Friday, July 10, 2015

The Essential Omar Sharif


OMAR SHARIF
1932 - 2015

Omar Sharif, who was born as Michel Shaloub in 1932, has passed away today at the age of 83.  The Egyptian-born actor had a storied career, starting in Egyptian cinema in the 1950s and continued working until as recently as 2013.  Shaloub became a Muslim in the 1950s, changing his name to Omar al-Sharif, and in 1961 landed the role that would change his life.  That breakthrough role would be that of Sherif Ali in David Lean's grand epic, Lawrence of Arabia, a role that would earn him an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actor.  Sharif later paired with David Lean again in 1965's Doctor Zhivago, a film of equal spectacle, which would again earn him a Golden Globe for Best Actor.  Sharif would go on to play a wide range of roles including Genghis Khan and Che Gueverra as well as starring alongside Barbara Streisand in the mega hit musical Funny Girl.  Sharif would work fairly regularly over the years in films like Mackenna's Gold (1969), The Mysterious Island (1973), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Top Secret (1984), The 13th Warrior (1999) and 10000 BC (2008).  His last film was Rock the Casbah in 2013.  The Essential Films is saddened by this loss, and looks back on three of his most essential roles.  RIP.


LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
David Lean
1962 • 227 Minutes

Cast:  Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Omar Sharif
Screenplay: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
Producer: Sam Spiegel
Cinematography: F.A. Young

Sharif was initially cast for a smaller role, but when casting delays for the Sherif Ali role became a problem, Sharif was promoted to the larger and more significant role. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and won the Golden Globe for his performance in the epic film about the life of TE Lawrence.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO
David Lean
1965 • 200 Minutes

Cast:  Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Alec Guinness, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger
Screenplay:  Robert Bolt Based on Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Producer: Carlo Ponti
Cinematography: Freddie Young, Nicolas Roeg

Sharif went from supporting actor to leading man for Lean's next major Hollywood epic.  Adapting Boris Pasternak's famous novel, Sharif plays the title role of a married Russian physician who falls in love with another woman while during the first World War and the October revolution. Considered one of the greatest cinematic love stories, due in no small part to the handsome Sharif and his beautiful costar Julie Christie.

FUNNY GIRL
William Wyler
1968 • 155 Minutes

Cast: Barbra Streisand, Omar Sharif, Kay Medford
Screenplay: Isobel Lennart Based on Funny Girl 1964 musical by Isobel Lennart, Jule Styne, Bob Merrill
Producer:  Ray Stark
Cinematography:  Harry Stradling, Sr.

Sharif played opposite Barbara Streisand in the smash box office hit of the smash Broadway hit in Funny Girl.  Sharif was cast shortly before the Six Day War between Egypt and Israel. When Egyptian newspapers printed publicity photos of Sharif and Streisand in romantic scenes from the film, the Egyptian government actually threatened to revoke his citizenship. To quiet down the controversy the studio executives considered recasting the role, but Streisand and director William Wyler threatened to quit if they did. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed.