- Category : Actor
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Confrontation 2
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer, CC (born December 13, 1929) is a Canadian theatre, film and television actor. He made his film debut in 1958's Stage Struck, and notable early film performances include The Night of the Generals, The Return of the Pink Panther, The Man Who Would Be King and the 1969 classic Lock Up Your Daughters.
In a career that spans seven decades and includes substantial roles in each of the dramatic arts, Plummer is probably best known to film audiences as the autocratic widower Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp in the hit 1965 musical film The Sound of Music alongside Julie Andrews. Plummer has also ventured into various television projects, including the legendary miniseries The Thorn Birds.
His most recent film roles include the The Insider as Mike Wallace, the Disney–Pixar 2009 film Up as Charles Muntz, the Shane Acker production 9 as 1, The Last Station as Leo Tolstoy, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus as Doctor Parnassus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as Henrik Vanger, and Beginners as Hal.
Plummer has won numerous awards and accolades for his work, including an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, and a BAFTA Award. With his win at the age of 82 in 2012 for Beginners, Plummer is the oldest actor and person ever to win an Academy Award.
Plummer was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Isabella Mary (née Abbott) and John Orme Plummer, who was secretary to the Dean of Sciences at McGill University. Through his mother, Plummer is a great-grandson of Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott, and a great-great-grandson of Anglican clergyman and McGill acting president John Bethune. Plummer was an only child. His parents were divorced shortly after he was born, and he was brought up at the Abbott family home in Senneville, Quebec, outside Montreal. He is bilingual. He studied to be a concert pianist, but developed a love for the theatre at an early age. He began acting while he was living on Pine Avenue in Montreal and attending Montreal High. Plummer took up acting after seeing Laurence Olivier's film Henry V (1944). In 1946, his performance as Mr. Darcy in the production of Pride and Prejudice at Montreal High brought Christopher Plummer to the attention of Herbert Whittaker, the theatre critic of the Montreal Gazette. Whittaker, who was also amateur stage director the Montreal Repertory Theatre, cast Christopher Plummer as Oedipus in Cocteau's La Machine infernale when he was only 18 years old.
Plummer has played many of the great roles in classic repertoire. He travelled by train to gain experience with the Canadian Repertory Theatre (the CRT) in Ottawa. He did his apprenticeship with the Canadian Repertory Company (Ottawa, Ontario) from 1948–50, appearing in 75 roles, including Cymbeline in 1948 and The Rivals in 1950. He acted with the Bermuda Repertory Theatre in 1952, appearing in many plays, including The Playboy of the Western World, The Royal Family, The Little Foxes, The Petrified Forest, and The Constant Wife.
Plummer made his Broadway debut in January 1953 in The Starcross Story, a show that closed on opening night. His next Broadway appearance, Home is the Hero, lasted 30 performances in September–October 1954. He appeared in support of Broadway legend Katharine Cornell and film legend Tyrone Power in The Dark is Light Enough, which lasted 69 performances in February–April 1955. The play also toured several cities, with Plummer serving as Power's understudy. (In his autobiography, Plummer states that Cornell was his 'sponsor.') Later that year, he appeared in his first hit on Broadway, co-starring with Julie Harris (who won a Tony Award) in Jean Anouilh's The Lark.
After appearing in another unsuccessful show, Night of the Auk, Plummer was in another hit, Elia Kazan's production of Archibald MacLeish's Pulitzer Prize-winning play J.B., for which he was nominated for his first Tony Award as Best Actor in Play. (J.B. also won Tonies as Best Play and for Kazan's direction.)
Plummer appeared less frequently on Broadway in the 1960s as he moved from New York to London. He appeared in the title role in a 1963 production of Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which did not succeed, but he had a great success in Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun, playing conquistador Francisco Pizarro to David Carradine's Tony Award-nominated Atahuallpa. (In the 1969 film adaptation, Plummer would take the role of Atahuallpa.)
From May to June 1973, he appeared on Broadway as the swordsman and poet Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano, a musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand's 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Anthony Burgess and Michael J. Lewis. For that performance, Plummer won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Later that year, he played Anton Chekhov in Neil Simon's adaptation of several Chekhov short stories, The Good Doctor, which was a hit.
