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Future, past useless at my age, says actor Sharif

 Actor Omar Sharif poses for photographers during
Actor Omar Sharif poses for photographers during 'Al Mosafer' (The Traveller) photocall during the 66th Venice Film Festival September 10, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
— image credit: Reuters

By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - For Omar Sharif, the future and the past are useless. The only thing that counts for the Egyptian actor is the present.

"I think that thinking about the future is something for young people, and thinking about the past is useless when you are old," Sharif told reporters in Venice, where his latest movie "The Traveler" is in competition at the film festival. "In life I have already wiped out everything that has already gone," he said through an interpreter, switching languages with each question. The translator gave his age as 78, although online biographies and his Myspace page say he is 77.

"Every moment is like that for me now and that is how it should be. To live well at my age you always have to think about concentrating your attention on the moment that is now and the moment you are living because you don't know how much longer you may live."

Sharif plays the old Hassan in Ahmed Maher's debut feature film The Traveler (El Mosafer), which follows Hassan on three pivotal days in his life -- the first in 1948, the second in 1973 and the third in 2001.

The story explores time and the past, as an elderly Hassan seeks to reconnect with his own personal history through the young Ali who he is convinced is his grandson.

THE ONLY ARAB

Despite becoming a major Hollywood star, appearing in classics like "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962 and "Doctor Zhivago" three years later, Sharif recalled how his early days in the U.S. movie business were not easy.

Being the "only Arab" working in Hollywood, "I had to be very careful what I did.

"For example, Columbia Pictures signed a five-year contract with me when I had made Lawrence of Arabia but they didn't pay me anything," he said.

"When I made Doctor Zhivago they sold me to MGM for $15,000. I made the film for $15,000. My American lawyer said 'I can sue them', and I said no, leave it, I don't want them to think of me as someone who only wants money.

"I lived very humbly, in fear, I accepted the films they wanted me to do and even films I didn't want to do and I didn't like because I was afraid of saying no."

Sharif also explained how his marriage, to Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, did not survive because of the constant traveling involved in his job.

"Since 1966 I have never lived with a woman, I have only lived in hotels and eaten in restaurants. Mine was a very happy life, I am not complaining.

"I had a couple of adventures with women, but not the great love. I had a great love once with my wife, that has to be said."

Also premiering in Venice on Thursday was German director Fatih Akin's comedy "Soul Kitchen," about a young restaurant owner in Hamburg who struggles to balance his job with a long-distance relationship and a brother who is in prison.

A painful back complicates his efforts to salvage his love life and keep ruthless business rivals at bay, until he undergoes a painful cure with Kemal, the Bone Crusher.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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