Christopher Plummer, the captivating award-winning actor who played Captain von Trapp in the film “The Sound of Music” and at the age of 82 became the oldest Oscar award in history, has died. He was 91.
Plummer died Friday morning at his home in Connecticut with his wife, Elaine Taylor, by his side, says Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and boss.
For more than 50 years in the industry, Plummer enjoyed various roles, ranging from the movie “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, to the voice of the villain in 2009’s “Up” and as a drowsy lawyer in Broadway’s “Inherit the Wind”. In 2019, he starred as a murdered mystery novel in Rian Johnson’s whodunnit “Knives Out” and in the TV thriller series “Departure.”
But it was opposite Julie Andrews as von Trapp in 1965 that made him a star. He played an Austrian captain who had to flee the country with his folk singing family to escape service in the Nazi navy, a role he regretted was “humorous 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 humor into it,” he told the Associated Press in 2007. “It was almost impossible. It was just anxiety to try to make that guy a cardboard figure. ”
The role catapulted Plummer to stardom, but he never took to leading men parts, despite his silver hair, good-looking appearance and constantly so small English accent. He preferred character parts and considered them to be more meaty. His memoir in 2012 was entitled “Despite myself.”
Tributes quickly came from Hollywood and Broadway. Joseph Gordon-Levitt called him “one of the greats” and George Takei wrote “Rest in Eternal Music, Captain von Trapp.” Dave Foley, a Canadian colleague, wrote: “If I live to be 91 years old, I may have time to fully appreciate all of Christopher Plummer’s amazing work.”
Plummer had a remarkable film renaissance late in life, beginning 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”, where he played a deteriorating Tolstoy and was nominated for an Oscar.
In 2012, Plummer won a supporting role 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 is struggling with his father’s death and how to find intimacy in a new relationship.
“Too many people in the world are dissatisfied with their lot. And then they retire and they become vegetables. I believe that retirement in all professions is dead, so I am determined to continue to crack, he says to AP 2011.
Plummer 2017 replaced Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty in “All the Money in the World” just six weeks before the film was to go to the cinema. The choice that was officially validated in the best possible way for the film – a supporting Oscar nomination for Plummer, his third. “I was just hoping my memory would serve me at my age,” he said at the time. “I had to learn my lines very quickly.”
There were brawls in his career – a “Pink Panther” movie here, a “Dracula 2000” there and even a “Star Trek” – like a Klingon, no less. But Plummer had other reasons than the script in mind.
“For a long time, I accepted parts that took me to attractive places in the world. Instead of shooting in the Bronx, I would rather go to the south of France, crazy creature than I am, he tells the AP in 2007. “And so I sacrificed much of my career for nicer hotels and more attractive beaches.”
The Canadian-born actor played most of the major Shakespeare roles, including Hamlet, Iago, Othello, Prospero, Henry V and an astonishing “King Lear” at Lincoln Center in 2004. He was a frequent star at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada.
EM NEW museum and Plummer
RIP #ChristopherPlummer, a lifelong presence on screen and stage. 📸: Carl Van Vechten, Christopher Plummer, 1959, 60.14.55, © VanVechtenTrust; unknown, Christopher Plummer as Iago in “Othello”, 1982, 84.221.35 pic.twitter.com/yE5tKfKQVA
– Museum of the City of NY (@MuseumofCityNY) February 5, 2021
“I’m getting easier and easier playing Shakespeare,” he said in 2007. “I’m not as extravagant as I used to be. I don’t listen to my voice much anymore. All the pitfalls of playing classics – you can fall in love with yourself. ”
He won two Tony Awards. The first was in 1974 for best actor in a musical to play 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 great-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 debuted on Broadway in 1954 in “The Starcross Story”. While still a relative, he played Hamlet in a 1963 show with Robert Shaw and Michael Caine. It was taped by the BBC at Elsinore Castle in Denmark, where the play is performed, and was released in 1964. It won an Emmy.
Plummer married Tony-winning actress Tammy Grimes in 1956 and gave birth to her 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 Tony’s 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 for helping him overcome a drinking problem.
He received Canada’s highest civilian honor when he was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968 and inducted into the American Theater’s Hall of Fame in 1986.