“Your job is simply to get Peter up,” [John Standing] explained. “Order him some breakfast, make sure he eats it and get him into the car and on to the set.” It sounded like easy money to me.
The first day of filming… O’Toole wasn’t needed until 9am, so at 7.30am I dutifully knocked on his bedroom door. Nothing. I knocked again. Silence. Next I tried simultaneously knocking and shouting. No response. Finally, I took my courage in both hands and went in.
Carnage. The room was pitch-black and smelt of Gauloises. Through the gloaming I could just about make out the form of a body in the bed. A motionless, silent corpse. I tiptoed across. “Peter?” No response. Louder this time. “Peter, it’s time to get up.”
He remained totally immobile. Gingerly, I pulled back the sheets. He didn’t appear to be breathing. With mounting hysteria I knelt beside the bed and shook him. “Peter, wake up! You’ve got to go to work!”
Very slowly he cocked one eyebrow and let out a deep, guttural moan.
“Be a love and crack open the curtain,” he instructed, eyes firmly closed. I did as I was told, but by the time I turned around, he’d rolled over and had gone back into flatline mode. I picked up the telephone and decided to order room service: “I’d like porridge, wholewheat toast, orange juice and a large pot of coffee, please.”
“Bollocks, darling. The film company are paying for breakfast,” O’Toole muttered from beneath the blankets. "Order everything they’ve got. Say you want breakfast for eight."
…Minutes later a procession of trolleys were wheeled into my bedroom by a series of bemused foreign staff needing O’Toole’s signature.
"Mr O’Toole is in the next-door bedroom," I said gesturing somewhat helplessly towards the interconnecting door. "You need to go in there and get him to sign - it’s his breakfast."
"No, madame. We knock already. Mr O’Toole say he in bath. Do not disturb. He say for you to sign on his behalf."
My day had suddenly become a whole lot worse. I had now put my name to £150 worth of waffles, hash browns, steak, muffins, bacon and eggs. Yet my “charge” was, if not unwell, then certainly still indisposed. Time was fast running out; I had to get him down into the lobby in less than ten minutes. I followed the waiters into O’Toole’s bedroom with trepidation. The scene had changed. The bed was now empty, the bathroom door ajar. There were bubbles - lots of bubbles - lapping against the carpet, a wall of steam and an overwhelming sickly smell.
"Peter? Everything okay?" I enquired nervously. “Your breakfast has arrived.”
"I think…" Long dramatic pause. "I think… I think… Lazarus is slowly rising from the dead," he announced mischievously, spitting out each syllable with exaggerated voice projection, volume and enunciation before appearing through the mist like an apparition.
He was naked, had an oversized powder puff the size of a Frisbee in one hand and was liberally covering himself and the room with Penhaligon’s Bluebell talcum powder.
"Autograph, boys?" he asked the trio of stunned waiters. Sarah Standing