Omar Sharif


Actor
Omar Sharif

About

Also Known As
Omar El Cherif, Omar Shariff, Michel Demitri Chalhoub, Omar Cherif
Birth Place
Egypt
Born
April 10, 1932
Died
July 10, 2015

Biography

One of the rare Middle Eastern actors to achieve stardom in both the Hollywood and international markets, Omar Sharif was a powerful presence in some of the biggest films of the 1960s - both in terms of scope and success - including "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) and "Doctor Zhivago." A leading man in his native Egypt, he was cast as the fiercely loyal friend to Peter O'Toole's Lawrence in ...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Faten Hamama
Wife
Actor. Born 1931; married 1955; divorced 1966; appeared together in "Sina Fil Wadi/The Blazing Sun" in 1954.

Bibliography

"Omar Sharif's Life in Bridge"
Omar Sharif, Faber and Faber (1983)
"The Eternal Male"
Omar Sharif (1977)

Notes

Sharif writes a syndicated column on bridge.

"When we were making 'Zhivago,' David Lean, the director, used to say, 'Omar, please take out the violins. I hear 28 violins.' And I would say, 'but I can't!' Then I would do the scene again and he would say, 'only eight violins this time.' And I would say, 'eight violins is my minimum.'" --Omar Sharif, quoted in The New York Times, April 12, 1995.

Biography

One of the rare Middle Eastern actors to achieve stardom in both the Hollywood and international markets, Omar Sharif was a powerful presence in some of the biggest films of the 1960s - both in terms of scope and success - including "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) and "Doctor Zhivago." A leading man in his native Egypt, he was cast as the fiercely loyal friend to Peter O'Toole's Lawrence in the David Lean epic, and rose to immediate fame around the globe; subsequent film efforts followed closely in the sweep and theme of "Lawrence," including Lean's "Zhivago" (1965), which cast him in his first English-language lead, "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964), and the musical "Funny Girl" (1968). Sharif's time at the top of the box office was short-lived. By the mid 1970s, he was relegated to European productions and sudsy American product like "Bloodline" (1979), but he continued to work, largely in television, for the next two decades before reaching a career high point with his award-winning turn in "Monsieur Ibrahim" (2003). Even in his seventh decade, Sharif commanded a degree of class, Old World charm and romanticism that eluded actors with twice his popularity and half his age, which assured him a place in the pantheon of movie history as one of its most memorable leading men. Omar Sharif died of a heart attack in Cairo on July 10, 2015. He was 83.

Michel Demitri Shalhoub was born in Alexandria, Egypt on April 10, 1932. The family was well-to-do thanks to his father's lumber company; Sharif's home in Egypt was frequented by the wealthy elite of the country, as well as King Farouk, who was a close friend to and frequent card player with his mother. After graduating from Victorian College in Alexandria and later Cairo University with a degree in mathematics and physics, he made his living at his father's company until the early 1950s, when he decided to try his hand at film acting. Billed as Omar El-Sharif, his debut in 1954's "The Blazing Sun" made him an overnight success, thanks in no small part to his smoldering good looks and the undeniable chemistry with his female lead, Faten Hamama, one of the country's most popular stars at that time. More Egyptian films featuring the couple soon followed, and their popularity skyrocketed after Sharif, a Catholic, converted to Islam to marry Hamama in 1955.

In 1961, Sharif was cast in David Lean's historical epic, "Lawrence of Arabia." Both Horst Buchholz and Alain Delon were originally considered for the role, while Sharif was slated to play Tafas, Lawrence's ill-fated guide. But after both established actors were considered unsuitable for the role, Lean shifted Sharif to the crucial role of Sherif Ali ibn el Karish, Lawrence's ally and friend in his war against the Turks. In a film filled with iconic images, Sharif's first appearance in Lawrence is among the most mesmerizing; he first appears as almost a hallucination, a black-clad figure astride a camel, shimmering in the blazing heat of the desert, with Lean holding on his advance until he appears in full focus to reveal his striking features. Such moments, as well as the worldwide success of the picture, helped to make Sharif an international star; for his efforts in "Lawrence," Sharif received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe for both Best Supporting Actor and Most Promising Newcomer - Male.

