The ‘dazzlingly versatile’ Canadian actor, Christopher Plummer, who passed away on Friday at the age of 91 once said, “I just can’t tell you what fun I’ve had being a member of the world’s second oldest profession. I’ve had a wonderful life, seeing the world and they’ve paid for it.”
Few acting careers, which straddled seven decades, have had such longevity and impact.
After his cinema debut in Sidney Lumet’s theatre drama STAGE STRUCK with Henry Fonda in 1958, Christopher featured in over 120 movie productions. His biggest hit and arguably best-known role was the singing Austrian widower and retired anti-Nazi naval Captain Georg von Trapp in Robert Wise’s 1965 classic musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC, with Dame Julie Andrews. Although it proved to be his breakthrough performance to stardom, he always felt uneasy. Initially reluctant to take on the role, his open distaste for the film has mellowed over time. “I’ve made my peace with it”, he said in a 2018 Guardian interview.
Christopher first appeared on Broadway in 1953 in THE STARCROSS STORY, a play that closed on opening night. However after such an inauspicious start, he finished with seven Tony Award nominations, winning for the title roles in CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1974) and BARRYMORE (1997). In 1961 he made his West End debut as King Henry II in BECKET for the Royal Shakespeare Company at London’s Aldwych Theatre, later transferring to the Globe. For his performance, he won the Evening Standard Award.
While he gained recognition for his film, television and theatre performances throughout his distinguished career, it wasn’t until 2010 that Chris received his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Leo Tolstoy in THE LAST STATION and like the proverbial London bus, followed by two more in quick succession. “Well, I said it’s about time. I’m 80 years old for God’s sake. Have mercy”, he said after the nomination announcement.
He didn’t win on that occasion, but was successful on the second attempt, two years later for Best Supporting Actor as Hal Fields, who comes out gay in his senior years, becoming the oldest recipient of the Oscar. He also won the BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG awards. In 2018 he continued to break the records when, at 88 he became the oldest nominee for his performance as multi-billionaire oil tycoon J.Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s crime thriller ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (2017). “There’s not that many old actors.They all died. I’m one of the last men standing,” he quipped.
With over seventy small screen appearances, Chris has also been nominated for seven Emmy Awards, winning twice for his work on the miniseries THE MONEYCHANGERS and his narration of the children’s TV series MADELINE (1994).
I found a final quote, “I’m too old-fashioned to use a computer. I’m too old-fashioned to use a quill,” but he did use a black sharpie to kindly sign a couple of portrait sketches I sent to him at his home in Weston, Connecticut a couple of years ago.
As George Takei, Christopher’s co-star in STAR TREK Vl (1991)” said in his tribute, “Rest in eternal music.”