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Omar Sharif was most famous for his dramatic work, but he’s incredible in this cult comedy


Two undercover agents

Oscar-nominee Omar Sharif died on Friday at the age of 83.

He’s best known for his dramatic work, like his Oscar-nominated performance in "Lawrence of Arabia" and his memorable leading role opposite Julie Christie in "Doctor Zhivago."

But for some of us, there’s another performance we like to remember when thinking of Sharif. In 1984, the actor starred in cult favorite “Top Secret!,” comic directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker’s follow-up to their hit debut film “Airplane.” 

A parody of the World War II spy movies, the film stars a very young Val Kilmer in his feature film debut as a rock singer who finds himself involved in a rescue mission to save a scientist from an East German prison.

Val Top Secret
Sharif plays Agent Cedric, who at every turn finds himself the butt of the joke. Like Lloyd Bridges in "Airplane," having a serious actor like Sharif play the role adds to the fun. And Sharif does it perfectly as he performs his part as if he’s in a serious war espionage drama.

In one scene, Sharif’s character, Cedric, hopes to gain intel on the whereabouts of the scientist by talking to an undercover source. To make sure they are on the same side Cedric asks the question: “Do you know any good white basketball players?” The response from the source: “There aren’t any good white basketball players.” He’s found his man. 

The scene then unfolds with Cedric playing with the trinkets the source has, as not to draw attention to their secret conversation. But they turn out to be gag gifts. A flower Cedric sniffs shoots water at him, and the cigar he's offered explodes in his face.

omar top secret 2
Later in the movie, Agent Cedric shows up again.

Having been double-crossed, he’s been compacted inside his car. He walks to the hotel to tell his comrade of the danger they are in. Disoriented and banging into things, he enters the room as part man-part automobile.
omar top secret 1
Still, even at its most silliest, Sharif plays the role straight.

“He was all in,” said David Zucker of Sharif in an interview with ScreenCrush last year about the movie. “He was just wonderful. You know, you have to remember that in our style, using these non-comedians — either famous leading men or character actors in serious movies — they loved doing comedy. Every one of them does. From Robert Stack to Lloyd Bridges, they all love doing comedy because they don’t get asked to do this kind of stuff.”

In the same interview, Abrahams looks back at it this way: “I think it was a job [to Sharif]. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy. He couldn’t have been more professional. He couldn’t have done it better. But, I think it was a job.”

A job that showed a different side of the legendary actor.

Check out the full scenes below:

SEE ALSO: Hollywood mourns the death of "Oceans" super-producer Jerry Weintraub

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