JERUSALEM — Chaim Topol, a leading Israeli actor who charmed generations of theatergoers and movie-watchers with his portrayal of Tevye, the long-suffering and charismatic milkman in “Fiddler on the Roof,” has died in Tel Aviv, Israeli leaders said Thursday. He was 87.
Israeli leaders on Thursday tweeted their memories and condolences to Topol’s family.
Israel’s ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog hailed Topol as “one of the most outstanding Israeli actors,” who “filled the movie screens with his presence and above all entered deep into our hearts.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Topol’s “contribution to Israeli culture will continue to exist for generations.”
Topol’s charity, Jordan River Village, also announced his death, paying tribute to him as an “inspiration” whose “legacy will continue for generations to come.”
A recipient of two Golden Globe awards and nominee for both an Academy Award and a Tony Award, Topol long has ranked among Israel’s most decorated actors. More recently in 2015, he was celebrated for his contributions to film and culture with the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, his country’s most prestigious honor. Up until a few years ago, he remained involved in theater and said he still fielded requests to play Tevye.
Topol made his English-language film debut alongside Kirk Douglas in “Cast a Giant Shadow.” But the role of his life arrived in the long-running musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which he played the dairyman protagonist, Tevye, a Jewish father trying to maintain his family’s cultural traditions despite the turmoil gripping their Russian shtetl.
After years of playing Tevye on stage in London and on Broadway, he scored the lead role in the 1971 film version, winning the Golden Globe award for lead actor and being nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.