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45 Facts About Omar Sharif – Dr. Zhivago

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Omar Sharif was an Egyptian actor, famous for his appearances in both British and American productions. Here are 45 facts about the actor:

Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, 9th July 1969.
(Photo : David Cairns/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, 9th July 1969.
  1. His first Hollywood role or English language role was Sherif Ali in 1962’s epic historical movie “Lawrence of Arabia” directed by David Lean. The director had insisted on using ethnic actors for the movie to look more authentic.
  2. His performance as Sherif Ali bought him best supporting actor nomination at the Oscars. He won Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture and shared Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year.
  3. He was born as Michel Dimitri Chalhoub on 10 April 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt to Joseph Chalhoub, a woods merchant and Claire Saada, a society hostess.
  4. He completed his degree in physics and mathematics from Cairo University. He developed his talent in languages during his time in Victoria College.
  5. “Rock the Casbah” in 2013 became his last appearance in a feature film.
    A photo from the early 1950s of Egyptian actor Omar Sharif. Sharif, 67, is of Lebanese origin, born Michel Shalhoub in Alexandria. He began his career as an actor in Egypt in the early1950s and rose to international fame with his role in David Lean's Dr. Zhivago in the late 60s.
    (Photo : STR/AFP/Getty Images) A photo from the early 1950s of Egyptian actor Omar Sharif. Sharif, 67, is of Lebanese origin, born Michel Shalhoub in Alexandria. He began his career as an actor in Egypt in the early1950s and rose to international fame with his role in David Lean's Dr. Zhivago in the late 60s.
  6. His last lead actor role was in science educational film “1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al- Haytham”. It was part of UNESCO’s campaign title United Nation’s Campaign for International Year of Light.
  7. He changed his name to Omar Sharif in 1955 when he converted to Islam to marry an Egyptian Actress Faten Hamama.
  8. Sharif bonded with his co–star Peter O’Toole on the sets of “Lawrence of Arabia”. They developed brotherly relationship. O’Toole refused to acknowledge the name Omar Sharif and called him instead as Freddy all his life.
  9. He was addicted to cigarettes and smoked 100 cigarettes per day. He underwent triple heart bypass in 1992.
  10. He won Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for his performance in “Doctor Zhivago”. The movie was nominated for ten Academy Awards however he did not receive any nomination.
    Omar Sharif, as Yuri, and Julie Christie as Lara, in a publicity still for 'Doctor Zhivago', directed by David Lean, 1965.
    (Photo : Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images) Omar Sharif, as Yuri, and Julie Christie as Lara, in a publicity still for 'Doctor Zhivago', directed by David Lean, 1965.
  11. He was furious that his costar on the movie “Genghis Khan” in 1965, Eli Wallach, was being paid for a week more than what he was earning for a movie. Wallach was paid $25,000 per week and Sharif was paid $15,000 for a movie.
  12. He is known for his talent in contract bridge and was even ranked among the top 50 bridge players in the world.
  13. Sharif and Barbra Streisand, lead actors in “Funny Girl” in 1968 had an affair during the making of the movie. William Wyler who was aware of the affair tried to channel their chemistry into their performance.
  14. His successful film career was due to his ability to speak languages such as French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Arabic and English fluently. This enabled him to play the role of a foreigner easily without anyone knowing his family roots.
  15. He played a cameo as an Egyptian assassin in the director Blake Edwards movie “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” in 1976. He had just worked with the director in “The Tamarind Seed”.
    Actor Omar Sharif poses with his Golden Globe Awards for 'Lawrence of Arabia' in Los Angeles,CA.
    (Photo : Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Actor Omar Sharif poses with his Golden Globe Awards for 'Lawrence of Arabia' in Los Angeles,CA.
  16. A grand dinner party was arranged for Sharif because the directors of the movie “Top Secret” in 1984 were happy that he accepted and finished the role of a British spy. However he did not attend the party and when asked later he said, "It's a tradition in my culture not to refuse any offer. Example: someone offers you a drink; you should accept it even though you won't drink it."
  17. Sharif and O’Toole were signed for around $15,000 per movie with producer Spiegel in 1962 when they were less famous. By 1967 they were huge stars and to be paid the same amount made them unhappy. However they made sure to use the lavish living expense they were entitled to.
  18. Along with Charles Goren he wrote a bridge column for the newspaper “Chicago Tribune” for many years. Later the writing of the column went to Tannah Hirsch.
  19. On 11 June 2005 he punched a parking attendant for not accepting his European currency and was asked by the Beverly Hills court to take up anger management.
  20. With the fear of falling off from the camel during a scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” Sharif and O’Toole drank to the hilt and bound themselves to the camel for the scene.

