The blogosphere is remembering legendary actor Omar Sharif, who has died. 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 (1962). Sharif worked again with Lean in the cinema classic Dr. Zhivago (1965), starring opposite Julie Christie. The celebrated actor played the role of Yuri, a doctor caught up in the Russian Revolution and a love triangle. For the role, Sharif was made to undergo extensive skin waxing and hair-straightening to pull off the role of a Russian. Sharif lamented that the experience of making Dr. Zhivago caused him to almost have a nervous breakdown.
Sharif was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub in 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt to Syrian and Lebanese parents.
The BBC writes:
“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.”
Shalhoub converted to Islam in 1955, officially changing his name to Omar Sharif. The Golden Globe winner starred in over 100 films. Other notable roles include playing opposite Barbra Streisand in her first film Funny Girl and as Julie Andrews’ lover in spy thriller The Tamarind Seed. He also played a host of real-life historical figures including Che Guevara and Gengis Khan. Sharif’s long career was plagued by a gambling addiction, although he was a Bridge columnist at one point in his life.
In 2014, Sharif, who had retired, came out of retirement to make the educational short film 1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham. His character helps his granddaughter with a challenging homework assignment about Ibn Al-Haytham, the 11th century Arab scientist who made significant contributions to the principles of optics and visual perception.
At the time of his death, Sharif was battling Alzheimer’s disease. His agent Steve Kenis said the revered actor suffered a heart attack while in the hospital in Cairo. He was 83.
Sharif is survived by a son, Tarek, and two grandchildren.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder & editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.