Christopher Plummer, Oscar, Emmy, Tony Award-winning actor and star of The Sound of Music, dies at 91
Julie Andrews, Helen Mirren and Chris Evans, among others, condoled the death of the legendary star of films like A Beautiful Mind and The Last Station
Christopher Plummer, the dashing award-winning actor who played Captain von Trapp in the film The Sound of Music and at 82 became the oldest Academy Award acting winner in history, has died. He was 91.
Plummer died Friday morning at his home in Connecticut with his wife, Elaine Taylor, by his side, said Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and manager.
Over more than 50 years in the industry, Plummer enjoyed varied roles ranging from the film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to the voice of the villain in 2009′s Up and as a canny lawyer in Broadway’s Inherit the Wind. In 2019 he starred as murdered mystery novelist in Rian Johnson’s whodunnit Knives Out and in the TV suspense drama series Departure.
But it was opposite Julie Andrews as von Trapp in 1965 that made him a star. He played an Austrian captain who must flee the country with his folk-singing family to escape service in the Nazi navy, a role he lamented was “humourless and one-dimensional.” Plummer spent the rest of his life referring to the film as “The Sound of Mucus” or “S&M.”
“We tried so hard to put humour into it,” he told The Associated Press in 2007. “It was almost impossible. It was just agony to try to make that guy not a cardboard figure.”
A GIF of the captain ripping a Nazi flag became a popular meme in recent years, and gave Plummer a new dose of fame.
The role catapulted Plummer to stardom, but he never took to leading men parts, despite his silver hair, good looks and ever-so-slight English accent. He preferred character parts, considering them meatier. His memoir in 2012 was titled In Spite of Myself.
Plummer had a remarkable film renaissance late in life, which began with his acclaimed performance as Mike Wallace in Michael Mann’s 1999 film The Insider, continued in films such as 2001’s A Beautiful Mind and 2009′s The Last Station, in which he played a deteriorating Tolstoy and was nominated for an Oscar.
In 2012, Plummer won a supporting actor Oscar for his role in Beginners as Hal Fields, a museum director who becomes openly gay after his wife of 44 years dies. His loving, final relationship becomes an inspiration for his son, who struggles with his father’s death and how to find intimacy in a new relationship.
“Too many people in the world are unhappy with their lot. And then they retire and they become vegetables. I think retirement in any profession is death, so I’m determined to keep crackin’,” he told AP in 2011.
Plummer in 2017 replaced Kevin Spacey as J Paul Getty in All the Money in the World just six weeks before the film was set to hit theatres. That choice that was officially validated in the best possible way for the film — a supporting Oscar nomination for Plummer, his third. “I was just hopeful that at my age, my memory would serve me,” he said at the time. “I had to learn my lines very quickly.”
There were fallow periods in his career — a Pink Panther movie here, a Dracula 2000 there and even a Star Trek — as a Klingon, no less. But Plummer had other reasons than the scripts in mind.
“For a long time, I accepted parts that took me to attractive places in the world. Rather than shooting in the Bronx, I would rather go to the south of France, crazed creature than I am,” he told AP in 2007. “And so I sacrificed a lot of my career for nicer hotels and more attractive beaches.”
The Canadian-born actor performed most of the major Shakespeare roles, including Hamlet, Iago, Othello, Prospero, Henry V and a staggering King Lear at Lincoln Center in 2004. He was a frequent star at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada.
“I’ve become simpler and simpler with playing Shakespeare,” he said in 2007. “I’m not as extravagant as I used to be. I don’t listen to my voice so much anymore. All the pitfalls of playing the classics — you can fall in love with yourself.”
He won two Tony Awards. The first was in 1974 for best actor in a musical for playing the title role in “Cyrano” and his second in 1997 for his portrayal of John Barrymore in Barrymore. He also won two Emmys.
Plummer was born Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer in Toronto. His maternal great-grandfather was former Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott. His parents divorced shortly after his birth and he was raised by his mother and aunts.
