Earlier this month, tech giant Google honoured actor Omar Sharif on what would have been his 86th bday. They changed their logo, in 48 countries, to an illustration of him.
After he passed away, at the age of 83, the Egyptian-born Hollywood actor – co-star of Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago – went down as one of the most acclaimed Muslim actors of all time.
After studying maths and physics at Cairo University and learning his trade at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, he converted to Islam in 1954. His career suddenly took off a year later and he ended up becoming a Muslim icon.
We’re all about Omar Sharif, so we thought we’d compile some fun facts about him. Why? Why not fam? He’s a legend.
He Supported Hull City Football Club
Sure, he was an actor. But he loved his footy too, you know? He became a big fan of Hull in the 60s after he shared a flat with Hull-born actor Tom Courtenay. He loved them so much that after accepting an honorary degree from Hull uni, in 2010, he said that he couldn’t accept one anywhere else due to his love of the city’s footy club.
He Spoke a Total of Six Different Languages
Sharif developed a love of learning different languages during his time growing up in Egypt. In total, he spoke six different languages: Arabic, English, French, Italian, Greek and Spanish. Skills that no doubt helped him during his glittering acting career.
He Struggled with a Gambling Addiction
Sharif shows us that, regardless of religious affiliation, we can all face struggles with addiction to vices. As he retired and started to get older, rumours began to circulate that he was spending a large portion of his money on gambling. He categorically denied it at the time, but he was arrested in 2003, at the age of 71, for headbutting a policeman in Paris. The incident was the result of him losing €30,000 in a local casino. Reports surfaced a couple of years later suggesting that he had faced his daemons, kicked the habit and moved on. Great job.
His Mum Played Cards with the King
Okay, this is pretty cool. Sharif was born Michel Chalhoub (he changed his name as an adult when he converted to Islam) into a Greek Orthodox Catholic family who moved to Cairo when he was four. His mum, Claire Chalhoub, was a socialite and gambler who used to regularly play cards with King Farouk – she believed playing with him brought her good luck.
“By night she would play cards, by day she would give me the slipper,” he said of his mother. “She hit me on my backside every day till I was 14. She was an extraordinary woman – she lived till 1998. I was very close to her, even though she beat me all the time!”
Some of His Films Were Total Flops
Another great takeaway from Sharif’s life is that if you are not successful, never allow that to make your determination falter. You can’t win them all! Whilst he had a string of insanely successful films and prestigious awards under his belt, there were a fair few flops along the way too.
Like Genghis Khan, which was based on the Mongolian dictator of the same name. It cost $4.5 million to make, but it didn’t pull in much at the Box Office at all. Whoops. Then there was Night of the Generals. What? Exactly. It’s a WWII film that nobody cared about. And that Che Guevara biopic, Che! Okay, we’ll stop talking now…
If you want to know more about the amazing life of Omar Sharif check out this interview with him where he discusses his career and religious beliefs.