Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif, best known for his part in David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and the lead role in “Doctor Zhivago”, died of cardiac arrest on Friday, media reports said. He was 83.
“He suffered a heart attack this afternoon in a hospital in Cairo,” BBC quoted his agent Steve Kenis as saying.
Born Michel Demetri Chalhoub on April 10, 1932 in a Catholic family of Lebanese descent, Sharif started his career in Egyptian films in 1953 with “Sira Fi al-Wadi” (“The Blazing Sun”) opposite Faten Hamama, whom he later married (they were divorced in 1974).
He worked in over 20 films before being approached for the role of Sharif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) which was his first Hollywood movie.
As Sharif Ali, who silently glides from the dunes early in the movie and kills Lawrence’s guide for drinking from his well before taunting him “Have you no fear, English?”, Sharif more than held his own against a star-studded cast which included Peter O’Toole as Lawrence, Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal, Anthony Quinn as Auda and Claude Rains as Dryden.
He was nominated for the Oscars but didn’t win though. Later, he received two Golden Globe awards for his role.
His most famous work was as the title role of the tormented poet in Lean’s 1965 adapation of Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago”, opposite Julie Christie as Larissa ‘Lara’ Antipova. He again did not win any of the five Oscars the film garnered for its epic cinematography and haunting music, especially “Lara’s Theme”, by Maurice Jarre but won a further Golden Globe three years later.
Among other major roles of the multi-lingual Sharif, who was comfortable in any cultural and historic setting, were as iconic revolutionary Che Guevara in “Che”, a German officer trying to trace a psychopathic murderer among the top brass in “The Night of the Generals”, in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, as Genghis Khan in an eponymous film, the villain Colorado in Gregory Peck-starrer western treasure hunt “Mackenna’s Gold”, and a Soviet spy in Cold War drama “The Tamarind Seed”.
On TV, he essayed the role of doomed Czar Nicholas II in mini series “Anastasia” as well as of Khuda Daad in an adaption of M.M.Kaye’s “The Far Pavillions”.
Sharif, who was a devoted bridge player and authored several books on the card game, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012.