Omar who was born in Egypt, Africa, won two Golden Globe awards and an Oscar nomination for his role as Sherif Ali in David Lean’s 1962 epic masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. He won another Golden Globe three years later for Doctor Zhivago.
Omar was born Michel Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, Africa in April 1932, Mr Sharif started out in his family’s lumber business before going to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada).
Earlier this year, his agent Steve Kenis, confirmed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and then today stated, “He suffered a heart attack this afternoon in a hospital in Cairo.”
Mr Sharif made his screen debut in the 1954 Egyptian film Siraa Fil-Wadi (The Blazing Sun) and rapidly became a star in Egypt. His big break came when David Lean cast him in Lawrence of Arabia, introducing the actor with a now-legendary shot of him riding a camel out of a shimmering heat haze towards the camera.
Peter O’Toole, who played TE Lawrence in the 1962 multiple Oscar-winner, considered Omar’s name ridiculous and insisted on calling him “Fred”. The pair soon became fast friends.
After his initial stint in the spotlight, Sharif would come to be seen more frequently at the gaming tables than the Hollywood soundstage. He became very successful at bridge and was ranked among the world’s best players. His film roles became increasingly sporadic, and those he did accept were in films he would later dismiss as “rubbish”.
In the late 1990s Sharif began declining film offers, claiming he had lost his “self-respect and dignity”. Earlier this year his agent confirmed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after his son Tarek gave an interview in which he discussed his father’s deteriorating condition.
“He still knows he’s a famous actor. He remembers, for example, [he was in] Doctor Zhivago but he’s forgotten when it was filmed.” Tarek El-Sharif told Spain’s El Mundo newspapaer.
Our condolences to Mr Sharif’s family, friends and loved ones.
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