Christopher Plummer

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Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer 2014.jpg
Plummer in 2014
Born
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer

(1929-12-13)December 13, 1929
DiedFebruary 5, 2021(2021-02-05) (aged 91)
NationalityCanadian
EducationHigh School of Montreal
OccupationActor
Years active1946–2021
Spouse(s)
ChildrenAmanda (With Grimes)
AwardsSee Awards

Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer CC (December 13, 1929 – February 5, 2021) was a Canadian actor. His career began in 1946 and had his first Broadway role in 1954. He first main stage roles were as Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano (1974) and Iago in Othello. He also appeared in Hamlet at Elsinore, Macbeth, King Lear, and Barrymore.

After appearing on stage, he made his first movie appearances in Stage Struck (1958) and had his first main role that same year in Wind Across the Everglades. He became well known for playing Captain Georg von Trapp in the musical movie The Sound of Music (1965).[1] Plummer played many historical people in movies, such as 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 narrated the animated series Madeline and voiced Charles Muntz in the Disney Pixar movie Up (2009). His final roles were as Harlan Thrombey in Knives Out (2019), Frank Pitsenbarger in The Last Full Measure (2020) and as Howard Lawson in the television drama Departure.

Plummer won many awards for his work. He won an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award,[2] a Screen Actors Guild Award,[3] and a British Academy Film Award.[4] He was one of the few actors to have won the Triple Crown of Acting,[5] and the only Canadian.[6] He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, at aged 82, for Beginners (2010). At the time, he became the oldest person to win an acting Oscar. He was nominated again for an Academy Award, at aged 88, for All the Money in the World. This made him the oldest person to be nominated for an acting Oscar.[7]

Early life[change | change source]

Plummer went to High School of Montreal, where he learned how to act

Plummer was born on December 13, 1929, in Toronto, Ontario.[8] He was the only child of John Orme Plummer and Isabella Mary Abbott.[9][10] His great-grandfather was Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott.[9][11] Plummer's parents divorced shortly after he was born, and he was raised by his mother in the Abbott family home in Senneville, Quebec.[12] He spoke English and French very well.[12][13]

At an early age, he loved acting and went to High School of Montreal.[14][15] He wanted to become an actor after watching Laurence Olivier's movie Henry V (1944).[16][17] He learned acting as an apprentice with the Montreal Repertory Theatre.[17] Plummer never went to college or university, something he wished he did.[18] Even though his family had connections to McGill University, he was never went there.[19]

In 1946, the Montreal Gazette's theatre critic Herbert Whittaker liked Plummer's role as Mr Darcy in a Montreal High School play of Pride and Prejudice.[20] Whittaker was also a stage director and he hired Plummer at age 18 to play Oedipus in Jean Cocteau's La Machine infernale.[20][21][22]

Career[change | change source]

Stage[change | change source]

Early roles[change | change source]

Plummer in 1959

Plummer began acting in 1948 with Ottawa's Stage Society.[22] In 1952, he appeared in many stage works with the Bermudiana Theatre in Bermuda.[23] While working there, he was hired by an American producer.[23] Edward Everett Horton hired Plummer to play Gerard in the 1953 play of André Roussin's Nina.[24]

Plummer had his first Broadway role in January 1953 in The Starcross Story.[25] His next Broadway role, Home is the Hero, lasted from September to October 1954.[26] Plummer was Tyrone Power's understudy.[27] After acting in Night of the Auk, Plummer was in Elia Kazan's Broadway play J.B..[28] He played Jason in Robinson Jeffers' version of Medea at the Theatre Sara Bernhardt in Paris in 1955.[29] Also in 1955, he played Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Ferdinand in The Tempest at the American Shakespeare Festival.[30]

Plummer began acting at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 1956.[31] He played the main character in Henry V.[31] He played the main role in Hamlet and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night in 1957.[31] The next year, he played Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Bardolph in Henry IV, Part 1, and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.[30]

In April 1961, he played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.[32] He also worked with the RSC in May 1961 in the main character of Richard III.[33] He played King Henry II in Jean Anouilh's Becket.[30] For his role, Plummer won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor.[34]

At the Stratford Festival, he played Philip the Bastard in King John and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.[31] In 1962, he played the main roles in both Cyrano de Bergerac and Macbeth.[30] He returned in 1967 to play Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.[30][35]

Plummer played the main role in a 1963 play of Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,[30] and in Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun, playing Francisco Pizarro.[36] Many critics enjoyed Plummer's roles as Ui and Pizarro.[36]

