Film idol Omar Sharif dies in Cairo at age 83

Omar Sharif starred in iconic films such as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence Of Arabia.
Omar Sharif starred in iconic films such as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence Of Arabia.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif, the star of hit movie Doctor Zhivago, died yesterday in Cairo at 83, his London-based agent said.

"He died this afternoon of a heart attack in Cairo," Mr Steve Kenis told Agence France-Presse, adding that the actor had been in a hospital for patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Known for his charisma, good looks and bridge-playing skill, Sharif was last reported to be living at his home in Egypt, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Born in 1932 to a lumber merchant in Egypt's second-largest city, Alexandria, Sharif was nominated for an Academy Award in 1963 for his role as Sherif Ali in Lawrence Of Arabia.

The actor - who was fluent in English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Greek and French - won Golden Globes as well for Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

Raised as a Roman Catholic who later converted to Islam, he started acting in the 1950s.

His most high-profile roles were in the 1960s - he starred in Funny Girl opposite Barbra Streisand in 1968.

He continued to work over the following decades, often in TV movies, while also becoming one of the world's best-known contract bridge players.

He co-wrote a syndicated bridge newspaper column in the 1970s and 1980s. He also authored several books and licensed his name to a bridge computer game.

He made something of a comeback in 2003, in the title role of the French film Monsieur Ibrahim, playing an elderly Muslim shopkeeper. The performance won him a best actor award at the Venice Film Festival and a best actor Cesar, France's equivalent of an Oscar.

He underwent triple bypass surgery in 1992 and suffered a mild heart attack in 1994, according to the IMDb movie database website. He smoked 100 cigarettes a day, but quit after the operation.

In January this year, his actress ex-wife, Faten Hamama, died at 83. Her acting career spanned seven decades and almost 100 films alongside the masters of Egypt's film industry.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Film idol Omar Sharif dies in Cairo at age 83'. Print Edition | Subscribe