After a career spanning seven decades, Irish acting great Peter O'Toole has announced that he is retiring from stage and screen.

In a statement the actor, who turns 80 next month, said:

"Dear All

"It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won't come back.

"My professional acting life, stage and screen, has brought me public support, emotional fulfillment and material comfort. It has brought me together with fine people, good companions with whom I've shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.

"However, it's my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one's stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.

"Ever

"Peter O'Toole"

A BAFTA, Golden Globe and Emmy winner, O'Toole is an eight-time Oscar nominee, and was presented with an honorary Oscar in 2003.

Among his films are Venus, My Favourite Year, The Stunt Man, The Ruling Class, Goodbye, Mr Chips, The Lion in Winter, Becket and Lawrence of Arabia, while his TV credits include The Tudors, Joan of Arc and Strumpet City.

His stage credits include King Lear, Othello, Pygmalion, Hamlet, Waiting for Godot, The Merchant of Venice, Juno and the Paycock, Uncle Vanya and Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.