  21. During an interview on 19 July 2008, on BBC Radio‘s Test Match Special, he revealed that he was a big fan of the football club Hull City Association. He received an honorary degree from the University of Hull in 2010.
  22. Winter scenes in the movie “Doctor Zhivago” were shot during summer. All the actors and extras were made to wear Russian furs in the weather where the temperatures rose to 116 degrees.
  23. A photo of Sharif and Streisand kissing was circulated in the newspaper for publicity. It became a big controversy and the Egyptian press pushed for his Egyptian citizenship to be revoked.
  24. Sharif once said that he was amazed by a Jew who was able to get something from the Egyptian Government that he, a native born Egyptian, was trying to get for years. He was referring to the exit visa, when the producer Sam Spiegel flew Sharif to Jordan for an audition for “Lawrence of Arabia”.
  25. He played a Russian character named Feodor Sverdlov in “The Tamarind Seed” in 1974 alongside Julie Andrews. He played a similar Russian character in “Doctor Zhivago” some 9 years ago. Both the movie used the same cinematographer and the same sound editor.
  26. To look like the character Zhivago in “Doctor Zhivago”, he underwent a daily routine of taping his eye back and straightening his hair to differentiate him from his Egyptian looks. He even waxed his skin every three days.
    Egyptian actor Omar Sharif at the Venice Film Festival, Italy, 2003. (Photo by )
    (Photo : Michael Putland/Getty Images) Egyptian actor Omar Sharif at the Venice Film Festival, Italy, 2003. (Photo by )
  27. He agreed to do “The Night of the General” in 1967 only because his friend O’Toole was in the movie. He thought the movie was against his political and moral beliefs.
  28. He was involved in various books on bridge either as an author or a co-author. He even has a bridge video game licensed to his name in 1972 titled “Omar Sharif on Bridge”.
  29. In November 2005 he was awarded with Sergei Eisenstein Medal by UNESCO for his contribution to the film industry.
  30. He met Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser to show the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” and prove that Arabs were not depicted in a wrong way. It became a monster hit. The movie was banned in many Arab countries.
  31. His son Tarek Sharif revealed in May 2015 that his father was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Sharif would often get confused between his best known films and forget where they were filmed.
  32. He was surprised when the director Lean gave him the title role of Zhivago, when he was only asked for the role of Pavel Antipov.
  33. He first met his wife Hamama on the sets of the movie “Struggle in the Valley” in 1954. Initially she refused to kiss him onscreen but later obliged. Sparks flew between and they married.
    Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, born Michel Shahoub in Alexandria.
    (Photo : D. Morrison/Express/Getty Images) Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, born Michel Shahoub in Alexandria.
  34. The director of the movie “Behold a Pale Horse” in 1964, Fred Zinnemann stated about Sharif, “He was an absolutely marvelous actor, if you possibly can take a look at him.” The movie was a big flop at that time.
  35. He was a big fan of horseracing and maintained a good friendship with race horse trainer David Smaga. His favorite racecourse is Deauville-LaTouques Racecourse in France.
  36. A very big controversy was evoked when he acted in the movie “Funny Girl”, as the lead actress Streisand was a Jew. At that time Egypt was in the middle of Six Day war with Israel. He was also having an affair with her.
  37. His co star Ava Gardner in the movie “Mayerling” in 1968 played his mother. In reality she was only 9 years older than him.
  38. The character of young Yuri Zhivago at his mother’s funeral in the movie “Doctor Zhivago” in 1965 is played by Tarek Sharif, son of Omar Sharif.

  39. In 1974 Sharif and Hamama got divorced and since then he has not remarried. He stated that he never really fell in love with any other women again.
  40. Richard Schickel praised Sharif on his performance in “Behold a Pale Horse” stating, “It was truly a wonderful performance. It is hard to believe that the priest and the sheik are played by the same man.” He was comparing his performance in his previous movie “Lawrence of Arabia”.
  41. Due to exit visa problem in Egypt he remained in Europe to take part in international films. Commenting about it he said, “It gave me glory, but it gave me loneliness also. And a lot of missing my own land, my own people and my own country".
  42. His lucky and most successful horse was Don Bosco that won Prix Perth, Prix du Muguet and Prix Gontaut-Biron.
  43. In the TV miniseries “Harem” in 1986 Sharif is paired with Gardner as husband and wife. She is actually 9 years older to him and played his mother 18 years ago.
    Egyptian film actor Omar Sharif on 11th September 1973.
    (Photo : Lichfield/Getty Images) Egyptian film actor Omar Sharif on 11th September 1973.
  44. In a train scene in the movie “Doctor Zhivago” actress Lili Murati got seriously injured. She was to run alongside the train and grab on to Sharif to go overboard. Due to a miscalculation Sharif hung on to her and in panic she wrenched herself from him and stumble away from the train.
  45. Sharif died due to heart attack on 10 July 2015 in a Cairo Hospital at the age of 83. His former wife Hamama also died six months ago at the same age of 83.

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