Chaim Topol — Fiddler on the Roof‘s Longest-Running Tevye — Dies at 87

Topol appeared in the 1971 film of the classic musical, and in stage productions throughout the world.


Chaim Topol, who made an indelible mark on cinema as Tevye in the film adaptation of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, has died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 87.

The Israeli actor, singer, and producer was in his 30s when he first played the beloved dairyman in the 1966 Israeli production of Fiddler, and was then called by producer Harold Prince to audition for the upcoming West End mounting. Prince, who knew of Topol from playing an older man in the earlier film Sallah Shabati, was shocked by how young he was and cast him to lead the London company. He was then hired by director Norman Jewison to play Tevye in the big screen Fiddler, which earned him an Oscar nomination.

Topol’s association with Fiddler on the Roof would extend throughout the rest of his life, playing the role multiple times on Broadway and the West End, in Israel and Australia, and on tour throughout the world. His farewell tour of the United States took place in 2009, after which it was estimated that he had performed the role more than 3,500 times.

In addition to his work in Fiddler, Topol has had a long and varied career in film and television. Some of his other notable film roles include playing Milos Columbo in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, the title role in Galileo, Dr. Hans Zarkov in Flash Gordon, and Hagrid in the Hebrew-language dubs of the first two Harry Potter films.

Topol was born in and died in Tel Aviv. He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983 and the Israeli Prize for Lifetime Achievement, one of the country’s highest honors, in 2015. He is survived by his wife and their three children.