The legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer has died aged 91. He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family and friends, following a fall. In a seven-decade-long career, he came to be regarded as one of the greatest actors in the world. In his most famous role, he played the Zadar-born naval commander Georg von Trapp in ‘The Sound Of Music’.
Born on 13 December 1929 in Toronto, Christopher Plummer grew up in Senneville, Quebec. He initially established himself as an actor on the stage and although he famously moved into film acting, he frequently returned to the theatre and also acted for television.
Christopher Plummer was the oldest actor in the world to receive an Oscar. He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at the age of 82 for a role in the Mike Mills film ‘Beginners’ (2010), in which he played opposite Croatian Goran Višnjić. He became the oldest actor to receive a nomination for an Oscar, aged 88, for the film ‘All the Money in the World’.
Goran Višnjić and Christopher Plummer in Mike Mills’ ‘Beginners’ (2010). Christopher Plummer received an Academy Award for the role © Olympus Pictures
Christopher Plummer was one of a very small number of actors to have won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and a Tony Award. In America, this achievement is known as the Triple Crown Of Acting. Christopher Plummer is the only Canadian actor to have achieved this. Among his many decorations, he earned an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a British Academy Film Award.
Christopher Plummer’s life as a famous actor began when he was in his early 20s. In 1953, he took a major theatre role in French playwright André Roussin’s ‘Nina’. He debuted both on Broadway and on television in the same year, the latter within a production of ‘Othello’. He continued to be cast for roles in Shakespeare plays throughout the 1950s and subsequent decades. He earned his second Emmy nomination in 1964 for ‘Hamlet’.
In 1958, Christopher Plummer’s film career began when he played a young writer in Sidney Lumet’s ‘Stage Struck’. He played the Roman emperor Commodus in Anthony Mann’s epic ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). One year later, he appeared in a role that would make him famous forever all over the world.
Christopher Plummer in the Roman epic ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) © Paramount Pictures
Although he later had misgivings about the role, Christopher Plummer’s depiction of Zadar-born, Rijeka-trained Naval commander Georg von Trapp in ‘The Sound Of Music’ (1966) ensured he would be recognised globally for his talent. The film received five Academy Awards and was so popular that many returned to the cinema time and again to watch it. It became the highest-grossing film of all time, eclipsing ‘Gone With The Wind’ which had held the title for 25 years!
Having conquered Broadway, he set his sights instead on European theatre and moved to London in the mid-1960s. He enjoyed simultaneously a successful stage and film career, appearing in several famous movies about the Second World War and was consistently hired for theatre roles by some of the leading directors of the day, including Laurence Olivier, Jonathan Miller, and Neil Simon.
In the 1970s the list of Christopher Plummer’s blockbuster appearances included ‘Waterloo’ (1970), as the Duke of Wellington, ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1975), as Rudyard Kipling and ‘The Return of the Pink Panther (1975). In 1975, he appeared as Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the movie ‘The Day That Shook the World’, directed by Croatian-Montenegrin filmmaker Veljko Bulajić.
Christopher Plummer as Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the movie ‘The Day That Shook the World’, directed by Croatian-Montenegrin filmmaker Veljko Bulajić © American International Pictures
In 1977, Christopher Plummer starred in the then-monumental television miniseries ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, playing King Herod alongside Laurence Olivier, James Earl Jones, Robert Powell, Anne Bancroft, Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, Peter Ustinov, and James Mason. He repeated his television success in 1983, taking a lead role in the five-time Emmy Award-winning series ‘The Thorn Birds.’
Christopher Plummer was one of the rare actors whose fame and abilities never dwindled. He only ever seemed to get better and more popular. He remained in-demand as a film actor until his death, with a neverending list of successful film endeavours from the last three deacdes including ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ (1991), Spike Lee’s ‘Malcolm X’ (1992), Stephen King’s ‘Dolores Claiborne’ (1995), Terry Gilliam’s ’12 Monkeys’ (1995), Michael Mann’s ‘The Insider’ (1999), Nuremberg (2000), Ron Howard’s ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001), Oliver Stone’s ‘Alexander (2004), Terrence Malick’s ‘The New World’ (2005), Spike Lee’s ‘Inside Man’ (2006), the Disney/Pixar classic ‘Up’ (2009), ‘The Last Station’ (2009) playing Leo Tolstoy, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (2011), ‘Beginners’ (2011), Nazi/Holocaust thriller ‘Remember’ (2015), Ridley Scott’s ‘All the Money in the World’ (2017) as John Paul Getty and in the universally acclaimed, Agatha Christie-inspired ‘Knives Out’ (2019).
Christopher Plummer (left) and Martin Landau as Auschwitz survivors in Atom Egoyan’s Nazi/Holocaust thriller ‘Remember’ (2015) © eOne
Christopher Plummer married three times but had only one child, a daughter, the actress Amanda Plummer. She is a Tony winner, like her father, is famous for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ and is a frequent visitor to Croatia – she is friends with Rade Šerbedžija and his wife Lenka Udovički and appeared in the filmed workshop, ‘Core Sample – Goli Otok’ with Vanessa Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave at Šerbedžija and Udovički’s open-air theatre in the Brijuni islands.
Following the announcement of his death, Christopher Plummer’s ‘The Sound of Music’ co-star Julie Andrews paid tribute to him, stating “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 humor and fun we shared through the years.”
The world of theatre and film were united in their praise and mourning for the star, with other tributes coming from Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Russell Crowe, Katherine Langford, Rian Johnson, Chris Evans, Don Johnson (who worked with him on Knives Out), Elijah Wood, Vera Farmiga, Ed Asner as well as his longtime friend and former Shakesperian understudy William Shatner.
Lou Pitt, Christopher Plummer’s longtime friend and manager of 46 years, said; “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. 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 be with us forever. ”