcanic, articulate, and not memorable.
WHAT IMPRESSED YOU THE MOST ABOUT OTTO PREMINGER, AS A DIRECTOR?
Total, complete integrity to his will and purpose. You cannot separate the man from his integrity. I can do without a director raving, but there again, that's him. But I knew he roared and raved and if I couldn't put up with that, then I shouldn't have gone in the first place.
WHAT DID YOU NORMALLY DO, IN-BETWEEN SCENES?
I'm a pretty sort of private man as you probably gathered. I'd do nothing out of the usual, really.
SO, YOU FELT YOUR PERFORMANCE IN THIS ROLE DIDN'T WORK.
Well, there's only one way of understanding if a film works-is whether it is successful.
("Rosebud was not successful at the box-office)
THEN AGAIN, THE "TIMING" OF THE FILM MAY HAVE BEEN WRONG.
That is always a possibility. Unfortunately, not all audiences know art. That is the paradox of the theater and cinema.
YOU CAN GET A COPY OF THIS, IF YOU'D LIKE ONE.
No, you're perfectly entitled to anything I say that is completely on the record. I would like to add a "rider". I do wish that Otto and I could do something again. And something that we were both on from the beginning, and that we both approved of, and knew what we were doing and did something remarkable because I admire the man. He can call me whenever he likes. If Otto just wants to talk about the state of his head, I don't mind. I like the man very much, indeed.
AS A DIRECTOR. DID HE EVER GIVE YOU ANY ADVICE ABOUT ACTING?
He did. He said something to me which I found remarkable and have still found remarkable which was, "Remember," he said to me, "that when you're on screen you're up there 'forever'!" And that made me paradoxically less conservative than I've been before. Mind you, don't forget that advice like that is very penetrative and it takes a long time to sink in. That one remark, from Otto, has remained with me and I now know ho to make use of it.
I LIKE THAT REMARK.
So do I. It's extraordinary, actually. It's a very liberating thing, believe it or not. It doesn't make one inhibited although I thought it might. Maybe it did, initially. Now I find it a liberating thing because I know that I must be-- I better be f-king good.
WELL YOU ARE, INCIDENTALLY.
This interview was reproduced with the permission of GREGORY J.M. CATSOS