(Andrew Pulver’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/5; via Pam Green; Christopher Plummer, who has died aged 91. Photograph: Vera Anderson/WireImage.)
Veteran and respected actor had a career stretching back to the 1950s, but won his Oscar for best supporting actor for Beginners in 2011.
Christopher Plummer, the dazzlingly versatile Canadian actor whose screen career straddled seven decades, including such high-profile films as The Sound of Music, The Man Who Would Be King and All the Money in the World, has died aged 91.
His family confirmed the news, saying he died peacefully at home in Connecticut with his wife of 53 years, Elaine Taylor, by his side.
Lou Pitt, his 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 humour 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 forever be with us.”
Plummer’s first film appearance was in 1958’s Stage Struck, a backstage drama in which he plays a writer in love with Susan Strasberg’s ingenue. His biggest hit, and arguably best-known role, was as singing anti-Nazi Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music in 1965. More recently, in 2017, he stepped in at short notice to replace Kevin Spacey in the Ridley Scott-directed All the Money in the World, after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. Scott praised Plummer at the time, telling the Guardian that “[he’s] got this enormous charm whether he’s doing King Lear or The Sound of Music”. Scott added: “This guy’s a real colouring book, he can do anything.”
Born Arthur Plummer in Toronto in 1929, the great-grandson of John Abbott, Canada’s third prime minister, and grew up in Quebec speaking English and French fluently. After leaving school he joined the Montreal Repertory Theatre, and after a short spell on Broadway achieved his first leading role as Hal in Henry V at the 1956 Stratford festival in Ontario. More stage roles followed, in both Stratford and on Broadway, including his first Tony nomination in 1959 for best actor in Archibald MacLeish’s JB, which was directed by Elia Kazan. He also secured roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK, playing Benedick in the 1961 production of Much Ado About Nothing (opposite Geraldine McEwan) and the title role of Richard III in the same year.
The Sound of Music, released to huge success in 1965, proved Plummer’s breakthrough to stardom. Adapted from the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical about the real-life singing Von Trapp family, Plummer was originally reluctant to take on the role, and in 2018 told the Guardian he was “furious” when he found out his singing voice was going to be dubbed. “I’d worked on my singing for so long, but in those days, they’d have someone trained who would sing through dubbing. I said: ‘The only reason I did this bloody thing was so I could do a musical on stage on film!’”
His well-known distaste for the film mellowed over time: “I’ve made my peace with it,” he added. “It annoyed the hell out of me at first. I thought: ‘Don’t these people ever see another movie? Is this the only one they’ve ever seen?’ … But I’m grateful to the film, and to Robert Wise, who’s a great director and a gentleman, and to Julie [Andrews], who’s remained a terrific friend.”