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Irish actor Peter O'Toole 'chucks in the sponge'

LOS ANGELES--Colorful veteran Irish actor Peter O'Toole, famous for films including “Lawrence of Arabia,” announced his retirement Tuesday, saying it was time to “chuck in the sponge” aged 79.

The acclaimed stage and screen star said he was taking his last bow “dry-eyed and profoundly grateful” for his half-century long career.

“It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won't come back,” O'Toole said in a statement cited by People magazine.

O'Toole's first stage role came at the age of 17. He started out on stage in Bristol and London, notably performing in Shakespeare dramas before his big break in director David Lean's “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962).

He received eight Oscar nominations during a career that also included noted roles in 1979's “Caligula” and “The Last Emperor” (1987), but never won the top prize itself. He was given an honorary Academy Award in 2003.

O'Toole nearly refused the award, asking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to delay his honorary Oscar until he was 80, saying in a letter: “I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright.”

But he finally accepted, and told the Oscars show audience: “I have my very own Oscar now to be with me until death us do part,” according to CBS.

In later years, he was acclaimed for his turn in a stage and TV movie version of “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell,” about the infamously alcoholic and bohemian British journalist.

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