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Peter O'Toole passed away at 81

(CNN) -- Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully Saturday in a hospital, his agent Steve Kenis said Sunday. O'Toole was 81 years old.

"Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre," Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement.

O'Toole's first major film success came in the title role of T.E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962. It earned him the first of eight Academy Award nominations, but O'Toole never won an Oscar for his film work.

Born in Ireland and raised in England, O'Toole's acting career began on stage in England as a teenager, moving later to television roles in the 1950s and then the big screen.

"His family are very appreciative and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time," daughter Kate O'Toole said in an written statement. "Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts."

O'Toole had "been ill for some time," his daughter said.

"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished," she wrote. "We will be happy to speak to you all then but in the meantime if you could give Peter O'Toole the respect he deserves and allow us to grieve privately we'd appreciate it."

O'Toole's portrayal of Lawrence, which propelled him to stardom, was followed in 1964 by the role of King Henry II in "Becket," opposite Richard Burton as Thomas Becket. Both men were nominated for the best actor Oscar for the film, but both lost.

The pattern of Oscar nominations, but no statuettes, for O'Toole is unmatched. He was also nominated but not chosen for best actor Academy Awards for "The Lion in Winter" (1968), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969), "The Ruling Class" (1972), "The Stunt Man" (1980), "My Favorite Year" (1982) and "Venus" (2006).

O'Toole was presented an honorary Oscar by Meryl Streep during the 2003 Academy Awards. The engraving on the gold statuette reads: "Whose remarkable talents have provided cinema history with some of its most memorable characters."