Omar Sharif was an international icon, legend of silver screen

Egyptian Actor Omar Sharif, best known for his award-winning roles in the films 'Doctor Zhivago' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' died on Friday.

Eloy Alonso/Reuters/File
Egyptian actor Omar Sharif poses for a photograph during the presentation of his film 'Disparadme' at a hotel in Aviles, northern Spain, June 16, 2009. Mr. Sharif, best known for his title role as Doctor Zhivago in the Oscar-winning film, has died, Egyptian state television said.

The world stage has lost one of its iconic legends of the silver screen. Egyptian Actor Omar Sharif, best known for his award-winning roles in the films 'Doctor Zhivago' and 'Lawrence of Arabia' died on Friday.

The man who would become an international star through his silver screen appearances was born on April 10, 1932 as Michel Shalhoub. Born to a wealthy Roman Catholic family in Alexandria, Egypt, Sharif found acting while studying at Cairo University.

After working at his father’s timber business for several years, Sharif went to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts before getting his big break in an Egyptian movie, "The Blazing Sun," in 1954 starring opposite the Middle East's biggest starlet, Faten Hamama.

The on-screen romance became real and Sharif eventually converted to Islam and married Ms. Hamama in 1955, taking his new name along with his new religion. They had one son, Tarek, who played Yuri in "Doctor Zhivago" at age 8, but the couple separated in 1966 and divorced in 1974.

Sharif first became a global celebrity in 1962 after his portrayal of Sherif Ali in the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia" starring Peter O'Toole. His introductory scene became an iconic symbol of the film, a black-clad Sharif galloping across the blistering desert on his camel before shooting O’Toole’s guide. The film garnered him his first Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

His next iconic role was as the titular “Doctor Zhivago,” in the epic romantic drama adapted from Boris Pasternak’s novel of the same name. The film was a hit and Sharif won his second Golden Globe Award for the performance.

Never one to be tied down or typecast, Sharif played a variety of roles across his career including a Nazi officer, a Jewish gambler, an Austrian price, and Latin revolutionary Che Guevara.

"I've always been extremely lucky in my life," he told Al Jazeera television in 2007, while reflecting on how he "might have been happier" staying in Egypt where he had a contented family life and already was a star.

"Even for 'Lawrence of Arabia' I didn't ask to be an international actor," he said. "When going to America and becoming famous, it gave me glory but it gave me loneliness also and a lot of missing my own land and my own people and my own family."

Later in his life, Sharif turned to other interests like playing bridge and attending thoroughbred horse races. His last major critically adored role was as an elderly Muslim shopkeeper in the 2003 French film "Monsieur Ibrahim," for which he won a César Award for Best Actor.

After the announcement of Sharif’s death, his grandson, actor and activist Omar Sharif Jr. posted a photo of himself with his grandfather headlined with simple message in Arabic: I love you.

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