"When did I realise I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realised I was talking to myself."
The Irish actor - famous for his piercing blue eyes - achieved stardom with his scintillating turn as misfit WWI British Army lieutenant TE Lawrence in the film Lawrence of Arabia.
He landed his first Oscar nomination for the film...and received seven more - for Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year and Venus - to achieve the record for the most Academy Award acting nominations without a win. (He was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in 2003).
Born in Ireland, he moved to Leeds as a child and worked as a trainee journalist and photographer before being called up as signaller in the Royal Navy.
His acting career began on stage and his big film break came when director David Lean cast him in Lawrence of Arabia (Marlon Brando was unavailable and Albert Finney turned it down).
In his later years he received rave reviews for the play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell as well as providing the voice of restaurant critic Anton Ego in the Pixar animation Ratatouille.
Died: December 14 aged 81