(CNN) -- Actor Peter O'Toole died Saturday, peacefully in a hospital, his agent Steve Kenis said Sunday. O'Toole was 81 years old.
"Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre," Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement.
O'Toole's first major film success came in the title role of T.E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962. It earned him the first of eight Academy Award nominations, but O'Toole never won an Oscar for his film work.
His acting career began on stage in England as a teenager, moving later to television roles in the 1950s and then the big screen.
"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," Kenis said in an e-mail confirming O'Toole's death. "Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts."
O'Toole had "been ill for some time," Kenis said.
"In due course there will be a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished," Kenis wrote. "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."