Christopher Plummer, the Canadian-born Shakespearean actor who starred in films including “The Sound of Music” and “Beginners,” died on Friday morning at his home in Connecticut. He was 91. An imposing theatrical presence with a well-cultivated, resonant voice, that critic John Simon once observed, “in its chamois mode, can polish mirrors,” Plummer was best known for playing Captain von Trapp in the Oscar-winning musical “The Sound of Music.” He also won an Oscar in 2012 for his supporting turn in the film “Beginners,” becoming the oldest actor ever to win the Academy Award for supporting actor.
Born Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer in Toronto, he grew up in Montreal, where he attended the Jennings Private School. He made his stage debut in a 1948 production of “Cymbeline” at the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa, followed soon thereafter by a CBC television production of “Othello.” After migrating to New York in the early ’50s, he worked extensively in live television on such shows as “Kraft Television Theatre,” “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” “Producers’ Showcase,” “Appointment With Adventure” and “Omnibus.”
He had a long and acclaimed career on stage, with two Tony Awards. In films, he was also known for “The Insider,” “12 Monkeys,” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (where he played a Shakespear quoting Klingon, General Chang – one of the best villains in Trek) and “A Beautiful Mind,” and he contributed voices for “Up,” “An American Tale” and the “Madeline” TV series. His first serious critical acclaim came for his rebel-with-a-cause interpretation of “Henry V” at the Stratford Festival in 1956. He triumphed as Iago opposite James Earl Jones in “Othello” on Broadway in the early ’80s, as well as in “Macbeth” opposite Glenda Jackson.
Plummer was in demand as a character actor in high-profile films, appearing in a wide variety of material, from The Royal Hunt of the Sun and The Battle of Britain in 1969, to Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic Waterloo (1970) and Return of the Pink Panther (1975). He played Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King and Sherlock Holmes in Murder By Decree (1979).
Other high points included “The Royal Hunt of the Sun” and a revival of Harold Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” alongside Jason Robards. He won his first Tony Award in 1974 for the musical “Cyrano” and a second in 1996 for “Barrymore,” based on the life of actor John Barrymore. In his later years, he scored in character and supporting roles, including his well-regarded portrayal of “60 Minutes” newsman Mike Wallace in Michael Mann’s film “The Insider” and as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in HBO telepic “Winchell,” directed by Paul Mazursky. He picked up an Emmy for miniseries “The Moneychangers” and another for his narration of the children’s special “Madeline.”
In 2015, he starred in Remember, directed by Atom Egoyan and in 2017 The Exception, based on the novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss co-starring Lily James, Jai Courtney and Janet McTeer and The Man Who Invented Christmas, co-starring Dan Stevens. Plummer was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for his role as J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World.” He was the oldest actor to be nominated at age 88. He replaced Kevin Spacey after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct, completely reshooting his scenes only one month before the film’s release in December of 2017. Plummer most recently appeared in Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunit “Knives Out” and Peacock’s Canadian import series “Departure.”
He was married three times, the first to actress Tammy Grimes, the second to journalist Patricia Audrey Lewis. Plummer is survived by third wife, actress-dancer Taylor, and a daughter with Grimes, actress Amanda Plummer.