Topol, an Israeli actor who starred on stage and screen as Tevye the milkman in “Fiddler on the Roof,” has died. He was 87.
The actor’s death was announced on Twitter by Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, The New York Times reported. In his Thursday morning tweet, Herzog did not say when Topol died or reveal his cause of death.
“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,” Herzog tweeted.
Breaking News: Topol, the Israeli actor known for playing Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” died at 87. https://t.co/19WB4ApVcC pic.twitter.com/FlXVmxZp3Z— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 9, 2023
Born Chaim Topol, the actor used only his surname for most of his professional career, the Times reported.
He won a pair of Golden Globes and was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor in 1971 for his role as Tevye. He also won a Tony Award, according to The Associated Press.
Topol estimated that he played the role of Tevye more than 3,500 times over four decades, beginning with a Hebrew-language play in Israel when he was 30, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
He starred on London’s West End during the 1960s and on Broadway in 1990-91, singing memorable songs such as “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Tradition.”
He appeared in the West End production for 2,030 performances beginning in 1967, Variety reported.
For the 1971 film version of “Fiddler on the Roof,” director Norman Jewison chose Topol over Zero Mostel, who created the part on Broadway, the Times reported.
The movie was nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture and best actor for Topol. It won for cinematography, sound and music, according to Variety.
The movie made Topol a star. In 2012, the Jerusalem Post called him “Israel’s most famous export since the Jaffa orange.”
Born in Tel Aviv on Sept. 9, 1935, Topol worked as a printer for a newspaper while taking high school classes at night, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
While famous as Tevye, Topol played other roles. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he portrayed Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in “Galileo” (1975); American scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov, in “Flash Gordon” (1980); and Milos Columbo, a Greek smuggler in the James Bond movie, “For Your Eyes Only” (1981).
But Tevye was his signature role, and Topol embraced it.
“How many people are known for one part? How many people in my profession are known worldwide? So, I am not complaining,” he said in a 2015 interview with The Times of Israel. “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?’ So yes, many people saw it (”Fiddler”), and it is not a bad thing.”
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