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Peter O’Toole remembered by Lawrence of Arabia assistant director Ibrahim Fawal

The Disinherited by Ibrahim FawalAuthor Ibrahim Fawal (On the Hills of God, The Disinherited), born in Ramallah, Palestine, worked with renowned director David Lean as the “Jordanian” first assistant director on the classic Lawrence of Arabia. He sent this remembrance of actor Peter O’Toole, who died this past month.

I am proud to say that I had a very friendly relationship with Peter O’Toole when I was working as the first assistant director on Lawrence of Arabia in the Jordanian desert in 1961. In fact, he and Omar Sharif promised to dance at my wedding, which was to take place right after production of the movie ended. Due to unforeseen circumstances and a delayed production schedule, they missed my wedding, but that did not prevent big crowds from jamming the streets and the church, expecting the two stars to be in attendance.

One of my most vivid memories of working with Peter O’Toole took place early one morning, when David Lean asked me to go find Peter, who was late for the shooting of a certain scene. When I found Peter, he was in his luxurious tent, getting dressed. I urged him to hurry up, as we were late for the first morning shot. As we walked out of the tent, into the desert, with the blue sky and miles and miles of utter tranquility around us, he was still buttoning his shirt. Suddenly, he stopped walking, and the next thing I knew he was raising his hands up toward the sky, shouting “Hey God, where are you?” Stunned by the sudden outburst, I asked what he was doing, but he kept looking up, repeating, “Where is He? Where is He?” It was a powerful moment, one that stayed in my subconscious for more than 40 years. It was later included as a scene in my book, The Disinherited.

What a magnificent opportunity to work with a legend like Peter O’Toole. Now he’s with his elusive God, at last.

The PEN Oakland award-winning On the Hills of God and its sequel The Disinherited, by Ibrhaim Fawal, are available in hardcover and ebook from your favorite bookstore.