Famous actor and singer Chaim Topol, best known for his performance as Tevye the milkman in “Fiddler on the Roof,” died at his home Wednesday in Israel at the age of 87.
Topol was surrounded by his family at the time of his death. The famous actor was diagnosed with dementia in 2022, according to The Guardian. The president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, honored Topol and confirmed his passing in a series of tweets posted March 8.
“From Fiddler on the Roof to the roof of the world, Haim Topol, who has passed away from us, was one of the most outstanding Israeli stage artists,” Herzog wrote on Twitter. “Topol was one of the giants of Israeli culture and he will be greatly missed.”
Chaim Topol, Fiddler on the Roof actor, dies aged 87. Amazing to think he was only 35 when he made the film. Anyone who plays Tevye knows he can never top Topol. God rest his soul. https://t.co/jVu0bWhcOn
— Omid Djalili (@omid9) March 9, 2023
The Israeli president continued to sing Topol’s praises, describing him as “a gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and above all entered deep into our hearts.”
“During the decades of his glorious career, Topol represented us with great respect,” Herzog said. “He is decorated with many awards for his talent and creation, but the most important award of all was won by us, who laughed and laughed with him in the dozens of characters he played.”
מכנר על הגג ועד לגג העולם, חיים טופול שהלך מאיתנו היה מאמני הבמה הישראליים הבולטים, שחקן מחונן אשר כבש במות רבות בארץ ומעבר לים, מילא בנוכחותו את מסכי הקולנוע ובעיקר נכנס עמוק לליבנו.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) March 9, 2023
Topol played Tevye in the musical for over five decades and once estimated he had taken on the role over 3,500 times, according to The Guardian. The actor also had a role in the 1971 film production of “Fiddler on the Roof” and was honored with a Golden Globe win for best actor.
He enlisted in the army at the age of 18 and joined the entertainment troupe. His role as Sallah Shabati was adapted to film in 1964 and won a Golden Globe for most promising newcomer. The movie became the first Israeli film to be nominated for best foreign film at the Academy Awards, according to The Guardian.
The actor fully embodied the infamous role in various productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” in the U.S., London, Australia and Israel through to 2009 and was nominated for a Toy Award for the 1991 Broadway revival of the production. (RELATED: Child Actor And ‘Lassie’ Writer James Douglass West Dead At Age 93)
We are saddened to learn about the death of #Israeli actor Chaim Topol, who passed away this week at the age of 87. Topol became well-known around the world for his portrayal of Tevye in the film version of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.
May his memory and legacy forever be a blessing.🕯️ pic.twitter.com/uf8cM9Pfxm
— StandWithUs (@StandWithUs) March 9, 2023
Other credits also include the leading role in “The Baker’s Wife,” “Galileo,” “Flash Gordon,” as well as Milos Columbo, the ally of James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only.” Topol lent his talents as a voice actor to the Hebrew-language version of “The Jungle Book” and the first two “Harry Potter” films, according to The Guardian.
He transitioned to writing and illustrating books in his later years and gave back to his community by founding a non-profit organization for children with special needs.
“As living testimony to his social involvement and sensitivity is the project he led, Kfar Nahar Jordan, for sick and disabled children and their families,” Herzog said.
Topol was awarded Israel’s top honors, the Israel Prize, in 2015.