Earlier in 2015, agent Steve Kenis to Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago star, Omar Sharif, stated publicly that the Egyptian-born screen acting icon had been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The Oscar winning and Golden Globe decorated actor is perhaps most well known for his performance in David Lean’s aforementioned classic of 1962 (with British-Irish actor Peter O’Toole in the lead role), even as Sharif declined from appearing in further feature films in later years.
As of this morning, the final development in the state of Sharif’s declining health has been officially announced, with Kenis having confirmed that Sharif has passed away at age 83, following a heart attack. Condolences are now being offered from celebrities around the world, with people like Sharif’s former co-star Antonio Banderas saying (via his Twitter account) “I will always miss him. He was one of the best.”
Omar Sharif, born Michel Shalhoub in Alexandria on April 10th, 1932, started out in his family’s lumber business, before going to London to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, in Rada. Sharif made his big screen debut in the 1954 Egyptian feature film Siraa Fil-Wadi (The Blazing Sun), before being cast in the British, blockbuster success, Lawrence of Arabia, and subsequently landing the title role in David Lean’s next film, 1965’s Doctor Zhivago.
After his initial success, however, Sharif largely shied away from the spotlight, spending much of his time as a successful bridge player (becoming ranked as one of the best in the world), before turning in a critically notable performance in the 2003 French drama Monsieur Ibraham, for which he received a Cesar, the French equivalent of an Oscar. According to BBC News, Sharif regarded many of the roles taken later on in his career as being “rubbish,” and declined many roles in the 1990s, though he continued to work on through to the 2010s.
Despite being an established icon back home, and even after launching himself into the mainstream on the back of two David Lean directed classics, Sharif’s time spent as an actor was apparently troubled for the late performer. Even as Sharif won worldwide acclaim, his reticence to continue working – preferring instead to spend much of his time at the gaming table – speaks to an Oscar winner who held little interest in the glamor of Hollywood – a personal life of leisure decidedly more attractive than the red carpet.
Whatever his feelings were about some of his most iconic starring roles, Sharif will be missed and primarily remembered for his work in such cinematic marvels as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. And however talented he may have been at bridge, the biggest stage he ever walked across was that magnificent Arabian desert of the popular imagination, forever branded as an icon within the cultural zeitgeist.
We here at Screen Rant would like to express our sincere condolences and best wishes to Omar Sharif’s family and friends in this difficult time.
R.I.P. Omar Sharif/Michael Demitri Shalhoub: April 10th, 1932 – July 10th, 2015.