Peter O’Toole’s Nose

Deal W. Hudson
January 15, 2018

Peter O’Toole was so handsome, even men called him “beautiful,” but the perfectly chiseled nose was not part of his original equipment.

In the fascinating biography of O’Toole by Robert Sellers, we discover that the 27-year old had his nose “bobbed” because he wanted “to be a movie star.” His new agent Jules Buck convinced him, without much effort, that the movie camera would not be kind to his “slightly bulbous” nose. Many of his theater friends accused him of “selling out,” but anything O’Toole did he did without any apparent regret.

The equally young Peter Hall, who had just taken charge of the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, had hired O’Toole for two title roles, one being Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice.” O’Toole was not his first choice — the sudden withdrawal of Paul Scofield sent Hall looking for an available replacement. Thus, Peter O’Toole became the youngest actor to perform lead roles at Stratford.

Upon seeing the actor, Hall was not happy with the nose job, either, thinking his face now looked far less suitable for a Jewish character. But his performance as Shylock launched Peter O’Toole into stardom. The British reviewers could not praise him highly enough. Writing in the Tribune, critic Mervyn Jones wrote, “Peter O’Toole gives a performance as Shylock that will stand as a great chapter in theatre history.”

Looking at the photograph below of the original, I think Peter O’Toole made the right decision. A handsome face, yes, and the quizzical eyes and brow are still arresting, but the nose draws my eye away from his expressive eyes and well-proportioned, sensual mouth. And, yes, he most certainly did obtain his goal: Peter O’Toole became not merely a movie star but a force of nature whose reputation as an artist only grows with the passing of years.

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