The actor Chaim Topol, best known for playing Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” has passed away, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was 87.
On Thursday, Netanyahu paid respect to Topol and offered his condolences, praising him as a “multifaceted artist, with great charisma and energy.”
“Sadly, the fiddler on the roof is no longer with us. The strings of the fiddle have fallen silent. The story of Haim Topol’s life has been sealed but I am certain that his contribution to Israeli culture will live on for generations,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “He greatly loved the land of Israel, and the people of Israel loved him in return.”
Topol, who was born on September 9, 1935, in Tel Aviv, was known professionally by his last name.
He started his acting career after joining the entertainment unit while serving in the Israeli army. He met his future wife Galia Topol while serving, too.
He received numerous accolades for his performances, including two Golden Globes for best actor in a motion picture comedy or musical for “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1972 and most promising newcomer in 1965 for his work as “Sallah Shabati,” the title role.
He was also nominated for an Oscar in 1971 for his portrayal of Tevye the milkman.
In “Flash Gordon” (1980) and “For Your Eyes Only,” he also starred alongside Roger Moore’s James Bond as Dr. Hans Zarkov and Milos Columbo, respectively (1981).
Although Topol is known for his well-regarded performance in a musical, the actor-singer claimed that music was like “organised noise” to him because he couldn’t play an instrument or read music.
“I actually was deprived of music until the age of 12,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 1983. “We didn’t have a radio in the house.”
Before the big screen foray as Tevye, Topol said he had temporarily filled in the role on stage in Tel Aviv, and was later asked to play the part in London’s West End.
“They were very brave to let me have that part … Considering that my English was so limited,” with a “vocabulary of 50 words,” he added. “I still don’t understand how they let me have the part.”
Netanyahu gave Topol the Israel Prize, which is regarded as the nation’s most prestigious and highest cultural honour, eight years ago.
On Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog published a statement on Twitter in remembrance of the late actor.
“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.”
According to Herzog and Netanyahu, Topol was also involved in charity work with sick and disabled children.
“Topol was one of the giants of Israeli culture and he will be greatly missed,” Herzog tweeted.
Topol is survived by his wife and their three children.