Omar Sharif, the 83-year actor famous for his roles in Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, has passed away of a heart attack in Cairo.
A spokesperson for the Egyptian culture ministry said his country had suffered “an immense loss”, while grandson Omar Sharif Jr tweeted: “I join my family in thanking everyone for the global outpouring of prayers & support we’ve been receiving. I will miss my grandfather dearly.”
He was born in 1932, in Alexandria, Egypt, and made his film debut in an Egyptian film in 1954. He quickly became a star in his home country, occasionally appearing in films beside his wife, actress Faten Hamama.
His first role in an English-speaking was in a big film, in every way. It was the epic Lawrence of Arabia, released in 1962. He played Sharif Ali, supporting Peter O’Toole in the title role. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, and shared the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor.
He went on to play a revolving door of foreign characters in Hollywood films.
I spoke French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and even Arabic, with an accent that enabled me to play the role of a foreigner without anyone knowing exactly where I came from, something that has proved highly successful throughout my career.
In 1965 he reunited with David Lean, director of Lawrence of Arabia, to star in Doctor Zhivago, playing the title role.
He later went on to star in Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand, and memorable cameo roles in The Pink Panther Strikes Again and the 1980 comedy Top Secret!
Away from acting, he was once named as one of the world’s best 50 contract bridge players, and wrote a weekly column on the game for the Chicago Tribune, and had bridge computer games carry his name. Omar Sharif on Bridge is still sold.
For the past three years Sharif has quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease. His wife, divorced in 1974 passed away only six months ago.
Sharif leaves behind an impressive body of work, and a reputation as one of the good guys of the film world.
Vale, Omar Sharif.
What are you memories of Omar Sharif?
Image credit: Gorup de Besanez