In the years that followed "Lawrence," Sharif became the go-to for ethnic heroes in major Hollywood epics; he was the Armenian king Sohamus, who marries Sophia Loren in the massive "Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964) and played the title role in "Genghis Khan" one year later before reuniting with Lean to play the romantic title hero in "Doctor Zhivago" (1965). The latter had been a dream project of Sharif's after reading the source novel by Boris Pasternak. He was pleasantly surprised to win the lead at Lean's request. It, along with "Lawrence," would remain the most enduringly popular and critically acclaimed films of his career.

Sharif was also a regular in modern-day dramas as well; most notably thrillers like the Spanish Civil War story "Behold a Pale Horse" (1964) and "Night of the Generals" (1967), which again cast him opposite his "Lawrence" co-star, Peter O'Toole, in a murder mystery set in the world of the Nazi High Command during World War II. And, as "Zhivago" proved, his intensity and physical attributes made him a natural for romances like "Mayerling" (1968), where his Austrian royal abandons a loveless marriage for Catherine Deneuve. His best effort in this genre was undoubtedly "Funny Girl" (1968), with Sharif as the dashing but tragic gambler Nicky Arnstein, husband to stage star Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand). The film was a hit with audiences around the world save for his native Egypt, where his romantic scenes opposite the Jewish Streisand (reportedly offscreen as well as onscreen) angered government officials.

Though Sharif's career flourished in the 1960s, the constant work had a detrimental effect on his marriage. The government of President Gamal Abdel Nassar placed travel restrictions on Egyptians leaving the country for international work, which played havoc with Sharif's ability to appear in films. Eventually, he settled on residing in Europe between projects, which led to an unfortunate if amicable divorce from Hamama. Saddened, but free to pursue work in all corners of the globe, Sharif closed the 1960s with the Golden Lion-nominated thriller, "The Appointment" (1969) and the thrilling Western adventure, "Mackenna's Gold (1969), which had a strong influence on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) and its sequels. Only "Che!" (1969), with Sharif as the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevera, failed at the box office. The actor remained as popular a draw among moviegoers at the end of the decade as he had when he emerged from the international scene at its beginning.

However, with the launch of the new decade, Sharif's star power began to wane. The odd historical adventure "The Last Valley" (1971), and "The Horsemen" (1971), with Sharif as an Afghani sportsman, were at the head of a string of hits and misses that filled out his career during this period. The Blake Edwards romance "The Tamarind Seed" (1974), with Sharif and Julie Andrews as Cold War lovers, and "Juggernaut" (1974), a disaster picture set on the high seas, also failed to find audiences. Even his brief reunion with Streisand for "Funny Lady" (1975) was only a modest success. By the midpoint of the decade, he was making fewer and fewer onscreen appearances; instead devoting more attention to his passions, which included horse racing and bridge. He would eventually become known as a global authority on the latter, with several books and a syndicated newspaper column on the subject to his name. In 1977, his written output grew to include his autobiography, The Eternal Male.

Sharif retained a presence in international film well into the 1980s. Among his more notable efforts during this period was the campy Sidney Sheldon adaptation "Bloodline" (1979) with Audrey Hepburn, and the Zucker Brothers comedy "Top Secret!" (1984), which allowed him to spoof his suave persona. Television eventually became his primary medium, and he lent sophistication and Hollywood glamour to countless productions, including "The Far Pavilions" (1984) as Ben Cross' Indian advisor; "Peter the Great" (1986), and the mildly exploitative "Harem" (1986), which cast him as a libidinous sultan. Sharif also made his stage debut in London's West End production of "The Sleeping Prince."

