Actor Omar Sharif, best known for his roles in classic films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, passed away yesterday. He was 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 another Golden Globe three years later for Doctor Zhivago.
Born Michel Shalhoub in Alexandria in April 1932, Sharif started out with his family business before going to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He debuted 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. Sharif had later claimed to be baffled by the film’s success, saying it had merely been shots of people on camels walking from one side of the screen to the other.
David Lean then cast Sharif in his next epic, Doctor Zhivago, in which he played a physician caught up in the Russian Revolution. The actor went through a daily routine of hair-straightening and skin-waxing to disguise his Egyptian looks and later admitted that the film had left him close to a nervous breakdown.
Other notable roles by Sharif were opposite Barbra Streisand in her debut, Funny Girl and as Julie Andrews’ lover in the spy thriller, The Tamarind Seed.