Omar Sharif, star of 'Doctor Zhivago', dead at 83

Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:37pm EDT
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CAIRO (Reuters) - Actor Omar Sharif, best known for his portrayal of Doctor Zhivago in the hit 1966 film and for his work in "Lawrence of Arabia," died of a heart attack on Friday, his agent said. He was 83.

Steve Kenis confirmed the death of one of the few Arab actors to make it big in Hollywood. "Omar Sharif died in Cairo of a heart attack sometime this afternoon," Kenis said when reached by telephone.

He also confirmed that Sharif, who played a wide range of dashing and dignified characters while building a reputation as an expert bridge player, had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Tributes to Sharif were quick to flow on social media.

Egyptian actor Khaled El Nabawy on his Twitter feed, @KhaledElNabawy, said: "RIP OMAR SHARIF,Good bye to a living legend,good bye to a source of inspiration for generations to come."

Sharif won international fame and an Oscar-nomination for best supporting actor for his role in "Lawrence of Arabia" with Peter O'Toole. He later became a huge star in his own right for his portrayal of the title character in the film based on Boris Pasternak's novel "Doctor Zhivago".

Born Michel Shalhoub on April 10, 1932, to a wealthy family in Alexandria, Egypt, Sharif became interested in acting while studying mathematics and physics at university in Cairo.

He worked in his father's timber business for several years before realizing his dream with a role in an Egyptian movie, "The Blazing Sun," in 1954 opposite the Middle East's biggest female star, Faten Hamama.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Sharif converted to Islam and married Hamama in 1955, taking on his new name. They had a son, Tarek, who at age 9 played Yuri in "Doctor Zhivago", but the couple divorced in 1974.   Continued...

Egyptian actor Omar Sharif poses for a photograph during the presentation of his latest film entitled "Disparadme" at a hotel in Aviles, northern Spain, in this file photo from June 16, 2009. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso/Files