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Mr. O'Toole graciously accepted the honorary award, quipping, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,” as he clutched his Oscar statuette.

Mr. O'Toole nearly turned down the award, sending a letter asking that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hold off on the honorary Oscar until he turned 80.

Hoping another Oscar-worthy role would come his way, Mr. O'Toole wrote: “I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright.”

Mr. O'Toole was still in the game. He earned his eighth best-actor nomination for 2006’s “Venus,” in which he played a lecherous old actor consigned to roles as feeble-minded royals or aged men on their death beds.

“If you fail the first time, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again,” Mr. O'Toole said in a statement on nominations day.

Unfortunately for Mr. O'Toole, he failed again. The best-actor prize went to Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland.”

Still, Mr. O'Toole had the esteem of Hollywood from that honorary prize a few years earlier.

“I have my very own Oscar now to be with me until death us do part,” Mr. O’Toole told the academy crowd that night.