I met him a decade ago at an ADC Conference in DC (years before bridges were burnt with the organization for their pro-regime stances etc etc, but I digress).
He was the key note speaker at the conference, the main attraction, and everyone was excited to meet and listen to this icon of cinema.
It was Saturday afternoon and I was walking in the Conference Hall lobby when a buddy of mine who ran a community newspaper came up to me saying he needed a photographer fill-in for a last-second interview he landed with Omar Sharif. Without hesitation I said yes.
Seconds later we were walking towards the interview room and I was handed a point-and-shoot camera and told to “take a lot of pictures”.
When we walked in, the aging legend was sitting in a chair right in front of me – a little star struck, I intro’d myself and he asked where I was from. I replied with my standard “Ana Soory – nus Hamwi/ nus Shami” motioning with my hand to highlight the 50/50 split.
He let out a huge smile and gave me a hug, and started sharing how much he loved Syria, and how his mother had roots in Hama, which “made us practically brethern”. You can only imagine the smile on my face – afterall this was Doctor Zhivago himself embracing me!
After we took a few pictures together the interview commenced and promptly got off to a horrible start – Omar Sharif didn’t appreciate some unexpected and odd, tough questions being asked and he proceeded to lecture the interviewer on tact. I tried to focus on just taking photos, pretending like I was an expert tilting the camera 90 degrees to capture the “essence of the moment”.
Within a few minutes the interview was over – he said goodbye to me with a smile and we were ushered out of the room.
That evening he gave (while a little tipsy) a wonderfully entertaining & hilarious speech – more of a rant – were he opined about everything from Arab cinema, to political hypocrisy to love in front of a crowd of about a thousand Arab-Americans.
I never did get a chance to meet him again. The interview was not published (to my knowledge), and I never got to see the pictures I took – years later when I asked to see them I was told that the hard-drives they were on were lost when the newspaper was tragically flooded by Hurricane Sandy.
And that, was my moment with the legend.
#RIP Omar Sharif.
UPDATE: I learned today that the interview was published, albeit months after it took place – check it out!