In 1992, Sharif curtailed his busy work schedule after undergoing triple bypass surgery. He returned to Egypt on a permanent basis to live with his son, who had his own family, and kept his screen appearances to a minimum. In interviews, he cited his grandsons as a central reason to largely retire from the film industry, based on their negative opinions of his recent efforts. By 1999, their influence appeared to have an influence on any subsequent decisions about roles. Sharif continued to keep his output down to about a film a year. Among those infrequent efforts were such modest hits as "Hidalgo" (2004), with Viggo Mortensen as an American cowboy competing in a horse race across the Arabian Desert, and "Monsieur Ibrahim" (2003), a moving French drama about an elderly Turkish man (Sharif) who takes a fatherless young Jewish boy under his wing. The film was widely praised in critical circles, and Sharif enjoyed some of the best reviews of his career since the 1960s, as well as the Cesar - France's equivalent of the Oscar - and the Audience Award for Best Actor from the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

Sharif continued to work in international projects for the next few years; most, if not all, continued to employ him in the genre that made him famous - historical epics like "The Ten Commandments" (ABC, 2006) and "The Last Templar" (2009). He also starred in the French dramas "I Forgot to Tell You" (2009) and "Rock the Casbah" (2013), as well as appearing briefly as himself in the comedy-drama "A Castle in Italy" (2013). Sharif's off-screen activities also earned him headlines, though often for the wrong reasons. In 2003, he was arrested for assaulting a police officer in a Parisian casino and received a suspended prison sentence. Four years later, he was found guilty of assaulting a parking attendant in Beverly Hills. Not all of Sharif's newsworthy incidents were so legal-minded; in 2005, he received a rare medal from the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for his contributions to world cinema. In early 2015, it was announced that Omar Sharif was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. On July 10 of that year, Omar Sharif died of a heart attack at a Cairo hospital. He was 83.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Traveller (2009)
10,000 B.C. (2008)
Narrator
Hassan & Morcos (2008)
The Crown Prince (2007)
One Night with the King (2006)
Fuoco Su Di Me (2006)
Hidalgo (2004)
Monsieur Ibrahim (2003)
Ibrahim
The Parole Officer (2001)
Mysteries of Egypt (2000)
The 13th Warrior (1999)
Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt (1997)
Narrator
Heaven Before I Die (1997)
Khalil Gibran
Lie Down With Lions (1994)
Safir Khan
588 Rue Paradis (1992)
Hagop
Mrs. 'arris Goes to Paris (1992)
Tengoku No Taizai (1992)
Tsai Mang Hua
Beyond Justice (1992)
Emir
Al Moaten Al Myssri (1991)
Mayrig (1991)
Hagop
Viaggio d'amore (1990)
Rico
The Rainbow Thief (1990)
The Puppeteer (1989)
Les Pyramides bleues (1988)
Les Possedes (1988)
Top Secret! (1984)
Cedric
Ayoub (1983)
Ayoub
Return to Eden (1982)
Narration
Green Ice (1981)
S*h*e* (1980)
Oh, Heavenly Dog! (1980)
Malcolm Bart
The Baltimore Bullet (1980)
The Pleasure Palace (1980)
Bloodline (1979)
Ashanti (1979)
Prince
Crime and Passion (1976)
Andre
Funny Lady (1975)
Juggernaut (1974)
The Tamarind Seed (1974)
Feodor Sverdlov
L'Ile Mysterieuse (1973)
The Last Valley (1971)
Vogel
The Horsemen (1971)
Uraz
The Burglars (1971)
Zacaria
The Appointment (1970)
Federico Fendi
Mackenna's Gold (1969)
Colorado
Che! (1969)
Che Guevara
Mayerling (1969)
Crown Prince Rudolf
Funny Girl (1968)
Nick Arnstein
The Night of the Generals (1967)
Major Grau
More Than a Miracle (1967)
Prince Ramon
Marco the Magnificent (1966)
Emir Alaou
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Yuri Zhivago
Genghis Khan (1965)
Temujin/Genghis Khan
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965)
Davich
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
Sohamus
Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
Father Francisco
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish
A Man in Our House (1961)
The Blazing Sun (1954)

