Hollywood actor Omar Sharif who rose to fame for his roles in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago” has died. He was 83.
He passed away in Cairo on Friday afternoon after suffering a heart attack, his agent told NBC News.
He was known to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
His grandson, Omar Sharif Junior, last week posted a picture of the two together on his Facebook page with the message: “I love you.”
Born in Egypt to a Syrian-Lebanese family, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1962 for playing Sherif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia,” a movie that launched him to stardom.
Three years later he starred as the title character in Doctor Zhivago.
He tallied 118 acting credits, according to IMDB, and had been due to appear in a short movie ‘1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham.’
He was also an accomplished bridge player and keem gambler, reportedly once winning a million dollars at an Italian casino but also losing a villa in Lanzarote, Spain as a result of a card game in the 1970s.
Sharif was not “Lawrence of Arabia” director David Lean’s first choice to play Sherif Ali. the tribal leader with whom T.E. Lawrence teams up to help lead the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Lean had hired another actor but dropped him because his eyes weren’t the right color. The film’s producer, Sam Spiegel, went to Cairo to search for a replacement and found Sharif.
He remained a sought-after actor for many years, playing Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara in “Che!”, Italian Marco Polo in “Marco the Magnificent” and Mongol leader Genghis Khan in “Genghis Khan.” He was also the Jewish gambler Nick Arnstein opposite Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.” The 1968 film was banned in Egypt because he was cast as a Jew.
In his middle years Sharif began appearing in such films as “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” “Oh Heavenly Dog!,” “The Baltimore Bullet” and others he dismissed as “rubbish.”
He suffered a public embarrassment in 2007 when he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was ordered to take an anger management course for punching a parking valet in Beverly Hills. He was also involved in a scuffle at a Paris casino in 2003.
He spent much of his later years in Cairo and at the Royal Moncean Hotel in Paris.