Omar Sharif dies of heart attack

CAIRO: Omar Sharif, the Egyptian-born actor who soared to international stardom in two David Lean epics, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, has died. He was 83. Sharif’s longtime agent, Steve Kenis, told The Associated Press that Sharif died of a heart attack in a Cairo hospital on July 10.

In May his son revealed that the star had been suffering from Alzheimers.

He was married to fellow actor Faten Hamama, who he co-starred with in the 1953 film The Blazing Sun. Their son and two grandsons survive him.

Sharif was Oscar nominated for his role in Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and went on to win a Golden Globe for his performance. It was his first English language role, after appearing in over 20 Egyptian films.

He soon became a star in Hollywood and followed his breakthrough performance with roles in Behold a Pale Horse alongside Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn and in the 1965 epic Genghis Khan, playing the title role. In the same year, he reunited with Lean to star in Doctor Zhivago, a role that brought him another Golden Globe.

Sharif also starred alongside Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl and sequel Funny Lady. His decision to work with Streisand angered the Egyptian government given Streisand’s support of the State of Israel.

In an interview of 2004, he admitted that not all of his films were favourites. He referred to three as “really bad” since 1972. “To learn bad dialogue is so difficult and so boring,” he said, “and to work with a stupid director who tells you to do the wrong thing, et cetera, it’s just unbearable.”

Sharif, as well as being an unlikely supporter of Hull City Football Club, was also a world-renowned bridge player, and recently developed an iPhone app. In November 2005, Sharif received UNESCO’s Sergei Eisenstein Medal in recognition of his significant contributions to world film and cultural diversity.