“Aqaba!” screams Peter O'Toole as British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. Aqaba was the Turkish port his troops were aiming at, the final destination of David Lean's huge sandy epic. “Hollywood!” O'Toole screamed at the Golden Globe Award ceremony held on March 5, 1965, at the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. The film won six Globes, including Best Picture – Drama, Best Director (Lean) and Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), out of a total of nine nominations: Peter O'Toole lost in the best actor category to Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird). As a consolation prize, O'Toole won a Globe as Most Promising Newcomer – Male. For Lean it was the second Globe after The Bridge on the River Kwai. He would eventually get a third for Doctor Zhivago, in 1965.
O'Toole took his sweet revenge on Gregory Peck: the British actor went on to receive eleven Golden Globe nominations throughout his career, winning three more times (the first being with Becket, two years after Lawrence of Arabia); his numbers with the Globes and the HFPA are a near record.
The film, adapted from Lawrence's own memoir, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, was shot during an exhausting one and a half-year period in Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the Sahara, with a budget $15 million – enormous at that time – resulting in a 216 minute, 70 mm saga. O' Toole said: “We shot six months in North Africa and Saudi Arabia, then a very nice three months in Seville, then three more months in the Sahara desert. Do I love the desert? People ask me ... No, I loathe the desert. You never get used to the desert, you would have to be nuts to get used to it.”
Oddly enough Peter O’Toole wasn't Lean's first choice for the role: Marlon Brando and Albert Finney were considered, but they turned down the role (Brando favored Mutiny on the Bounty, Finney afraid of the duress of the shooting). Meanwhile, Omar Sharif became a star as a result of playing Sherif Ali in the film and winning the Globe for it. Ironically he also was not the first choice for the role: Horst Bucholz was the original pick, and Alain Delon also screen-tested. None worked out, Sharif stepped in and another legend was born that night at Cocoanut Grove.