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Biography of Omar SHARIF

Egypt > Arts : Omar SHARIF

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Born on 10/04/1932 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Omar Sharif  (b. April 10, 1932),is a world -renowned Egyptian actor.

 Sharif was raised Roman Catholic, but converted to Islam in 1954 in order to marry his wife, famous Egyptian actress Faten Hamama  with whom he has one sonTarek Sharif (born in 1955; some sources mention he was born in 1957), who appeared in Sharif's film “Doctor Zhivago” (1965) as Yuri at the age of 8. Tarek now lives in Montreal. They divorced in 1974 after 20 years of marriage. Sharif never remarried.

 Omar Sharif, the Franco-Arabic actor best known for playing Sharif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and the title role in Doctor Zhivago (1965), was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt to Joseph Shalhoub, a lumber merchant, and his wife, Claire. Of Lebanese and Syrian extraction, the young Michel was raised a Roman Catholic. He was educated at Victoria College in Alexandria and obtained  a degree in mathematics and physics from Cairo University with a major. Afterward graduating from university, he entered the family lumber business.

At the same time, he was well introduced in Cairo's film milieu and became a friend of Youssef Chahine, the director. In 1953 Chahine offered Michel the starring role opposite the leading female star Faten Hamama in his movie ‘A Story in the Valley (Siraa fil Wadi)’,

The film was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. When only twenty-three, Omar married Faten Hamama who had divorced her first husband Ezzedine Zoulfikar with whom she had had a daughter Nadia. Omar and Faten were to have one son, Tarek born in 1957. They were to divorce in 1974 but remained very close friends. Omar never married again, despite the legions of attractive women that he was seen with around the world.

He acted in twenty-four other Egyptian films made by Youssef Chahine, Kamal el Cheickh, Hilmi Halim, Assayed Bdeir, Atef Salem, Ramses Nageeb, Foutein Abdelwahab, Salah Abou Seif, Ezzedine Zoulfikar and Henri Barakat before starting his own production company. After a week of filming on the first movie produced by his company (The Sun Never Dies), Omar Sharif received a telephone call from David Lean who offered him a role. It was in the late 1960s and Omar left the set to travel to London. Western producers had noticed the dark handsome lead with smoldering eyes in three of his movies: Siraa fil-Wadi, shown at Cannes, Goha and Bidaya wa Nihaya.
Goha was to receive the international critics' prize at the Cannes Film festival in 1958. Bidaya wa Nihaya (Beginning and End) was an Egyptian movie that appeared in 1960, had much success internationally, especially at festivals in Moscow and Carlo Vivari and was instrumental in making Omar Sharif known on the international film scene.

Having established Omar's command of English, David Lean offered Omar the role of Sherif Ali Ibn el Karish in Lawrence of Arabia. He was to work alongside Peter O'Toole, Anthony Quinn and Alec Guinness for two years in the Jordanian desert. "It was luck, pure luck," he would later say. Nevertheless, he knew how to grasp the opportunity that would lead to his great international career. He was nominated for the Best Actor award at the 1962 Oscars and settled in the United States.

In 1965 he played Yuri in David Lean's Doctor Zhivago for which he received a Golden Globe award. In 1968 after starring alongside Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl his films were banned in Egypt and his Egyptian nationality was withdrawn because of the screen kiss he had exchanged with her, a Jewish actress - this was just after the Six-Day War and Gamal Abdel Nasser's defeat.

But Sharif's vogue seemed to pass with the 70s, or perhaps there were only so many foreign leading man roles available. Still, he made eleven films in the decade in almost as many countries. His American releases included John Frankenheimer's "The Horsemen" (1971) and the thriller "Bloodline" (1979). In Britain, Sharif appeared in two Blake Edwards' films, "The Tamarind Seed" (1974), opposite Julie Andrews, and "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" (1976), as well as the adventure "Ashanti" (1979). His latter-day film work has taken him to France ("Les Possedes," 1987), Italy ("Viaggio d'Amore," 1990), Egypt ("Al Moaten al Myssri," 1991) and Japan ("Tengoku No Taizai," 1992). Back in the US, Sharif had a supporting role in the raucous comedy "Top Secret!" (1984).

Television has been kinder to Sharif in later years. He made his TV-movie debut in the earnest, all-star "The Poppy Is Also a Flower" (ABC, 1968), about international drug trading, and has remained active in that medium. Some longforms have provided him with excellent roles, better showcases than he had gotten on the big screen. He was a professional gambler in "The Pleasure Palace" (CBS, 1980), Ben Cross' Indian mentor in "The Far Pavilions" (HBO, 1984), a Turkish sultan in "Harem" (ABC, 1986), a Russian Prince in "Peter the Great" (NBC, 1986), a romantic Frenchman in the comedy "Mrs. 'arris Goes to Paris" (CBS, 1992) and a sorcerer in the superb adaptation of Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" (NBC, 1996).

Sharif is also a professional bridge player who has authored books and a newspaper column on the subject, as well as representing Egypt in the 1964 Olympic bridge competition.

He moved to Paris and continued acting while fulfilling his other great passion: playing bridge.. In the 1970s and '80s, he co-wrote a syndicated newspaper bridge column for the Chicago Tribune. Sharif also wrote several books on bridge and has licensed his name to a bridge computer game, "Omar Sharif Bridge", which has been marketed since 1992.

Sharif told the press in 2006 that he no longer played bridge, explaining, "I decided I didn't want to be a slave to any passion any more except for my work. I had too many passions, bridge, horses, gambling. I want to live a different kind of life, be with my family more because I didn't give them enough time."

As an actor, Sharif had made a comeback in 2003 playing the title role of an elderly Muslim shopkeeper in the French film Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran (2003). For his performance, he won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival and the Best Actor César, Frane's equivalent of the Oscar, from the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma.

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 US film, "Behold a Pale Rider"
1965 Reteamed with director David Lean for "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"
1992 Had heart bypass surgery, moved back to Egypt
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"





Last update : 07/08/2008

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