Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s 3 p.m., let’s watch Peter O’Toole give Letterman an all-time great interview

It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.


Peter O’Toole was, among other things, a charming motherfucker. That’s never more apparent than in his numerous talk show appearances where he simply oozes charisma and a kind of rascally wit that makes the audience lean all the way in. In 1995, when David Letterman took the Late Show to London for a week, O’Toole stopped by to give one of Letterman’s all-time great interviews, sharing stories of drinking on set with Omar Sharif and frolicking around London as a young, piss-drunk, starving actor. Oh, he also showed up with a camel and then got it to chug a beer.

“I believe that’s called a stupid pet trick,” O’Toole says with a grin after riding onto the stage atop the humpbacked beast, dismounting with no assistance from Letterman, and offering the camel a 16-ounce can of Heineken. And that’s just his entrance! Once they move over to the couch, O’Toole recounts one of his previous experiences with camels and drinking—when he and Omar Sharif got shit-faced on brandy and milk so they wouldn’t be too scared to perform the famous charge on Aqaba scene from Lawrence Of Arabia. Letterman, while occasionally adding a quip or two, mostly stays out of the actor’s way as O’Toole sits cross-legged, leisurely unspooling his tale, and taking generous puffs from his cigarette holder.

Things only get better in the second half of the interview, when Letterman prompts O’Toole to share any stories he might have about longtime friend and fellow lush, Richard Harris. “Clean?” O’Toole asks as he pretends to search the recesses of his mind for a TV-appropriate story. “This is British TV. Go nuts,” Letterman replies. What follows is maybe one of the best panel stories in late night, featuring two young, inebriated actors, a shabby London apartment (or “cupboard” as O’Toole calls it), and a lone, spoiled pork chop. Of course, the story is nothing without Peter O’Toole’s delivery, proving once again that he’s the kind of guy people would pay money to watch read the phone book.