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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
The words of Sir John Gielgud
Sir John Gielgud and Peter O'Toole
Sir John Gielgud with fellow actor Peter O'Toole
Sir John Gielgud, who has died aged 96, was as much loved for his wit and charm as he was for his acting talents. Here are just a few of his more memorable lines.

On acting:

"It's my whole life. It's all I can do."

"What is fun about the theatre is that we get our prizes while we are alive to enjoy them."

"I have been extraordinarily lucky. I've had sort of three goes, which is rare, very fortunate for an actor, and in every kind of work."

"I spoke rather well but rather too well, and fell in love with my own voice. All that took me years to get away from."

"I've been able to take no notice of the flattery and praise and concentrate on the things that were wrong. I'm frightened, now that I'm old, that people will be so respectful."

On Lord Olivier:

"He was very much more extrovert. He had a tremendous actual physical side of acting, which I'm not good at at all."

When James Villers assumed Olivier's Victor role in Private Lives, Olivier asked Sir John what his performance was like. Sir John replied: "Oh. Larry, I've never seen the part of Victor so perfectly realised. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean that..."

Visiting an ailing Olivier he proclaimed: "Larry! You're dead! I mean... you're dying! I mean... my poor darling Larry, you don't look at all well!"

On having a West End theatre named after him:

"Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue recently I have not known any of the names billed outside the theatres. Now I will know at least one."


Sir John Gielgud
Feathered friend: Sir John Gielgud starring in Egg Yolk - the First Goose King

On his role in Arthur:

"It brought me fan mail from all over the world. It still does, which is extraordinary, really... I turned it down a couple of times... I thought [the script] was rather smutty, rather common."

"They just wanted a posh-looking Englishman saying rather racy things."

"Every time I said 'no' the price went up and finally, when I accepted, they said 'how clever of you' which wasn't the case at all."

On Richard Burton's performance as Hamlet:

"We'll have dinner when you're better, I mean ready."

On art:

"David Hockney did a drawing of me when I was 70 and I thought that if I really looked like that, I must kill myself tomorrow."

On old age:

When asked to join Glenda Jackson and Gyles Brandreth at the House of Commons for his 90th birthday celebrations, Sir John joked: "Yes I would be delighted to join them. You see, all my real friends are dead."

On appearing naked in Peter Greenaway's film Prospero's Books:

"It got a bit cold but the nudity soon ceased to be surprising. I don't think it's offensive, do you?"

On life:

"When you're my age, you never risk being ill, because everyone then says, 'Oh he's done for'."

"In my last big parts, I kept thinking, 'Suppose I die in the middle? What is it going to cost everyone?'"

"One's had the odd horror and mishap, but on the whole I have very, very much to be thankful for. That I can still go on working at this age is extraordinary really; the only sadness is so many of my contemporaries are gone. Most of the actors that I knew well and worked with have died."

"I intend to go on for as long as I can because apart from pottering in the garden with Martin (his partner of 40 years) there isn't a great deal else I have ever wanted to do."

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