Plummer began his career on stage and in radio in Canada in the 1940s and made his Broadway debut in 1954 in “The Starcross Story.” While still a relative unknown, he was cast as Hamlet in a 1963 performance co-starring Robert Shaw and Michael Caine. It was taped by the BBC at Elsinore Castle in Denmark, where the play is set, and released in 1964. It won an Emmy.
Plummer married Tony-winning actress Tammy Grimes in 1956, and fathered his only child, actress Amanda Plummer, in 1957. Like both her parents, she also won a Tony, in 1982 for Agnes of God. (Grimes won two Tonys, for Private Lives and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.)
Plummer and Grimes divorced in 1960. A five-year marriage to Patricia Lewis ended in 1967. Plummer married his third wife, dancer Taylor, in 1970, and credited her with helping him overcome a drinking problem.
He was given Canada’s highest civilian honour when he was invested as Companion of the Order of Canada by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968, and was inducted into the American Theatre’s Hall of Fame in 1986.
Julie Andrews, Helen Mirren and Chris Evans, among others, condoled the death of the Sound of Music star Christopher Plummer.
Check them out here
“The world has lost a consummate actor today and I have lost a cherished friend. I treasure the memories of our work together and all the humour and fun we shared through the years. My heart and condolences go out to his lovely wife, Elaine, and his daughter, Amanda.” — Plummer’s Sound of Music co-star Julie Andrews, in a statement.
“He was a mighty force both as Man and Actor. He was an actor in the 19th century meaning of the word—his commitment to his profession. His art was total, theatre being a constant and the most important part of the totality of his drive to engage with storytelling. He was fearless, energetic, courageous, knowledgeable, professional and a monument to what an actor can be. A Great Actor in the truest sense.” — Helen Mirren, who co-starred with Plummer in his Oscar-nominated role of Tolstoy in The Last Station, in a written statement.
“Mr Plummer was a timeless actor who entertained millions around the world and inspired many to pursue the arts. A true gentleman and a consummate professional, his presence both on and off the stage will be thoroughly missed. On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and his many fans.” — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement.
“What an unbelievable loss. Few careers have such longevity and impact. One of my favourite memories from Knives Out was playing the piano together in the Thrombey house between setups. He was a lovely man and a legendary talent.” — Chris Evans, who co-starred with Plummer in 2019′s Knives Out, on Twitter.
“RIP to Christopher Plummer, a living legend who loved his craft, and was an absolute gentleman. So lucky to have shared a set with him.” — Knives Out director Rian Johnson, via Twitter.
“My heart is broken, my dear Chris. I feel your loss deep inside. How lucky was I having you next to me in what’s been one the best experiences of my career.” — Knives Out star Ana de Armas on Instagram.
“Chris Plummer knew every acting trick in the book – and many that weren’t even in the book.” — Taylor Hackford, who directed Plummer in 1995′s Dolores Claiborne, in a statement.
“He was what I call a friend. What is the definition of a friend? Somebody you know intimately whose every breath and every thought that is so much like yours or can a friend be someone whose life is intertwined near and afar with great gaps of time between meetings? That was the kind of friend Chris Plummer was to me.” — William Shatner, who starred with Plummer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, on Twitter.
“What a legend. What a loss. Thank you, Mr Plummer.” — actor Dan Levy on Twitter.
“What a guy. What a talent. What a life. And I was fortunate enough to work with him less than 2 years ago and had a wonderful experience.” — Ridley Scott, who directed Plummer in 2017′s All the Money in the World, in a written statement.
“‘Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.’ RIP Christopher Plummer. You lit up screen and stage over a lifetime of art.” — Dan Rather on Twitter.
“Pixar remembers Christopher Plummer, who as Charles Muntz in Up, taught us that ‘adventure is out there.’ Rest in peace, good friend.” — Pixar, on Twitter.
“If I live to be 91 maybe I’ll have time to fully appreciate all the great work of Christopher Plummer.” — actor Dave Foley on Twitter.
“Christopher Plummer was, well, the Captain. Although he had a love/not-so-much relationship with his role in The Sound of Music, he gradually came around to realising that he might as well embrace the movie and his performance in it.” — Ted Chapin, president of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, in a statement.
(With inputs from The Associated Press)
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