We drank at night in our tents. We had boys who would come and serve us. We drank whiskey all night watching the stars in the sky…. Peter and I were like brothers immediately. He said to me, ”Your name is not Omar Sharif — no one is called Omar Sharif. Your real name is probably Freddy something!” And for the rest of the film and the rest of our lives, he’s never called me Omar. He calls me Freddy.
Omar Sharif recalling evenings
with Peter O’Toole, while filming Lawrence of Arabia—
as well as how O’Toole named him “Freddy”
Later in the interview, Merv tells a story about interviewing Peter O’Toole back in the days of Lawrence of Arabia. It was a major booking. Merv had seen Peter earlier in brown hair. For the show, Peter came in white hair. Merv could barely recognize him, going so far as to accuse Peter O’Toole of being someone else. Merv then surmised that Peter O’Toole dyed his hair for the Lawrence of Arabia film and said so on the air. Mr. O’Toole was none too pleased and proceeded to give one word answers to every question Merv asked. Merv finally said, “You would rather leave and be back in London at this very moment, wouldn’t you?” O’Toole said, “Yes.” Merv stuck out his hand and said, “Go ahead.” As Peter O’Toole left, he turned and yelled so everyone could hear, “He’s a son of a bitch!”
A snippet from the Wahoo Gazette
(Late Show with David Letterman) from January, 08, 2003 (Show #1931)—recounting a Merv Griffin appearance where he told a Peter O’Toole story. Honestly I wonder if producers ask people “Do you have a O’Toole or Richard Harris story?”
In a way, I’ve been fortunate to have success delayed, although I will say it was galling to watch Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole go rocketing by. They were a part of a whole group of British actors in the ’60s who made drunkenness a sort of trademark. I didn’t drink as much Scotch as they did — I couldn’t afford it. In a sense, perhaps it saved me. The worst thing that can happen to an actor is to be hailed as a genius the first time he walks onstage.