Chaim Topol to Be Awarded Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement

The legendary actor shot to world stardom with his portrayal of Tevye in 'Fiddler on the Roof.'

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Topol in 'Fiddler on the Roof.'
Topol in 'Fiddler on the Roof.'Credit: AP

Legendary actor Chaim Topol, best known for his iconic role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, will be awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

Topol, born in 1935, served in the Israel Defense Forces' Nahal singing troupe and was one of the founders of the Haifa Theater. But it was his role in the 1964 film "Sallah Shabati," written by Ephraim Kishon, that thrust him into the limelight, both in Israel and overseas: "Sallah Shabati" was the first Israeli film nominated for an Oscar (in the best foreign film category).

In 1971, Topol played Tevye the milkman in "Fiddler on the Roof," first on the West End stager, and later on the silver screen. This role clinched his status as an international film celebrity. Topol won a Golden Globe Award in 1972 for his performance as Tevye, and and was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, too. 

His subsequent roles include Milos Columbo in the 1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only."

Responding to the news on Monday, Topol told Haaretz that winning the prize is, "As they say in English, better than a slap in the face." He added, however, that he has "mixed feelings because I have been hearing for five years about people who I think really deserve to win this prize and they haven't been given it." He declined to say who these people were. Topol also said that, throughout his career, he has always worked as part of a team.

Topol also told Haaretz that he is currently collaborating on a script for a movie called "The Last Mission," which will be shot in the U.K. in September. "The movie tells the story of a Mossad man who goes on one last mission in England," Topol said, adding that of course, he would also act in the movie.