Christopher Plummer, the Academy Award-winning actor who famously played Captain Georg von Trapp in The Sound of Music, has died at the age of 91.
According to Variety, Plummer passed away Friday morning (February 5th) at his home in Connecticut. His wife of 53 years, Elaine Taylor, was by his side.
“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self deprecating humor and the music of words,” Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and manager of 46 years said in a statement. “He was a National Treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us.”
Born December 13th, 1929 in Toronto, Canada, Plummer was inspired to enter acting after watching Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. During a 1946 production of Pride and Prejudice at the High School of Montreal, Plummer’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy caught the attention of theatre critic Herbert Whittaker, who happened to be the stage director at the Montreal Repertory theatre. He cast an 18-year-old Plummer as Oedipus in Jean Cocteau’s Lac Machine infernale, and his career took off from there.
The quick embrace by the Canadian theater world meant Plummer never attended college. Despite the fact that his family had close ties to the prestigious McGill University, where his mother worked for the Dean of Sciences, Plummer never applied to the school. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Guelph; during his acceptance speech, he said he always regretted not going to college. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Juilliard.
Throughout the ’50s, Plummer appeared in numerous Canadian stage productions and television adaptations of plays, in adaptation to international projects. In 1959, he was nominated for both his first Tony and Emmy, for Best Actor in a Play (J.B.) and Outstanding Actor — Limited Series or a Movie (Little Moon of Alban), respectively.
It was his role as Captain Von Trapp in 1965’s The Sound of Music that solidified Plummer’s career as a world-renowned acting talent. Perhaps ironically, Plummer notoriously didn’t care for the movie or his role in it. He refused to attend the 40th anniversary cast reunion, often referring to the film as “that movie,” “S&M,” or “The sound of Mucus.” He did, however, eventually agree to provide commentary for a 2005 DVD release, and joined the cast for a 45th anniversary appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010.
While he would later maintain that he was proud of the film’s legacy, he told The Boston Globe in 2010 that he found his Von Trapp character boring. “Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse,” he said. “And the subject matter is not mine. I mean, it can’t appeal to every person in the world.”
Plummer would go on to star in such memorable films as The Insider, 12 Monkeys, Dragnet, The Man Who Would Be King, A Beautiful Mind, Inside Man, Waterloo, Star Trek VI, Malcolm X, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Knives Out. Voice work was also a large part of his career, with perhaps his most notable role being that of Charles F. Muntz in the Pixar classic Up. He also provided the voice of The Grande Duke of Owls in Rock-a-Doodle, Henri in An American Tail, 1 in 9, and Barnaby Crookedman in the 1997 animated adaptation of Babes in Toyland.
Over the course of his long career, Plumming received a trio of Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominations. In 2012, he finally took home Oscar gold for his role as Hal Fields in 2011’s Beginners — becoming the oldest actor to win an Academy Award in history. He also won a Golden Globe for his role in the film.
Plummer will also be remembered for his performance in 2017’s All the Money in the World. Director Ridley Scott had originally wanted Plummer for the role of J. Paul Getty, but eventually cast Kevin Spacey. Not long before the film’s release, however, allegations of Spacey’s sexual misconduct arose in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Scott decided to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes with Plummer as his replacement, bringing in co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams for select moments. Amazingly, the film was only delayed three days, eventually being released on December 25th, and Plummer earned Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations.
On the smaller screen, Plummer appeared frequently in limited series and movies. He won Emmys for Outstanding Actor — Limited Series or a Movie for 1977’s Arthur Hailey’s the Moneychangers and for his voice work in the early ’90s animated series Madeline. He also was nominated for his parts in Hamlet at Elsinore, The Thorn Birds, Our Fathers, and as the voice-over narrator for Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood.
As for stage work, he was nominated for Best Actor Tony Awards a total of seven times, winning twice for Cyrano in 1974 and Barrymore in 1997. Plummer was also nominated for a 1986 Best Recording for Children Grammy for an audio recording of The Nutcracker. Had he won, he would have achieved the elusive EGOT status.
In the new millennium, Plummer also lent his voice to a handful of video game projects, most famously The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in 2011. He also appeared in Star Trek: Klingon Academy, the Up adaptation, and 2017’s The Long Dark.
Plummer’s final on-screen film role came in 2019 with The Last Full Measure. That same year, he also appeared in the British-Canadian drama series Departure, and presented a clue on Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, which technically marked his final TV appearance. He had been cast for a voice role in the upcoming animated movie Heroes of the Golden Masks, though it’s unclear if he’d finished recording his part.
Plummer received numerous other honors throughout his life, including the title of Companion of the Order of Canada, the inaugural Jason Robards Awards, the Edwin Booth Award, and the Sir John Gielgud Quill Award. He is also a member of the Theater Hall of Fame after being inducted in 1986, and received a spot on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2000.
In 2008, Plummer released his best-selling memoir, In Spite of Myself. Below, revisit some highlights from his illustrious career.