Entertainment

Doctor Zhivago star Omar Sharif received a staggeringly small amount

The making of the iconic film was almost as tumultuous as Sharif’s own life. Shot in Spain, a heat wave in the dead of winter proved disastrous when the production needed snow to portray Russia. Co-star Julie Christie recalled: “St Petersburg in the middle of winter, in fact, it was Madrid in a heat wave. We were all waiting, this multi-million dollar epic, it was waiting for it to be done while we were all sweating in our furs in 100 degree heat , waiting for the snow that never came. We were finally saved by the props and decorators. So they covered the whole set in mountains of marble dust and for the long shots, the fields were covered by miles and miles of sheets.”

Born in Egypt on April 10, 1932, the Hollywood heartthrob won two Golden Globes, including his international debut.

Still an unknown when he got his big break in Hollywood, in 1962 Sharif signed with film producer Sam Spiegel for Laurence of Arabia at an astonishingly low price. He was locked into a seven-film deal at $15,000 (£9,600) per film, which the producer convinced him was the standard rate at the time.

The others included some of the biggest movies of the time like Doctor Zhivago, Behold a Pale Horse, Night of the Generals, Genghis Khan, McKenna’s Gold, and Funny Girl.

Despite fame and some fortune, Sharif’s life and career were blighted by his gambling, something he shared with his Funny Girl character Nick Arnstein. In reality, he was a world-class bridge player and he was even known to postpone film shoots in order to attend major bridge events. The actor also wrote a weekly syndicated column on the game.

However, the quality of his later films was rarely high, a fact he attributed to his need to pay off his debts.

He said: “I stopped making movies because for the last twenty-five years I’ve been doing a lot of crap, because I was in debt all the time. You know, I used to gamble a little bit and then I was always broke.” I was always a movie behind on my debts, and at some point, I had to work all the time to support my family, myself, and all my expensive tastes, and then I decided it got ridiculous at some point.”

Sharif added: “It got to the point where my own grandchildren used to make fun of my movies, which is very serious.”

He received a one-month suspended prison sentence for beating a policeman in a suburban Paris casino in July 2003. He had insulted and then headbutted the Pontoise policeman, who tried to intervene in an argument between the actor and a dealer of the roulette .

The star was fined $1,700 and ordered to pay the officer $340 in damages.

Sharif’s temper flared again in June 2005 when he punched an American parking attendant who refused to accept his European currency. The court in Beverly Hills, California, ordered him to take an anger management course.

He also gambled with his health, smoking 100 cigarettes a day until he underwent triple bypass surgery in 1992. He quit smoking immediately. He also suffered a minor heart attack in 1994, and another caused his death on July 10, 2015.

Sharif was unlucky in his personal life. He was idolized by women all over the world and performed in front of some of the most celebrated beauties in Hollywood. His affair with Barbra Streisand while filming Funny Girl made headlines.

He had married his young love, actress Faten Hamama, in 1954. Although they divorced in 1974, he said in an interview on Egyptian television that his ex-wife was the only true love of his life. The couple had a son, Tareq El-Sharif, in 1957.

When his father died, Tareq also revealed that Sharif had been battling Alzheimer’s.



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