Actor Chaim Topol, best known for his performance of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” has passed away. He was 87.
Israeli authorities have stated that Topol passed away in Tel Aviv. Even though his son verified to many media sources that his father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease years before his death, the official cause of the actor’s passing was not immediately disclosed.
“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, 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,” Israel’s ceremonial president Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter late Wednesday.
Topol’s “gift to Israeli culture will continue to exist for centuries,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement confirming the actor’s death. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also acknowledged the star’s death, saying that Topol’s “contribution to Israeli culture will continue to exist for generations.”
In 1972, Topol (who was known by his surname alone) won a Golden Globe for his performance as Tevye in the film adaptation of Fiddler, and he went on to star in productions of the musical in dozens of cities across the world, including on Broadway and in London.
The Associated Press reports that the actor eventually played the part more than 3,500 times, earning him the admiration of multiple generations of fans thanks to his convincing portrayal of the iconic role.
“I wasn’t brought up in Hollywood. I was brought up in a kibbutz,” he told AP in 2015. “Sometimes I am surprised when I come to China or when I come to Tokyo or when I come to France or when I come wherever and the clerk at the immigration says ‘Topol, Topol, are you Topol?”
During his time serving in the Israeli military, Topol got his start performing with a theatre company. His first Golden Globe came for his performance in the smash blockbuster film Sallah Shabati, released in 1964. In addition to becoming the first Israeli film ever nominated for an Oscar, this is also a historic achievement.
Cast a Huge Shadow (starring Kirk Douglas), Galileo, Flash Gordon, and For Your Eyes Only (a James Bond film) all featured him in subsequent roles.
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But he was forever identified with Tevye, the role he claimed to enjoy performing to his death.
“Let’s face it, it’s one of the best parts ever written for a male actor in the musical theater,” he told The Boston Globe in 1989. “It takes you to a wide range of emotions, happiness to sadness, anger to love.”
His wife Galia and their three children also survive Topol.
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