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Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris: Two Peas in a Pod

By Andrew Burgon /
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May 18, 2015


Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris enjoyed a long friendship that became legendary for hell raising and shenanigans!

Peter O’Toole and Richard Harrisfriendship and alcohol-fueled antics together are legendary. Both Hellraisers to their very core, they rode the bottle from one adventure to another leaving the world agog at their escapades. They both shared a zest for life wanting to experience everything it had on offer and make a great journey out of it.

Their friendship spanned 46 years starting in 1956 when they were cast together in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara at the Bristol Old Vic. Harris goes all misty-eyed when talking about this particular time of his life calling it his “golden days.” “We kept each other up half the night,” he said. “We never slept. It was days of chat and yarn-spinning and great, legendary boozing.”

Harris loved being with O’toole. He called his friend “a poet and a warrior.” “I loved every moment with him,” he confides. They both had a passion for rugby and went to Twickenham whenever they had the chance.

Harris once said that they loved to drink and wonder what sort of trouble would result while under the influence! That he adored reading in the papers what he had done the night before. Here are two of their outrageous stories.

When they were doing Major Barbara together on stage they were in the habit of rushing out to a nearby bar during the interval to down some beers. They would always make it back in time though for the second half.

That is, until one night they get caught up in the bar spirit and completely loose track of time. They got the fright of their life when a stage-hand burst into the bar shouting, “You’re on!”

They bolted back to the theater and O’toole in a frantic momentum trips on the stage almost falling head-first into the laps of the audience in the front row.

A women gets a whiff of his breath and says out loud, “My God, he’s drunk!” Toole replied, “You think this is bad. Wait till you see the other fellow.”

Then there was the woman they both liked. After a night of drinking, they parted ways only to bump into each other 20 minutes later in front of the building she lived in.

They came to an agreement. O’toole got the intercom while Harris climbed up the drainpipe to the sixth floor to get her attention. The first one to enter the bedroom with her would be the winner.

“I nearly killed myself with my mountaineering efforts,” admitted Harris. “I eventually reached her balcony and peered in. Peter had at that moment walked into the room to claim his prize. As they headed to the bedroom, he looked back and saw my dishevelled figure and winked. I nearly fell to the ground just from laughing.”

There did come a time in their life when they decided not to see each other for a while. Harris was under the notion that if they kept up their excessive drinking and their shared lifestyle that they’d end up killing each other! “We always brought out the worst in each other,” he said.

Eventually though, they had to put their drinking days behind them for health reasons. “The time has come to stop roaming,” O’toole said. “The pirate ship has berthed. I can still make whoopee, but now I do it sober.” They remained, however, fun loving friends till Harris‘ death in 2002.

Peter O’toole lived long after his friend’s death and passed away in December of 2013.

* Peter O’toole and Richard Harris were both famous and distinguished actors. O’toole is probably best known for the movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Harris played Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies.

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Peter O’toole Richard Harris Gallery

To my surprise Getty Images doesn’t have any photos of Peter O’toole and Richard Harris together.

Peter Otoole Richard Harris friendship

Richard Harris

Image by City of Boston Archives / CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Quotes are from the book, “Hellraisers: The Life and Times of Burton, Harris, O’Toole & Reed” by Robert Sellers, published by Preface. Copyright Robert Sellers, 2008.
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