In the 1980s, he appeared on Broadway in two Shakespearean tragedies, Othello, playing Iago to James Earl Jones' Moor, and the title role in Macbeth with Glenda Jackson playing his lady. His Iago brought him another Tony nomination.
He appeared with Jason Robards in the 1994 revival of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land and had one of his greatest successes in 1997 in Barrymore, which he also toured with after a successful Broadway run. His turn as John Barrymore brought him his second Tony Award (this time as Best Actor in Play) and a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actor in a Play. He also was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his 2004 King Lear and for a Tony playing Henry Drummond in the 2007 revival of Inherit the Wind.
Plummer made his debut at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 1956, playing the title role in Henry V, which subsequently was performed that year at the Edinburgh Festival. He played the title role in Hamlet and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night at Stratford in 1957. The following year, he played Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Bardolph, in Henry IV, Part 1, and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. In 1960, he played Philip the Bastard in King John and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. In 1962, he played the title roles in both Cyrano de Bergerac and Macbeth then returned in 1967 to play Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.
In 2002, he appeared in a lauded production of King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller. The production successfully transferred to New York City's Lincoln Center in 2004.
Plummer returned to the stage at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in August 2008 in a critically acclaimed performance as Julius Caesar in George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra directed by Tony winner Des McAnuff; this production was videotaped and shown in high-definition in Canadian cinemas on January 31, 2009 (with an encore presentation on February 23, 2009) and broadcast on April 4, 2009 on Bravo! in Canada. Plummer once again returned to the Stratford Festival in the summer of 2010 in The Tempest as the lead character, Prospero, and again in the summer of 2012 in the one-man show, A Word or Two, an autobiographical exploration of his love of literature.
In April 1961, he appeared as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He also appeared with the RSC in May 1961 in the lead role of Richard III. He made his London debut on June 11, 1961 playing King Henry II in Jean Anouilh's Becket with the RSC at the Aldwych Theatre, directed by Peter Hall. The production later transferred to the Globe for a December 1961 to April 1962 run] For his performance, Plummer won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor.
From June 1971 to January 1972, he appeared at the National Theatre, acting in repertory for the season. The plays he appeared in where Jean Giraudoux's Amphitryon 38 directed by Laurence Olivier; Georg Büchner's Danton's Death (director Jonathan Miller); Adrian Mitchell's Tyger; Luigi Pirandello's The Rules of the Game; and Eugene O'Neill' Long Day's Journey Into Night at the New Theatre in London.
Edward Everett Horton hired Plummer to appear as Gerard in the 1953 road show production of Andre Roussin's Nina, a role originated on Broadway by David Niven in 1951. He appeared as Jason opposite Dame Judith Anderson in Robinson Jeffers' adaptation of Medea at the Theatre Sara Bernhardt in Paris in 1955. The American National Theatre and Academy production, directed by Guthrie McClintic, was part of Le Festival International.
Also in 1955, he played Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Ferdinand in The Tempest at the American Shakespeare Festival (Stratford, Connecticut). He returned to the American Shakespeare Festival in 1981 to play the title role in Henry V.
Plummer appeared in Lovers and Madmen at the Opera House, Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. in 1973 and in Love and Master Will at the same venue in 1975 Love and Master Will consisted of selections from the works of William Shakespeare on the subject of love, arranged by Plummer. His co-stars were Zoe Caldwell, Bibi Andersson, and Leonard Nimoy.
He played the part of Edgar in E.L. Doctorow's Drinks before Dinner with the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Public/Newman Theatre in New York City in 1978.
