Omar Sharif, the Egyptian-born actor known for his classic roles in Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago, passed away Friday in a Cairo, Egypt hospital after suffering a heart attack. Both the actor’s agent Steve Kenis and the head of Egypt’s Theatrical Arts Guild Ashraf Zaki confirmed his passing; Sharif was 83. It was recently revealed that the Golden Globe-winning actor was also suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Variety reports.
After beginning his career as a major star in Middle Eastern cinema, Sharif was cast to play Sherif Ali in 1962’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, the actor’s first English-language role. Sharif was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance and won the Golden Globe in that same category for his breakthrough role. Incidentally, on Sharif’s first day in Hollywood in 1962, the night before Lawrence of Arabia‘s red carpet premiere, he was arrested along with Lawrence star Peter O’ Toole when police found the pair hanging out with Lenny Bruce backstage while the comedian injected himself with a needle after a performance.
Sharif quickly earned named recognition in Hollywood, and he was soon cast in Anthony Mann’s The Fall of the Roman Empire and Fred Zinnemann’s Behold a Pale Horse (both 1964).
The actor’s other most recognized credit is as the title character in Doctor Zhivago, the 1965 adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel. The epic drama, also helmed by Lawrence of Arabia director David Lean, went on to become one of the biggest grossing movie in film history and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning five. Sharif earned his second Golden Globe, this time for Best Actor.
Other notable roles include Sharif’s turn as Barbra Streisand’s criminal husband in 1968’s Funny Girl; his portrayal of revolutionary Che Guevara in the 1969 biopic Che!; the leading role in Sidney Lumet’s 1969 film The Appointment; and an uncredited cameo as an assassin in 1976’s The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Sharif also had a steady presence in both made-for-TV movies and miniseries throughout the Eighties before as well as a return to Egyptian films.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Sharif faced criticism and a demand to nullify his citizenship in his native Egypt for his role in Funny Girl over the fact that his character kissed Streisand, a Jewish woman. “I told them neither in my professional nor private life do I ask a girl her nationality or religion when I kiss her,” Sharif told the New York Times in 1995. Sharif was also an avid bridge player, becoming world-class in the game and even penning a newspaper column about bridge.
His last big screen appearance was the 2013 French-Moroccan production Rock the Casbah, while his last U.S. film credit was as narrator for the 2008 epic adventure film 10,000 BC.