OMAR SHARIF (Sheikh Riyadh) is the acclaimed and legendary star of more than 60 motion pictures in an extraordinary career spanning over four decades. He vaulted to international stardom while starring in two of David Lean’s sweeping epics.
He received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Supporting Actor and won the Golden Globe Award for co-starring as Peter O’Toole’s friend, Ali Ibn Kharish, in “Lawrence of Arabia.” He then won a second Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, starring in the title role as the Russian poet/doctor in “Doctor Zhivago.”
Sharif is also well known for his starring role opposite Barbra Streisand in her Academy Award®-winning debut, Fanny Brice, in “Funny Girl” as well as in its sequel, “Funny Lady.”
His film credits also include “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” “Marco Polo,” “Behold a Pale Horse,” “The Yellow Rolls-Royce,” “Genghis Khan,” “The Night of the Generals,” “Mayerling,” “McKenna’s Gold,” “The Appointment,” “Che,” “The Horsemen,” “The Last Valley,” “Juggernaut,” “The Tamarind Seed,” “Ashanti,” “Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline,” “Crime and Passion,” “The Baltimore Bullet,” “Oh Heavenly Dog!,” “Pleasure Palace,” “Green Ice,” “Chanel Solitaire,” “Inchon,” and a cameo role opposite Val Kilmer in the spoof “Top Secret!” He has also starred in “The Rainbow Thief,” “Ice Paradise,” “Heaven Before I Die,” “The 13th Warrior” and in the telefilms “Mrs. ’arris Goes to Paris” and “Gulliver’s Travels” with Ted Danson. His most recent film, “Monsieur Ibrahim,” was nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign language film, and Sharif was recently nominated for a César – the French Academy Award – for his performance in the film.
Sharif is the only Egyptian to have become an international film star, and has played characters of almost every nationality in the Western world. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt as Michael Shalhoub, the son of a wealthy timber merchant, and of Lebanese and Syrian parentage. He spoke only French during his early childhood years, but later learned to speak six languages fluently.
He studied mathematics and physics at Victoria College in Cairo, where he also became interested in acting. After graduation, Sharif worked in his father’s timber importing business for five years, yet longed to apply to England’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
In 1953, he was nearing a positive parental response to his persuasiveness when he was offered the lead in the Egyptian film, “The Blazing Sun,” starring opposite Faten Hamama, who was then the top female star in the area. He took the name Omar El-Sharif when he starred in the film – later dropping the El when he entered international films – and critical praise and nominations followed for the film’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Four years later, Sharif returned to Cannes starring in award-winning “Goha.”
Sharif became the country’s number one star and idol. He went on to star in 26 Egyptian and two French films over the next several years, also establishing his own production company in Cairo. He had just paid a record price for an Egyptian best seller when he was cast in “Lawrence of Arabia,” changing the course of his life. On stage, Sharif has starred in a revival of Terrence Rattigan’s famous play, “The Sleeping Prince,” at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, England.
His numerous television performances include the telefilms “The Far Pavillions” for HBO, “Vicious Circle” for BBC, “Peter the Great” for ABC and “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna” for NBC as well as “S*H*E*,” “Grand Larceny,” “Lion in the Desert,” “Memories of Midnight,” “Red Eagle” and German Television’s miniseries of “Catherine the Great.”