The actor Peter O'Toole has died aged 81.

His agent Steve Kenis confirmed the star's death, saying he died yesterday at the Wellington hospital in London.

An eight-time Academy Award nominee who never won Hollywood's top acting honour, Mr O'Toole shot to screen stardom 50 years ago in the title role of Lawrence Of Arabia, which earned seven Oscars, including best picture and director for David Lean.

His grand performance as British adventurer TE Lawrence brought him his first best-actor nomination but set him on an unenviable path of Oscar futility.

His eight losses without a win is a record among actors.

The honours stacked up quickly as he received Oscar nominations for 1964's Becket, 1968's The Lion In Winter, 1969's Goodbye, Mr Chips, 1972's The Ruling Class, 1980's The Stunt Man and 1982's My Favourite Year.

In the latter film, he played a dissolute actor preoccupied with drink and debauchery, seemingly a tailor-made role for a star known in his early years for epic carousing with such fellow party animals as Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Peter Finch.

Mr O'Toole went into acting after serving in the Royal Navy, studying at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

His early stage successes included the lead in Hamlet and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

He had a holiday home in Connemara for many years, although the place of his birth is not not certain.

Mr O'Toole said on many occasions he was born in Connemara but others said he was actually born in England.

President Michael D Higgins said: "Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre.

"I was privileged to know him as a friend since 1969 ... all of us who knew him in the West will miss his warm humour and generous friendship."

Irish actor Gabriel Byrne paid tribute to Mr O'Toole describing him as "one of the most elegant, graceful and charismatic actors of all time". 

He described his acting as being as intense and powerful on stage as it was on the screen.

Mr O'Toole is survived by two daughters Kate and Patricia - and a son, Lorcan Patrick O'Toole.

Mr O'Toole's daughter, actress Kate O'Toole, said: "His family are very appreciative and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts."

"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished.

"We will be happy to speak to you all then but in the meantime if you could give Peter O'Toole the respect he deserves and allow us to grieve privately we'd appreciate it.

"Thank you all again for your beautiful tributes - keep them coming."

Mr O'Toole retired from show business last year, saying in a statement that it was time to "chuck in the sponge".