HOLLYWOOD—Actor Omar Sharif, 83, died of a heart attack in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt on Friday, July 10.

His son, Tarek El-Sharif, says he had Alzheimer’s disease and could not remember details of the movies he had done.

Sharif was best known for his performances in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago,” both under English director David Lean.

Sharif was born on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt as Michel Demitri Chalhoub.

His initial career was not acting. He attended University of Cairo majoring in mathematics and physics, and went on to work in his father’s wood business.

He decided to leave the business arena to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, where he studied acting. RADA is home to many well known actors including Sean Bean, Richard Attenborough, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Tom Hiddleston, to name a few.

Sharif started his acting career in Egyptian cinema in 1953 with Sira ‘Fi al-Wadi (The Blazing Sun), a romantic drama, where he played Ahmed, an engineer.

In 1954, he married Faten Hamama, who played his romantic lead in many movies. He converted to Islam for this union. They had one child, Tarek El-Sharif, in 1957. Hamama and Sharif officially separated in 1974. One of his grandchildren, Omar Sharif, Jr., is also an actor.

In 1962, Sharif acted in his first English film, “Lawrence of Arabia” where he played the role of Sharif Ali, a combatant who fought side by side with T.E. Lawrence. The film garnered the attention of movie critics and helped him get many future roles in English and American cinema. Sharif also received an Oscar nomination and two Golden Globe Awards for this role.

After this breakthrough role, he received many other opportunities. Director David Lean came to him again for the role of Doctor Yuri Zhivago, in the romantic era film, “Doctor Zhivago.” Sharif received a Golden Globe for Best Actor.

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in the film Doctor Zhivago. Photo courtesy pinstopins.com
Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in the film Doctor Zhivago. Photo courtesy pinstopins.com

In 1969, he acted with Gregory Peck in “Mackenna’s Gold.” He also had the opportunity to play opposite Barbra Streisand in “Funny Lady.” In 2008, he narrated the film “10,000 BC.”

His favorite pass activities included contract bridge and gambling. He used to be in the top 50 bridge player in the world, and had written books on bridge.

He received a Sergei Einstein Medal by UNESCO for his contributions to the world of cinema in 2005.

Sharif’s movie career expanded for 1953 to 2013, during which he performed dozens of roles in both Egyptian and western cinema.