Music (Feature Film)

Black Hawk Down (2002)
Composer

Cast (Special)

L'Interview TCM: Omar Sharif (2012)
Himself
Cleopatra's Palace: In Search of a Legend (1999)
Narrator
Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic (1995)
Host
David Lean: A Life in Film (1991)
The 18th Annual American Film Institute Life Achievement Award: A Salute to Sir David Lean (1990)
Performer
Mysteries of the Pyramids... Live! (1988)
Host
Bob Hope's Royal Command Performance From Sweden (1986)

Cast (Short)

Vienna The Years Remembered (1968)
Himself
New Star: Geraldine Chaplin (1965)
Himself
This Is... Omar Sharif (1965)
Himself
Pasternak (1965)
Himself
Moscow in Madrid (1965)
Himself
This Is... Julie Christie (1965)
Himself
Omar Sharif Interview (1965)
Himself

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Last Templar (2009)
Catherine the Great (1996)
Gulliver's Travels (1996)
Sidney Sheldon's Memories of Midnight (1991)
Grand Larceny (1989)
Peter the Great (1986)
Harem (1986)
Sultan Hasan
Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986)
The Far Pavilions (1984)
Koda Dad
The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966)
Dr. Rad

Life Events

1954

Film debut in Egyptian production "Sina Fil Wadi/The Blazing Sun"; co-starred with soon-to-be wife Faten Hamama

1962

First international production, David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia"; won Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor

1964

First U.S. film, "Behold a Pale Rider"

1965

Reteamed with director David Lean with a starring role in the epic "Doctor Zhivago"

1966

TV-movie debut in the all-star "The Poppy is Also a Flower" (ABC)

1968

Co-starred as Nicky Arnstein opposite Barbra Streisand's Fanny Brice in William Wyler's musical "Funny Girl"

1975

Briefly reprised his role as Nicky Arnstein in the film sequel "Funny Lady"

1988

West End stage debut, "The Sleeping Prince"

1999

Returned to features in supporting role in "The 13th Warrior"

2001

Cast in the syndicated miniseries "Shaka Zulu: The Citadel"

2003

Played Monsieur Ibrahim in "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran"

2004

Cast opposite Viggo Mortensen in the film "Hidalgo"

2006

Featured in the ABC miniseries "The Ten Commandments"

2008

Featured in Roland Emmerich's prehistoric drama "10,000 BC"

2009

Cast in the NBC miniseries "The Last Templar" opposite Mira Sorvino and Victor Garber

Photo Collections

Funny Girl - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release movies posters from Funny Girl (1968), starring Barbra Streisand. Included is the Academy Award-style 1-Sheet.
Doctor Zhivago - Publicity Art
Here are some specialty drawings created by MGM for newspaper and magazine reproduction to publicize Doctor Zhivago (1965), directed by David Lean.