Plummer's eclectic career on screen began in 1958 when Sidney Lumet cast him as a young writer in Stage Struck. That same year, he also appeared in Nicholas Ray's film of Budd Schulberg's Wind Across the Everglades. He did not appear on-screen again for six years, until he appeared as the Emperor Commodus in Anthony Mann's epic The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). His next film, the Oscar-winning The Sound of Music made cinematic history, becoming the all-time top-grossing film, eclipsing Gone With the Wind)
Since appearing in the widely-popular Sound of Music, Plummer has appeared in a vast number of notable films, including Inside Daisy Clover (1965), The Night of the Generals (cameo as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel) (1967), Oedipus the King (1968), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), Battle of Britain (1970), Waterloo (1970), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Silent Partner (1978), International Velvet (1978), Murder by Decree (1979), Somewhere in Time (1980), Eyewitness (1981), Dragnet (1987), Shadow Dancing (1988), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Malcolm X (1992), Wolf (1994), Dolores Claiborne (1995), 12 Monkeys (1995), Syriana (2005), The New World (2005), and The Lake House (2006). In addition, Plummer was cast to replace Rex Harrison for the film adaptation of Doctor Dolittle. This decision was later reversed, but Plummer was nonetheless paid $87,500 for signing the contract. At the same time, Plummer was performing in the stage play The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
One of Plummer's most critically acclaimed roles was that of television journalist Mike Wallace in Michael Mann's Oscar-nominated The Insider (1999), for which he won Boston, Los Angeles, and National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actor; he was also nominated for Chicago and Las Vegas Film Critics Awards, as well as a Satellite Award, though the predictions of an Oscar nomination never materialized. In January 2010, Plummer received his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of author Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009). Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview that aired on March 7, 2010] Plummer appeared slightly irritated that it had taken so long to receive a personal Academy Award nomination, saying, "Well, I said it's about time! I mean, I'm 80 years old, for God's sake. Have mercy." On Oscar night, March 7, 2010, Plummer lost the Best Supporting Actor nomination to Christoph Waltz in the Quentin Tarantino 2009 war film Inglourious Basterds. In 2012, he was nominated for his second Academy Award, again for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in Beginners. He won the award on Oscar night, the 84th edition of the ceremony. This made him, at age 82, the oldest actor to win an Oscar. When he accepted the award, he first responded: "You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?"
Other recent successes include his roles as Dr. Rosen in Ron Howard's Academy Award-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001), Arthur Case in Spike Lee's 2006 film Inside Man, and the philosopher Aristotle in Alexander, alongside Colin Farrell. In 2004, Plummer played John Adams Gates in National Treasure.
Plummer has also done some voice work, such as his role of Henri the pigeon in An American Tail, the villainous Grand Duke of Owls in Rock-a-Doodle, the antagonistic Charles Muntz in Up and the elder leader 1 in the Tim Burton-produced action/science fiction film 9.
In 1963, he was the subject of a short National Film Board of Canada documentary, 30 Minutes, Mister Plummer, directed by Anne Claire Poirier.
In 2011, Plummer appeared in the feature length documentary The Captains. The film, written and directed by William Shatner, sees Shatner interview Plummer at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Theatre where they talk about their young careers, long lasting friendship, and Plummer's role as Chang in Star Trek VI. The film also mentions how Shatner was Plummer's understudy for a production of Henry V at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival; and that after Plummer had fallen ill, Shatner was forced to take the stage, and thus earned his first big break.
The Sound of Music
Owing to the box office success and continued popularity of The Sound of Music (1965), Plummer remains widely known for his portrayal of Captain Von Trapp, a role he reportedly disliked. He declined to attend the 40th Anniversary cast reunion, but did provide commentary on the 2005 DVD release. Plummer relented in 2010 for the 45th anniversary, and appeared with the full cast on The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 28, 2010.
Said Plummer of the film and his role in a December 2009 interview, "I was a bit bored with the character [of Captain Von Trapp]", said Plummer. "Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse. And the subject matter is not mine. I mean, it can’t appeal to every person in the world.] However, Plummer admits the film itself was well made and, despite his reservations, is proud to be associated with a film with such mass appeal. "The world has seen [The Sound of Music] so many times. And there's a whole new generation every year—poor kids—that have to sit through it [laughs]. But it was a very well-made movie, and it's a family movie and we haven't seen a family movie, I don't think, on that scale for ages. I don’t mind that. It just happened to be not my particular cup of tea.] His singing voice was mostly dubbed by Bill Lee.
Christopher Plummer made his television debut in the February 1953 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation production of Othello, starring Lorne Greene as the Moor. He appeared regularly on American television throughout the 1950s, appearing on both dramatic showcase programs like The Alcoa Hour, G.E. True Theater, Kraft Theatre and Omnibus and episodic series. In 1956, he appeared with Jason Robards and Constance Ford in an episode entitled "A Thief There Was" of CBS's anthology series Appointment with Adventure.
