Veteran Egyptian actor Nour el-Sherif was a true star who gained the love of the audience across the silver screen, TV and theater.
On the occasion of his death anniversary, Egypt Today provides its readers a glimpse of the journey of this unique actor, director and human being.
Sherif was born in Minya on April 28, 1946. His passions were football and acting, and he was actually a member of the Zamalek youth team for a couple of years before he concentrated on acting.
His career started in theater with small roles. After finishing his studies at the Art Academy, he started getting roles in movies and then moved quickly to stardom.
His big screen debut came with the movie adaptation of Naguib Mahfouz’s “Qasr El-Shouq” (Palace of Desire), where he worked alongside a plethora of stars.
“It was a dream to work in front of Yehia Shahine, Nadia Lotf, Abd El-Moneim Ibrahim and others,” he previously said, adding that he felt he was overacting when he watched the film again.
Sherif puts this early mistake down to his background in theater and the more flamboyant approach that that particular medium requires in contrast to the less-is-more method that screen actors use.
But attention to detail has always been his mark. “Nour reads the whole script, not just his role; he studies it hard.
He is an actor that adds to the character,” said Ahmed Saleh, Al-Akhbar newspaper film critic and screenwriter of “El-Shaytan Ya’ez” (The Devil Preaches) and “El-Hokm Akher El-Galsa” (The Verdict Will Be Announced at the End of the Session), both of which starred Sherif.
Sherif was both an actor and an intellect. He had his political visions and supported the causes he believed in.
His fame and popularity minimized the amount of prosecution he was subject to. Nonetheless, Sherif paid the price for his political stances in different ways.
Throughout his life, the iconic actor had a clear political position.
In 1977, Sherif played a role in an important political play titled “A Bachelor Degree in Ruling People”, which lasted for 14 days before it was banned by security authorities.
The play basically explained the mentality and psyche of officers who were involved in coup d’états in third world countries – a very touchy subject to any ruler not elected by the people.
Unlike many movie stars, Sherif never attempted to get close to rulers.
He actively criticized them in his work while defending the values of freedom.
The movie that caused the strongest controversy of his career was “Naji El-Ali”, in which Sherif played the lead character of the same name.
Naji El-Ali was a Palestinian caricaturist who invented the character Hanzala, a witness to the corruption of the rulers of Arab countries and the Palestinians leaders who sold out their beliefs.
He was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad in London in 1987.
Naji El-Ali’s opposition to the peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestine was strong and popular.
He saw these negotiations as surrender and giving up on Palestinians’ rights.
Sherif, by choosing to embody this personality onscreen, opened a can of worms with almost all Arab governments.
The movie was banned in Egypt, since rightwing critics unfairly saw that he took a position against the Egyptian government.
The Gulf countries refused to show Sherif’s work for several years following its production.
Sherif acted in more than 200 movies, embodying characters of Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz's books, which he performed with great talent.
He chose his roles carefully and believed that art had a message and a duty towards society.
When reading a script for a new movie, he added his vision and remarks.
In many cases, his vision added depth to the movie’s plot, transferring it to an immortal movie that lasted in the minds of the audience.
After he was honored in the Alexandria International Film Festival a few months before his death, he boldly exposed that the art administration was ruled by security orders.
From his point of view the art administration is dealing with artists depending on how close they were to the ruling power, not on their talent.
Sherif was known to be a very cultivated actor and, in fact, was.
For every question he was asked, he had a sophisticated and analytical answer.
As a great professional, Sherif untiringly took directions from the young TV directors with a smile on his face.
This huge cinema icon never once complained or withdrew like many actors do.
Stars like Sherif never die. Audiences will forever “relive his days” through his unforgettable roles in cinema, television and onstage.
His repertoire includes more than 200 movies, 17 plays and more than 20 TV series. He is one of the few Arab actors whose work reaches the entire Arab world.
Throughout his long career, Sherif has received many awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Writers and Critics Association at the Alexandria International Film Festival.
“Being recognized by the Alexandria Festival made me very happy because I have been involved in the festival since its beginning,” he told media after receiving the prize.
Sherif himself credits working with the greats as being a huge part of his own education.
His television debut was in director Mohammed Fadel’s 1967 series “El-Qahera Wel Nass” (Cairo and the People).
Moreover, Sherif and his real-life wife, famed Egyptian actress Poussy, appeared in many films together, constituting one of the silver screen’s immortal couples.
Their iconic romantic movie “Habiby Daayman” (My Forever Heartthrob) taught us all the true meaning of love. Indeed, Sherif will always remain our heartthrob forever.
On August 11, 2015, Sherif passed away after a long battle with illness.