IN August 1963, Gay Talese interviewed Peter O’Toole for Esquire:
“Oh, look at that ass,” O’Toole said softly, shaking his head, raising his eyes with approval. “That ass is covered with tweed made in Connnemara, where I was born…Nicest asses in the world, Ireland. Irish-women still are carrying water on their heads and carrying their husbands home from pubs, and such things are the greatest posture builders in the world.”
“A lovely land, “O’Toole said, with a sigh. “God, you can love it! But you can’t live in it. It’s a frightening thing. My father, who lives in England, won’t put a foot in Ireland any more. And yet, you mention one word against Ireland and he goes stark raving mad…”
“Oh, Ireland,” O’Toole went on, “it’s the sow that ate its own farrow. Tell me one Irish artist that ever produced here, just one! God, Jack Yeats couldn’t sell a painting in this country, and all the talent…oh, daddy…You know what Ireland’s biggest export is? It’s men. Men…Shaw, Joyce, Synge, they couldn’t stay here. O’Casey couldn’t stay. Why? Because O’Casey preaches the Doctrine of Joy, daddy, that’s why…Oh, the Irish know despair, by God they do! They are Dostoyevskian about it. But Joy, dear love, in this land! …Oh, dear Father,” O’Toole went on, pounding his breast, “forgive me, Father, I have fucked Mrs. Rafferty…Ten Hail Marys, son, five Our Fathers…But Father, Father, I didn’t enjoy fucking Mrs. Rafferty…Good, son, good…
“Ireland,” O’Toole repeated, “you can love it…can’t live in it.”
Then he slumped down on the side of the mountain, tossed his head back against the grass. Then he held his hands in the air, and said, “See that? See that right hand?” He turned his right hand back and forth, saying, “Look at those scars, daddy,” and there were about thirty or forty little scars inside his right hand as well as on his knuckles, and his little finger was deformed.
“I don’t know if there’s any significance to it, daddy, but…but I am a left-hander who was made to be right-handed…Oh, they would wack me over the knuckles when I used my left, those nuns, and maybe, just maybe that is why I hated school so much.”
All his life, he said, his right hand has been a kind of violent weapon. He has smashed it through glass, into concrete, against other people.
“But look at my left hand,” he said, holding it high. “Not a single scar on it. Long and smooth as a lily…Look…”