In 1958, he appeared in the television film Little Moon of Alban with Julie Harris, for which he received his first Emmy Award nomination. He also appeared with Harris in the 1958 TV adaptation of Johnny Belinda and played Torvald Helmer to Harris' Nora in a 1959 television version of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.
He also starred in the TV adaptations of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story (1959), George Bernard Shaw's Captain Brassbound's Conversion (1960), Jean Anouilh's Time Remembered (playing the role of Prince Albert originated by Richard Burton on Broadwa]), and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (1962). In 1964, his performance of the Gloomy Dane in the BBC production Hamlet at Elsinore garnered his second Emmy nomination. Another notable play in which he appeared was the 1974 adaptation of Arthur Miller's After the Fall, in which he played Quentin (a part originated on Broadway by Jason Robards) opposite Faye Dunaway's Maggie.
He has acted in nearly 100 TV roles in all, including appearances in Jesus of Nazareth, the five-time Emmy Award-winning The Thorn Birds, the Emmy-winning Nuremberg, the Emmy-winning Little Moon of Alban and the Emmy-winning Moneychangers (for which he won his first Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series).
He co-starred in American Tragedy as F. Lee Bailey (for which he received a Golden Globe Nomination), and appeared in Four Minute Mile, Miracle Planet, and a documentary by Ric Burns about Eugene O'Neill. He received an Emmy nomination for his performance in Our Fathers and reunited with Julie Andrews for a television production of On Golden Pond. He also played Herod Antipas in the miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth and was the narrator for The Gospel of John. He also co-starred with Gregory Peck in The Scarlet and The Black.
He narrated the animated television series Madeline, for which he received an Emmy, as well as the animated television series David the Gnome.
Christopher Plummer has also written for the stage, television and the concert-hall. Plummer and Sir Neville Marriner rearranged Shakespeare's Henry V with Sir William Walton's music as a concert piece. They recorded the work with Marriner's chamber orchestra the Academy of St Martin in the Fields.
He performed it and other works with the New York Philharmonic and symphony orchestras of London, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax. With Marriner he made his Carnegie Hall debut in his own arrangements of Mendelssohn's incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In 2000 he reprised his role from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in Star Trek: Klingon Academy and in 2011, he took his second video game role as the narrator for the reveal trailer for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as well as doing the voice of Arngeir, leader of the Greybeards, in said game.
Honours and awards
Plummer has won many honours in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Austria. He was the first winner of Canada's Genie Award, for Best Actor in Murder by Decree (1980) and has received three other Genie nominations. Plummer has won two Tony Awards (from seven nominations), and two Emmy Awards (six nominations) in the United States, and Great Britain's Evening Standard Awards.
In 1968, he was invested as Companion of the Order of Canada, at the time Canada's highest civilian honour. In 2001, he received the Canadian Governor General's Performing Arts Awards for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. He was made an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at New York's Juilliard School and has received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, McGill University, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Ottawa, and most recently the University of Guelph. Plummer was inducted into the American Theatre's Hall of Fame in 1986 and into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto in 1997.
Plummer has been married three times. His first marriage, to Tony Award-winning actress Tammy Grimes, was in 1956 and lasted four years. The couple's daughter, Amanda Plummer (born 1957), is an acclaimed actress in her own right, but (as he mentions in his autobiography) he had no contact with her during her early and teenage years. They now maintain a friendly relationship. Plummer was married to journalist Patricia Lewis from May 4, 1962 until their divorce in 1967. He and his third wife, British dancer and actress Elaine Taylor, have been married since 1968 and live in a 100-year-old converted farm house in Connecticut.
In a 2005 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Plummer maintained that in their early days he and his fellow actors did not drink to excess "because we had problems... Nonsense! Actually, I was taught as a child to drink. I came from a family that loved wine. I was twelve, I think, when I was drinking wine with dinner."
Plummer's memoir, In Spite of Myself, was published by Knopf Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in November 2008.
Mr. Plummer is a patron of Theatre Museum Canada.