Saturday, July 11, 2015

Omar Sharif, star of 'Lawrence Of Arabia' and 'Doctor Zhivago,' dead at 83

Omar Sharif the legendary actor who burst on to the U.S. film scene with his role in “Lawrence of Arabia,” died today in a hospital in Cairo after he suffered a heart attack, his agent told FOX411. He was 83.

Sharif earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in the 1962 film, his first English-language role. He won the Golden Globe that year for Best Supporting Actor and New Star of the Year. Still Sharif, who was Egypt's biggest box-office star when director David Lean cast him, was not the director's first choice to play Sherif Ali, the tribal leader with whom the enigmatic 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. After passing a screen test that proved he was fluent in English, he got the job.

Born Michael Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, Sharif was the son of Syrian-Lebanese parents.

After working three years at his father's lumber company, he fulfilled his longtime ambition to become a movie actor, going on to appear in nearly two dozen Egyptian films under the name Omar el Sharif.

His fame only increased when he married Egypt's movie queen, Faten Hamama, in 1955. They had a son, Tarek, and divorced in 1974.

In 2004 Sharif acknowledged that he also had another son, who was born after a one-night stand with an interviewer.

Away from the movies, Sharif was a world-class bridge player who for many years wrote a newspaper column on bridge. He quit the game in later years, however, when he gave up gambling.

Sharif spent much of his later years in Cairo and at the Royal Moncean Hotel in Paris.

In May, reports surfaced that Sharif was battling Alzheimer's disease.

The Associated Press contributed to this report