The most famous Arab actor of all time is jetting to Cannes to pay special tribute to the greatest Arab actor of his generation. Omar Sharif will host a gala reception Friday in memory of Egyptian Ahmed Zaki, whose final film “Halim” receives its world preem at this year’s market.
The sophomore offering from Egyptian powerhouse Good News Group, “Halim” tells the story of Abdel Halim Hafez, the best-selling male Arab singer, who died following a long battle with bilharzias at the age of 47 in 1977. Halim was orphaned when he was 1 and had a turbulent career that spanned Egypt’s move from monarchy to Nasserite rule.
In a bizarre case of life imitating art, Zaki — dubbed the “De Niro of the Nile” — also caught the fatal tropical disease bilharzias prior to shooting.
Chronically ill throughout the production — it took Zaki nearly nine years to raise the $4 million budget for before Good News stepped in — the actor defied the odds to make it through most of his scenes, going blind by the end.
He died before lensing wrapped, but the pic’s producers cast Zaki’s son, Haitham, to finish the film. Good News is in advanced negotiations with EMI to license the worldwide rights for the soundtrack, which was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Abbey Road studios.