Royal National Theatre and Broadway roles[change | change source]

From June 1971 to January 1972, he appeared at the Royal National Theatre.[37] The plays he appeared in were Jean Giraudoux's Amphitryon 38 directed by Laurence Olivier;[38] Georg Büchner's Danton's Death;[39] Adrian Mitchell's Tyger;[40] Luigi Pirandello's The Rules of the Game;[40] and Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night at the New Theatre in London.[40] From May to June 1973, he appeared on Broadway as the main character in Cyrano.[41] It was a musical version of Edmond Rostand's 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac.[41] For that role, Plummer won a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award.[42] Later that year, he played Anton Chekhov in Neil Simon's The Good Doctor.[43] He was also in Arthur Miller's 1974 version of After the Fall, where he played Quentin.[44][45]

Plummer appeared in Lovers and Madmen at the Opera House at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 1973.[46] He also appeared in Love and Master Will at the same place in 1975.[46]

Plummer meeting President Ronald Reagan at the White House, 1985

In 1982, he starred on Broadway play of the Shakespearean tragedy Othello, playing Iago.[47] His performance as the main villain had positive reviews from critics, such as The New York Times.[48] For his role, he got a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nomination losing to Roger Rees.[49]

In 1988, he played the main role in Broadway's Macbeth.[50] He also had positive reviews for his role as the main character.[51] He appeared with Jason Robards in the 1994 version of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land.[52] For his role in No Man's Land, Plummer was nominated for a Tony Award.[42]

Plummer became well known for playing actor John Barrymore in the 1997 Broadway play of William Luce's Barrymore.[42] He had many positive reviews from critics, especially from Vincent Canby of The New York Times calling Plummer a great actor.[53] His role as Barrymore, gave Plummer his second Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award.[42]

Later stage career[change | change source]

In 2002, he appeared in King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller.[54] The play had strong positive reviews.[55] He was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his role in King Lear.[42] He also received a Tony Award nomination for playing Henry Drummond in the 2007 revival of Inherit the Wind.[56] He played Julius Caesar in George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra.[57] The play was videotaped and shown in Canadian cinemas on January 31, 2009.[58] In 2009 and 2010, Plummer starred in two stage to screen versions of the Stratford Festival plays of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and William Shakespeare's The Tempest.[59] Plummer returned to the Stratford Festival in the summer of 2010 in The Tempest as the lead character, Prospero.[31] In 2014, Plummer presented A Word or Two in Los Angeles.[60]

Movies[change | change source]

Plummer on the set of The Sound of Music, 1964

Plummer's movie career began in 1958 when Sidney Lumet hired him as a young writer in Stage Struck.[61] That same year, Plummer played the main character in Nicholas Ray's movie Wind Across the Everglades.[61] Plummer did not appear in any other movie for six years after 1958 until he played the Roman emperor Commodus in Anthony Mann's epic The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).[61]

The Sound of Music and success[change | change source]

Plummer became well known for his role as Captain Von Trapp in Robert Wise's musical movie The Sound of Music (1965).[62] Plummer however, said the movie was "so awful and sentimental and gooey".[62] The movie made the most money than any other movie since Gone with the Wind.[63] Plummer hated being on the movie, but liked working with co-star Julie Andrews.[64] During his career, he tried not to talk about the movie.[64] He did not show up at the 40th Anniversary cast reunion,[65] but he did talk about the movie for the 2005 DVD release.[66] He appeared for the 45th anniversary with the full cast on The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 28, 2010.[67] In one interview he said that he had great memories of making the movie.[68]

He was in Inside Daisy Clover (1965) and then played World War II agent Eddie Chapman in Triple Cross (1966).[69][70] He had a role as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in The Night of the Generals (1967).[71] Plummer was cast to replace Rex Harrison for the movie version of Doctor Dolittle.[72] This decision was later reversed, but Plummer was paid $87,500 for signing the contract.[72]

Plummer in the poster for Waterloo, 1970

Plummer had the main role in Oedipus the King (1968) and The High Commissioner (1968).[73][74] He also appeared in Battle of Britain (1969), and the lead in a musical, Lock Up Your Daughters (1969).[75] That same year, he played Inca Emperor Atahualpa in The Royal Hunt of the Sun.[76] Plummer played the Duke of Wellington in Waterloo (1970) alongside Rod Steiger as Napoleon Bonaparte.[77] He played Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King (1975).[78] He also appeared in the comedy The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), alongside Peter Sellers and The Silent Partner (1978).[79][80] He appeared in Aces High (1976),[81] Starcrash (1978),[82] International Velvet (1978),[83] and played Sherlock Holmes in Murder by Decree (1979).[84]