Videos

Movie Clip

Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) - Aqaba Peter O'Toole (title character) has intimated that he and colleagues (Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn) were less-than sober for the glorious raid on Aqaba, Jordan, actually shot in Spain, in David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - My Name Is For My Friends Remarkable tension and photography by Freddie Young, as Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) and Tafas (Zia Mohyeddin) meet Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) in a famous scene from David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962.
Yellow Rolls-Royce, The (1964) - A Shakespeare, A Tolstoy And A Toothbrush At Trieste, 1941, Ingrid Bergman as international society widow Mrs. Millett has just purchased the car of the title, with her aide Hortense (Joyce Grenfell), their discussion of their trip to turbulent Yugoslavia overheard by handsome Davich (Omar Sharif), the third story in The Yellow Rolls-Royce. 1964.
Doctor Zhivago (1965) - An Extraordinary Girl Quick appearances by many principals, as Lara (Julie Christie) surprises Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin), Yuri (Omar Sharif) and especially Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) at a Moscow party, in David Lean's Doctor Zhivago, 1965.
Doctor Zhivago (1965) - Take Him Inside Moscow, 1905, with Lara (Julie Christie) and Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) traversing the city, Yuri (Omar Sharif, title character) observes as strikers led by Pasha (Tom Courtenay) are attacked by imperial dragoons, uncle Gromeko (Ralph Richardson) to his rescue, in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago, 1965.
Doctor Zhivago (1965) - Will There Be Wolves In The Forest? Yuri, Tonya and Sasha (Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeffrey Rockland), with uncle Gromeko (Ralph Richardson) fleeing to the family estate in the Urals, hear tales of a heroic revolutionary warlord, who is revealed to be the long missing Pasha (Tom Courtenay), in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago, 1965.
Funny Girl (1968) - The Name's Arnstein Fanny (Barbra Streisand) is surprised by a backstage visit from Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif) who helps her through a speedy negotiation with Keeney (Frank Faylen) in William Wyler's Funny Girl, 1968.
Funny Girl (1968) - People Discussing, with suitor Nick Arnstein, his many conquests, Barbra Streisand (as Fanny Brice) performs her signature song "People," by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, in producer Ray Stark's Funny Girl, 1968.
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) - He Must Be A Great Hero Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is busy modeling new robes presented by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) when he meets Auda (Anthony Quinn) for the first time, in David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962.
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) - They Are Master And Man The ever-insubordinate title character (Peter O'Toole) in the presence of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), with Col. Brighton (Anthony Quayle) and Sharif Ali (Omar Sharif) in David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962.
Behold A Pale Horse - The Men Who Lost Echoes of Neo-Realism in Spanish Civil War footage with narration opening Fred Zinnemann's Behold A Pale Horse, 1964, from Emeric Pressburger's novel, starring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif.
C'era Una Volta (a.k.a. More Than A Miracle) - All You Spaniards Do In a slightly fantastical 17th century Spain, disaffected prince Ramon (Omar Sharif) has been advised to seek a bride, whereupon me meets Isabella (Sophia Loren) working a field, in Francesco Rosi's C'era Una Volta (a.k.a. More Than A Miracle), 1967.

Trailer

Family

Joseph Shalhoub
Father
Timber merchant. Died 1979.
Claire Shalhoub
Mother
Lives in Spain.
Tarek Sharif
Son
Born c. 1955, lives in Montreal.

Companions

Faten Hamama
Wife
Actor. Born 1931; married 1955; divorced 1966; appeared together in "Sina Fil Wadi/The Blazing Sun" in 1954.

Bibliography

"Omar Sharif's Life in Bridge"
Omar Sharif, Faber and Faber (1983)
"The Eternal Male"
Omar Sharif (1977)

Notes

Sharif writes a syndicated column on bridge.

"When we were making 'Zhivago,' David Lean, the director, used to say, 'Omar, please take out the violins. I hear 28 violins.' And I would say, 'but I can't!' Then I would do the scene again and he would say, 'only eight violins this time.' And I would say, 'eight violins is my minimum.'" --Omar Sharif, quoted in The New York Times, April 12, 1995.

"Sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier if I had never made 'Lawrence of Arabia.' I had a beautiful house, a wonderful wife. I made all the films I wanted. My wife and I worked together often. What more could you want? I could have had a beautiful home now, four kids, seven grandchildren. Ah, my destiny was different." --Omar Sharif, quoted in The New York Times, April 12, 1995.

"I lost my self-respect and dignity, even my grandchildren were making fun of me. 'Grandpa, that was really bad. And this one? Even worse.' I decided to retire, unless something good came along. But no more rubbish."---Sharif on his string of bad films, which led him to retire EW March 19, 2004