“Words can be wonderful things.”
The death of Peter O’Toole this month is still something I haven’t been able to fully process. Peter O’Toole was so ALIVE in his performances… The idea of such a vibrant presence being gone from the earth just makes no sense.
Yet, he is gone, and as I look back at his body of work for this series I am happily discovering new moments of his brilliance: Little shining flashes of charm and wit that remind me of just how good he was.
My latest revisitation was an old favorite: Creator. Peter O’Toole plays Harry, an eccentric scientist who has embarked on a quixotic quest: to bring back his late wife Lucy. He’s “negotiating with God” by cultivating her cells to clone her.
A friend of mine on Twitter, commenting on O’Toole a few days back, told me he was the king of “crazy acting” and I can’t disagree… completely. Though he did play crazy quite a bit, he also acted with a lot of heart. And Creator gives him the chance to play a romantic lead, and he’s very good at it. Of course he is. He’s charming. He’s Peter O’Toole.
The supporting cast are admirable and produce good work. David Ogden Stiers (better known as Winchester from MASH) plays Harry’s rival professor and he’s perfectly cast (heck, he barely needed to change clothes). Vincent Spano plays Harry’s lab assistant Boris, who is a good match for O’Toole… though he tends to overact in many of his scenes. Virginia Masden plays the girl Boris is pining after, and she is absolutely beautiful in the role (especially during the shower scene). And Mariel Hemingway plays Meli, the “egg donor” who Harry becomes more than a little fond of.
The film, based on a novel by Jeremy Leven, is quirky and somewhat uneven… it jumps from Harry’s story to Boris, without finding much focus. But while it has some flaws, it is as aggressively charming as O’Toole is, and this charm wins the day.
Boris: “Harry, how did you know you were in love? I mean with you and Lucy. How’d you know it wasn’t just infatuation?”
Harry: “Scientifically, of COURSE. By using The Love Formula.”
Boris: “The what?”
Harry: “Love Formula. Add up the number of times that you think about the lady each day. Subtract from the total the number of times you think about yourself each day. If the remainder is more lady, and less yourself, then it’s love.”
This is the last Peter O’Toole movie I’ll be watching in this series, and I think that’s appropriate. Creator is a film fixated with death, and O’Toole’s character eventually decides to stop living such a life… to let go of Lucy. To move on. He’ll still have the memories, but by the end of the film he knows it’s time to mourn no more.
So I’ll do so as well. Thank you, Peter O’Toole, for all the joy you have brought me and so many others. Bravo.
Goodbye, Peter. Goodbye.