Actor Omar Sharif, best known for his roles in classic films Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, has died aged 83. Egypt-born Sharif won two Golden Globe awards and an Oscar nomination for his role as Sherif Ali in David Lean’s 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia.
He won a further Golden Globe three years later for Doctor Zhivago.
Earlier this year, his agent confirmed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His agent Steve Kenis said: “He suffered a heart attack this afternoon in a hospital in Cairo.”
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, who appeared with Sharif in 1999 film The 13th Warrior, remembered him on Twitter as “one of the best”.
Born Michel Shalhoub in Alexandria in April 1932, Sharif started out in his family’s lumber business before going to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada). He made his screen debut in the 1954 Egyptian film Siraa Fil-Wadi (The Blazing Sun) and rapidly became a star in his own country.
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 Sharif’s name ridiculous and insisted on calling him “Fred”. The pair soon became fast friends.
Sharif was also a celebrated contract bridge player, one of the world’s best, and even licensed his name to a bridge computer game, Omar Sharif on Bridge. The star was married to Egyptian actress Faten Hamama from 1954 to 1974 and never remarried. Hamama, who passed away earlier this year, had one child with Sharif, son Tarek El-Sharif.