Canada’s best-known actor Christopher Plummer is dead at 91. Plummer was born in Toronto and grew up in Senneville, Quebec. He made his film debut in Sidney Lumet’s Stage Struck (1958), and won great acclaim with audiences for his performance as Captain Georg von Trapp in the musical film The Sound of Music (1965) alongside Julie Andrews. Plummer portrayed numerous major historical figures, including Roman emperor Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington in Waterloo (1970), Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Mike Wallace in The Insider (1999), Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009), Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception (2016), and J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World (2017). Plummer also appeared in such films as Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992), Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (2001), Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005), David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Mike Mills’ Beginners (2011), and Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019).
Plummer received various accolades for his work, including an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a British Academy Film Award; he is one of the few performers to receive the Triple Crown of Acting, and the only Canadian. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at the age of 82 for Beginners (2010), becoming the oldest person to win an acting award, and he received a nomination at the age of 88 for All the Money in the World, making him the oldest person to be nominated in an acting category.
Plummer made his Canadian television debut in the February 1953 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation production of Othello, starring Lorne Greene as the Moor.
Plummer made his debut at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 1956, playing the title role in Henry V, which subsequently was performed that year at the Edinburgh Festival.
Plummer’s film career began in 1958 when Sidney Lumet cast him as a young writer in Stage Struck. That same year, Plummer played the lead in Nicholas Ray’s film Wind Across the Everglades (1958). That same year, he appeared in the live television drama Little Moon of Alban with Julie Harris, for which he received his first Emmy Award nomination. He also appeared with Harris in the 1958 television adaptation of Johnny Belinda and played Torvald Helmer to Harris’ Nora in a 1959 television version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.
His next film, the Oscar-winning The Sound of Music, made cinematic history, becoming the all-time top-grossing film, eclipsing Gone with the Wind. Despite the fame and acclaim he received from the role, Plummer hated the film, referring to it as “the Sound of Mucus.”
He great success in 1997 in Barrymore, which he also toured with after a successful Broadway run. His turn as John Barrymore brought him his second Tony Award (this time as Best Actor in Play) and a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actor in a Play.
From 1993 to 1995, he narrated the animated television series Madeline, for which he received an Emmy Award, as well as the animated television series The World of David the Gnome.
Plummer continued acting in films including the science fiction film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Spike Lee’s biographical drama Malcolm X (1992), Mike Nichol’s drama Wolf (1994), Taylor Hackford’s psychological drama Dolores Claiborne (1995), and Terry Gilliam’s science fiction drama 12 Monkeys (1995),
One of Plummer’s most critically acclaimed roles was that of television journalist Mike Wallace in Michael Mann’s biographical film The Insider (1999), for which he was honoured with several critics’ awards for Best Supporting Actor, though a corresponding Academy Award nomination did not materialize.
In 2000, Plummer starred as Sir David Maxwell Fyfe in the Primetime Emmy Award-winning Nuremberg (2000) starring Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox and Max Von Sydow. the Emmy-winning Little Moon of Alban and the Emmy-winning The Moneychangers (for which he won his first Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series). That same year he co-starred in American Tragedy as F. Lee Bailey (for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination), and appeared in Four Minute Mile, Miracle Planet, and a documentary by Ric Burns about Eugene O’Neill. He received an Emmy Award nomination for his performance in Our Fathers and reunited with Julie Andrews for a television production of On Golden Pond. He was the narrator for The Gospel of John. He also co-starred with Gregory Peck in The Scarlet and the Black.
Plummer reprised his role from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in the video game Star Trek: Klingon Academy. In 2011, he provided the voice of Arngeir, speaker for the Greybeards, in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In 2004, Plummer appeared as a presenter in the CPAC documentary series The Prime Ministers. He appears in the third episode, “John Abbott” (as Plummer is Abbott’s great-grandson).
In 2002, he appeared in a lauded production of King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller. The production successfully transferred to New York City’s Lincoln Center in 2004. He was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his 2004 King Lear and for a Tony playing Henry Drummond in the 2007 revival of Inherit the Wind. He returned to the stage at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in August 2008 in a critically acclaimed performance as Julius Caesar in George Bernard Shaw’s
Best Actor Oscar at 82
In 2011 Plummer appeared in David Fincher’s english language film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Stellan Skarsgård. The film was a critical and commercial success. Earlier that year, Plummer received his second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Mike Mills’ independent comedy drama film Beginners (2011) starring Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent. Plummer was announced as the winner at the 84th Academy Awards. Plummer’s win made him, at age 82, the oldest actor to win an Academy Award. When he accepted the award, he quipped “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?”.
In November 2017, Plummer, who was director Ridley Scott’s original choice to play J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, was cast to replace Kevin Spacey in the then-already completed film. The move came amid numerous sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations made towards Spacey.
In 2019, he starred as murder mystery writer Harlan Thrombey in Rian Johnson’s ensemble mystery film Knives Out alongside Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, and Chris Evans.
Plummer’s memoir, In Spite of Myself, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in November 2008. Plummer was a patron of Theatre Museum Canada.