Plummer in Vampire in Venice, 1988

Plummer appeared in the romantic drama Somewhere in Time (1980),[85] the drama Eyewitness (1981),[86] and the comedy Dragnet (1987).[87] Plummer also did some voice work, such as the voice of Henri the pigeon in An American Tail (1986) and the Grand Duke of Owls in Rock-a-Doodle (1991).[88][89]

Plummer appeared in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).[90] He also appeared in Spike Lee's drama biographical movie Malcolm X (1992),[91] Mike Nichols' horror drama Wolf (1994),[92] Taylor Hackford's psychological drama Dolores Claiborne (1995),[93] and Terry Gilliam's science fiction drama 12 Monkeys (1995).[94] One of Plummer's most well known roles was as journalist Mike Wallace in Michael Mann's The Insider (1999).[95] Plummer later played Dr. Rosen in Ron Howard's Academy Award-winning movie A Beautiful Mind (2001).[96] He appeared as Uncle Ralph in the 2002 movie version of Charles Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby and as the philosopher Aristotle in Alexander (2004).[97][98] Plummer was wanted for the role of Gandalf for The Lord of the Rings movie series, however he did not want the role.[99]

In 2004, Plummer played John Adams Gates in the Disney adventure movie National Treasure.[100] In 2005, he appeared in Stephen Gaghan's drama Syriana,[101] the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs,[102] and Terrence Malick's drama The New World.[103] Plummer did not like working with Malick on The New World and called the movie "boring" and told him to "get a new writer".[103] He played Arthur Case in another Spike Lee's movie called Inside Man (2006).[104] That same year, he was in the romantic drama The Lake House (2006).[75] In 2009, Plummer had a voice role in Pixar's animated movie Up where he played the main villain Charles Muntz.[105] Muntz character design was inspired by Plummer's appearance.[100] That same year he also had a voice role in 9 playing 1.[106]

Beginners and final years[change | change source]

In January 2010, Plummer got his first Academy Award nomination for his role as author Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009).[107] In an interview about his Academy Award nomination,[108] Plummer said: "Well, I said it's about time! I mean, I'm 80 years old, for God's sake. Have mercy".[108] He lost the Academy Award to Christoph Waltz.[109]

Plummer appeared in David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as businessman Henrik Vanger.[110] Plummer got his second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Hal in Mike Mills' independent comedy drama movie Beginners (2011).[111] In the role, Plummer played a dying 80-year old who recently came out as gay to his son.[111] He won the Academy Award and others for his role in Beginners, making Plummer, at age 82, the oldest actor to win an Academy Award.[112] In 2021, Anthony Hopkins would win an Academy Award at aged 83, beating Plummer's record.[113] His Academy Award also made Plummer one of the few actors and only Canadian to win the Triple Crown of Acting.[6] In 2014, he appeared with Shirley MacLaine in the comedy-drama Elsa & Fred.[114] In 2015, he starred in Remember as a Holocaust survivor with dementia.[115] Plummer played Ebenezer Scrooge in The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017).[116]

In November 2017, Plummer was hired to replace Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World.[117] He was director Ridley Scott's first choice for the role, but TriStar Pictures wanted a more well known actor for the role.[117] Plummer was hired because Spacey had been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.[117] All scenes that had Spacey were filmed again with Plummer.[118] The decision was made a few weeks before the movie was set to be released.[119][120] For his role, Plummer earned Golden Globe,[2] BAFTA,[4] and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.[121] Plummer, at aged 89, became the oldest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.[122]

Plummer appeared in Rian Johnson's mystery thriller movie Knives Out (2019) as rich mystery writer Harlan Thrombey.[123] Plummer also appeared as Frank Pitsenbarger in the war drama The Last Full Measure (2020), in his final movie role.[124] In 2021 before his death, Plummer was hired to play the main character for a movie version of Shakespeare's King Lear.[125]

Television[change | change source]

Early roles[change | change source]

Plummer in 1987

Plummer had his first television role in 1953 for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation version of Othello.[126] He was also in a 1953 Studio One episode "The Gathering Night".[127] In the 1950s, he appeared in The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater, Kraft Television Theatre, and Omnibus.[128][129] In 1956, he was in an episode of CBS's Appointment with Adventure.[130]

