For many summers, Egyptian-born actor Omar Sharif would gather his family in the resort town of Deauville, France. “Every night, he would invite everyone near and dear to him to dine somewhere fabulous,” his grandson Omar Sharif Jr. tells Closer. “His greatest pleasure was entertaining and seeing people enjoying their time at a table.”

These moments of connection with the people he loved came to mean more as the Lawrence of Arabia star grew older. “I have not given enough time to my family because I was working a lot and traveling,” the actor admitted. “From the age of 31, I have lived in hotels.” It was not a life he’d ever dreamed of.

Born Michel Shalhoub into a prosperous Egyptian family, Omar learned English in boarding school. “I was a fat little boy,” he recounted. “My mother said, ‘The only thing is to put him in an English boarding school. The food will be so horrible that he’ll lose his weight.’”

In addition to a new physique, Omar came away with a love of football and theater. He graduated college with a degree in mathematics and physics but had no interest in a career other than acting.

He renamed himself Omar Sharif and soon became one of Egypt’s top stars. In 1955, he wed actress Faten Hamama, his costar in The Blazing Sun. “She was the love of my life,” he said.

When English director David Lean selected him to play Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia in 1960, Omar left home for a more than year-long shoot that took place in Jordan, Morocco and Spain.

He shared many nights of whiskey and tall tales under the stars with costar Peter O’Toole, who called him Fred because he said, “No one in the world is called Omar Sharif.” The film would make them close friends and international stars.

Not long after, Egypt entered a period of political turmoil, and Omar stayed away fearing he would not be allowed to leave again. “This destroyed him,” says Omar Jr., author of A Tale of Two Omars: A Memoir of Family, Revolution, and Coming Out During the Arab Spring. “It truly was more than a nationality to him — it was his identity.”

Omar’s marriage to Faten also stalled during the filming of Doctor Zhivago. “I loved her,” said the star, who reasoned that he needed to release Faten from their marriage while she was still young enough to find a new husband. “It was successful because she then met a man and she married,” he said. Omar never remarried.

Despite love affairs — including a four-month romance with Funny Girl’s Barbra Streisand — he spent too much time alone.

He became a passionate world-class bridge player, but he gave up the game when he said he “stopped being good enough.” Omar also gambled, lost a fortune and made films he wasn’t proud of to pay his debts.

But in his last decades, the star established closer ties with his family — including his namesake actor grandson. “My grandfather was actually my best friend,” says Omar, who stars in the Israeli TV comedy Beauty and the Baker. “He never treated me like a child — and never let me treat him like a grandfather. Actually, I called him Omar and he called me Junior.”

The actor died in 2015 at age 83, just six months after the death of his ex-wife Faten. “He was happiest when he was making other people happy,” Omar says. “Even with strangers, he felt the need to make them smile.”