At one time Israel's most popular film personality, Topol first learned to act in amateur theatricals while serving in the Army. Back in civilian clothes, Topol established a satirical theatre troupe in Tel Aviv, and in 1961 was one of the founding members of the Municipal Theatre of Haifa. He appeared in his first film in 1964, and two years later made his English-language screen bow as Abou Ibn Kaden in the big-budget Mickey Marcus biopic Cast a Giant Shadow (1966). His chief claim to fame is his portrayal of Tevye the Milkman in the long-running musical Fiddler on the Roof; he scored an enormous success in this role on the London stage, then earned an Academy Award nomination for his interpretation of Tevye in the 1971 film version of Fiddler. While criticized in some circles for relying upon "cute" acting tricks, Topol has managed to retain his stardom--and his home-grown fan following--for over three decades. Some of Topol's most notable post-Fiddler roles have included the title character in Brecht's Galileo (1975), Dr. Zarkhov in 1980's Flash Gordon and Berel Jastrow in the 1983 miniseries The Winds of War and its 1987 sequel War and Remembrance.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Was encouraged by his elementary school teachers to do theater.
- Was a member of the Nahal entertainment troupe, Israeli army.
- After the war, worked as a garage mechanic and assembled a kibbutz theater company with his friends.
- In 1972, was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Fiddler on the Roof (1971), becoming the first Israeli actor to be nominated for an Oscar.
- Founder of Variety Israel, an organization that serves children with special needs.