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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK


Entertainment

O'Toole's West End comeback

Playwright Keith Waterhouse and actor Peter O'Toole teaming up again

Veteran actor Peter O'Toole is denying rumours that his return to the West End stage is going to be his swansong.

"I'm not dead yet," said the 66-year-old star, who takes the title role in a revival of Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell at the Old Vic next month.

The show, about the life of the legendary journalist, renowned for his heavy-drinking, will be the actor's first appearance at the Old Vic since his panned 1980 production of Macbeth.

O'Toole won acclaim in the role of Bernard, who died in 1997, when he first starred in the play 10 years ago.


[ image: O'Toole looking forward to his West End comeback]
O'Toole looking forward to his West End comeback
The idea for the revival was born at Bernard's funeral when O'Toole, Ned Sherrin, the play's producer, and its writer Keith Waterhouse, were waiting for the arrival of his coffin.

Speaking at The Coach and Horses pub in Soho, central London - Bernard's watering hole - O'Toole said: "We were standing there, the old hip-flask, fag-smoking brigade. Then a hearse arrives. It was a real `boom' moment.

"We expected him to go in his 30s. But then - boom! There he was in his box, covered in flowers.

"There was a horse made entirely of flowers and a jockey and a message that said, `winner all right'. Then we realised it wasn't Jeff at all - it was a bookie.

"Jeff arrived 20 minutes late. I looked at Keith, and I looked at Ned, and said, `we just have to do it again'."


[ image: O'Toole shot to fame in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia]
O'Toole shot to fame in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia
O'Toole, whose film credits include Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter, revealed he first met Bernard in the mid-50s "when we were chasing the same girl and both lost".

And even though it is seven years since he last appeared on the London stage - in Our Song - he says he has no fears: "I am full of anticipation."

The play runs at the Old Vic from July 27 to September 25.



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