Omar Sharif's Grandson Looks Just Like The Famous Actor

Omar Sharif was an internationally famous actor, known in Hollywood for sharing the screen with Peter O'Toole in the 1962 epic "Lawrence of Arabia," playing the title role in "Dr. Zhivago" (1965), and romancing Barbra Streisand in the 1968 musical "Funny Girl." Fluent in five languages, Sharif had already made 26 films in his native Egypt and two films in France before turning his attention to Hollywood, according to The Hollywood Reporter. His first Hollywood role, a Bedouin named Sherif Ali in "Lawrence of Arabia," earned him a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

The internationally acclaimed actor had no bigger fan than his own grandson, who shared his name, and even his looks. Canadian-born Omar Sharif Jr. remembers growing up with a famous grandfather. "He also was a wonderful storyteller, and he'd share stories about what happened in front of the camera and behind the scenes," Sharif Jr. told The Hollywood Reporter, "like his friendship with Peter O'Toole and what it was like living with him in the desert in the middle of nowhere for six months on 'Lawrence of Arabia,' how they would get weekends off to go party."

Omar Sharif 'wasn't just Granddad'

Omar Sharif Jr. grew up in Canada to Jewish and Muslim parents. His grandparents on his mother's side were Holocaust survivors, and his grandparents on his father's side were Egyptian film stars, according to IMDb. Sharif Jr.'s grandmother, Faten Hamamah was known as "The Lady of the Arabic Screen." 

Sharif Jr. attended boarding school and college in London. While in boarding school, he wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, he maintained a closeness with his grandfather by watching his films on video. "My way of seeing him every day was watching him in films. I think I've seen 'Funny Girl' more than 200 times. My grandfather wasn't just Granddad. He was that actor in those films."

Though Omar Sharif introduced his namesake to the glamorous world of Hollywood, bringing him to the Academy Awards, he encouraged his grandson to get an education before pursuing acting. After obtaining a Master's Degree in Comparative Politics and dabbling in modeling, Omar Sharif Jr. eventually decided he did want to be an actor. It was then his grandfather told him, "I gave you my name, I gave you my looks. I'm not going to give you anything else. You have to do it entirely on your own."

'I gave you my name, I gave you my looks'

Omar Sharif died in 2015. It is no surprise that Omar Sharif Jr. feels a particular closeness to the grandfather who shared his name and looks. Even while forging his own career as an actor, Sharif Jr. honors his grandfather's legacy. "When he left Egypt to work abroad, Hollywood was very whitewashed. And he got to play all these nationalities and religions on film," Sharif Jr. wrote in an essay for The Hollywood Reporter. "He played Che Guevara and Genghis Khan. He really did transcend all those cultures."

Sharif Jr.'s work has also transcended culture. The actor is fluent in six languages, according to IMDb. He lives and works in Hollywood, but has appeared in TV and movie roles worldwide. Sharif Jr. was offered his first role on an Egyptian TV series in 2007, then made two Arabic language films, one of them with his grandfather before he died. He also appeared in the TV comedy series "The Baker and the Beauty" in Israel, according to The Jewish Chronicle. In Hollywood, he starred in "The Secret Scripture" with Eric Bana in 2015, and "11th Hour" with Salma Hayak in 2016. He told The Jewish Chronicle in an interview that he is in the development stages with an American studio for a new TV series.

Life beyond acting

Omar Sharif Jr. admitted to The Jewish Chronicle in a candid interview that his famous name carries with it a "weight of expectation." One thing he learned from his grandfather Omar Sharif, he said, was how to use his fame to support causes that are near to his heart. Sharif Jr. has been the spokesperson for the LGBTQ organization GLAAD, since he came out in 2013. He was the first in the Arab world to do so publicly, according to IMDb, and he has faced threats of violence because of it. He was also barred from entering Egypt, according to The Jewish Chronicle. Sharif Jr. told the publication, "I feel like a nomad. I feel like I'm always wandering. Especially after coming out and not being able to go back to Egypt, and not having my family anchored in one place."

Still, Sharif Jr. carries on the work of being an activist and an actor, drawing his life and his many projects together with a common thread. He said, "Whether it's the shows that I've appeared on, whether it was what I studied, or whether it was working as an LGBTQ activist, everything I've done was geared towards the broader goal of creating more empathy in the world."