Peter O'Toole, the elegant Irish actor who has been nominated seven times for best actor but never won, was finally honored Sunday for a lifetime of portraying kings, swashbucklers and rogues in more than 50 films.

"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride my foot," O'Toole said, clutching his honorary Oscar statue. "I have my very own Oscar now to be with me until death us do part."

O'Toole initially declined the honor in January, saying that since he was "still in the game, and might yet win ... outright, would the Academy please defer the honor until I am 80?"

He graciously accepted his honor and thanked the country that gave him so many of the roles for which he is remembered.

"I think of the United States and of the loves and friendships I've known here for more than half a century and of how much the nation has given to me both personally, privately and professionally," O'Toole said. "I am deeply thankful. And now, at this last, you have given me this delightful shock."

The tribute held a timely resonance. One of the roles the 70-year-old actor was honored for was his Oscar-nominated turn in Lawrence of Arabia.

The 1962 film told the story of T.E. Lawrence, who aided the Arab rebellion against the Turks during World War I, a movement that led to the creation of the independent Arab state of Iraq.

O'Toole was also recognized for a career that included best-actor nominations for Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980) and My Favorite Year (1982), as well as for Lawrence of Arabia.