He was in the live television drama Little Moon of Alban and he got his first Emmy Award nomination.[131] He played Torvald Helmer in a 1959 television movie version of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.[61] Plummer had a role in the television version of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story (1959).[75] In 1964, his role as Gloomy Dane in the BBC's Hamlet at Elsinore got him his second Emmy nomination.[132] He played Hamlet in Hamlet at Elsinore.[133]

Later work and success[change | change source]

He played Herod Antipas in the television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977).[134] Plummer played Herbert Kappler in the television movie The Scarlet and the Black.[135] He was in the five-time Emmy Award-winning television series The Thorn Birds.[136] From 1993 to 1995, he narrated the animated television series Madeline and won an Emmy Award for his voice work.[137] He also narrated the animated television series The World of David the Gnome.[138]

In 2000, Plummer played Sir David Maxwell Fyfe in the Emmy Award-winning Nuremberg (2000).[131] That same year he appeared in American Tragedy as F. Lee Bailey.[139] He appeared in Miracle Planet, and a documentary by Ric Burns about Eugene O'Neill.[140][141] He got an Emmy Award nomination for his role in the television movie version of the play On Golden Pond.[131][142] Plummer voiced Arngeir, speaker for the Greybeards, in the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.[143]

At the age of 89, he appeared in a main role in Departure, a 2019 Canadian-British TV series.[144] Plummer returned for season 2, but worked from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[145] He finished filming for the second season before his death.[146]

Personal life and death[change | change source]

Plummer at the Knives Out premiere in Toronto, 2019

Plummer married Tammy Grimes in 1956.[147] Their marriage lasted four years, and they had a daughter together, actress Amanda Plummer.[148] Plummer was married to journalist Patricia Lewis from 1962, until their divorce in 1967.[149] He later married actress Elaine Taylor in 1970.[149] They lived together in Weston, Connecticut.[149][150] He used to live in Darien, Connecticut before moving to Weston.[151] Plummer had no children by either his second or third marriages.[148]

In 1968, Plummer was honored with the companion of the Order of Canada.[152] His memoir, In Spite of Myself, was published in November 2008.[153] Plummer supported the Theatre Museum Canada and donated money to keep the museum open.[154]

Plummer died at his home in Weston, Connecticut on February 5, 2021 at the age of 91.[155] He died two and a half weeks after a fall where he hit his head.[156][157] Plummer's family said that he had died "peacefully with his family at his side".[158]

The Sound of Music co-star Julie Andrews said of Plummer's death: "The world has lost a [great] actor today and I have lost a [good] friend".[159]

Others who paid tribute to Plummer included Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford, Rian Johnson, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, William Shatner, Anne Hathaway, Elijah Wood, Vera Farmiga, Ed Asner, Ridley Scott, Spike Lee, Simon Pegg, Antonio Banderas, Leonard Maltin, Daniel Dae Kim, George Takei, Russell Crowe, Bruce Greenwood and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.[158][160][161][162]

Awards[change | change source]

Year Award Title Results Ref.
2010 Academy Awards The Last Station Nominated [157]
2012 Beginners Won [121]
2018 All the Money in the World Nominated
1959 Tony Awards J.B. Nominated [163]
1974 Cyrano Won
1982 Othello Nominated
1994 No Man's Land Nominated
1997 Barrymore Won
2004 King Lear Nominated
2007 Inherit the Wind Nominated
1959 Primetime Emmy Awards Little Moon of Alban Nominated [131]
1966 Hamlet at Elsinore Nominated
1977 Arthur Hailey's the Moneychangers Won
1983 The Thorn Birds Nominated
1994 Madeline Won
2004 Our Fathers Nominated
2011 Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood Nominated
1986 Grammy Award E.T.A. Hoffmann/Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Nominated [164]

Honors[change | change source]

Ribbon Description Year Notes Ref.
Order of Canada (CC) ribbon bar.svg Companion of the Order of Canada (C.C.) 1970 For his works to the performing arts at home and abroad [152]
QEII Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal for Canada 1977 This medal has been awarded to all people being awarded with a Companionship within the Order of Canada [165]
Canada125 ribbon.png 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal 1993 This medal has been awarded to all people being awarded with a Companionship within the Order of Canada [165]
QEII Golden Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for Canada 2002 This medal has been awarded to all people being awarded with a Companionship within the Order of Canada [165][166]
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Canada 2012 This medal has been awarded to all people being awarded with a Companionship within the Order of Canada [165][167]

Bibliography[change | change source]

  • Plummer, Christopher (2008). In Spite of Myself: A Memoir. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-39679-2. Retrieved October 30, 2020 – via Google Books.

References[change | change source]

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