Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer was born on December 13, 1929, in Toronto, Ontario. He was the only child of John Orme Plummer, who sold stocks and other securities, and Isabella Mary Abbott, who worked as secretary to the Dean of Sciences at McGill University, and was the granddaughter of Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott. On his father's side, Plummer's great-uncle was patent lawyer and agent F. B. Fetherstonhaugh. Plummer was also a second cousin of British actor Nigel Bruce, known for portraying Doctor Watson to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer CC (December 13, 1929 – February 5, 2021) was a Canadian actor. His career spanned seven decades, gaining him recognition for his performances in film, stage, and television. He received multiple accolades, including an Academy Award, two Tony Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Grammy Award nomination―making him one of few recipients of the "Triple Crown of Acting" to also acquire a Grammy nomination. He made his Broadway debut in 1954 and continued to act in leading roles on stage, playing Cyrano de Bergerac in Cyrano (1974), Iago in Othello, as well as playing the titular roles in Hamlet at Elsinore (1964), Macbeth, King Lear, and Barrymore. Plummer performed in stage productions, including J.B., No Man's Land, and Inherit the Wind.
In 1946, he caught the attention of Montreal Gazette's theatre critic Herbert Whittaker with his performance as Mr Darcy in a Montreal High School production of Pride and Prejudice. Whittaker was also amateur stage director of the Montreal Repertory theatre, and he cast Plummer at age 18 as Oedipus in Jean Cocteau's La Machine infernale.
Plummer made his professional acting debut in 1948 with Ottawa's Stage Society after which he performed roles as an apprentice artist with the Montreal Repertory Theatre alongside fellow apprenticing actor William Shatner. In 1952, he starred in a number of productions at the Bermudiana Theatre in the City of Hamilton, in the British colony of Bermuda where he was seen and recruited by a US producer, although he was reluctant to leave Bermuda. Edward Everett Horton hired Plummer to appear as Gerard in the 1953 road show production of André Roussin's Nina, a role originated on Broadway by David Niven in 1951.
Plummer made his Canadian television debut in the February 1953 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation production of Othello, starring Lorne Greene as the Moor. His American television debut was also in 1953 on a Studio One episode entitled "The Gathering Night", as an artist who finds success just as his eyesight begins to fail him. He also appeared throughout the 1950s on both dramatic showcase programs like The Alcoa Hour, General Electric Theater, Kraft Television 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.
Plummer made his Broadway debut in January 1953 in The Starcross Story, a show that closed on opening night after a plagiarism lawsuit shut down the production. His next Broadway appearance, Home is the Hero, lasted 30 performances from September to 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 from February to April 1955. The play toured several cities, with Plummer serving as Power's understudy.
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 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.
Plummer was married three times. His first wife was the actress Tammy Grimes, whom he married in 1956. Their marriage lasted four years, and they had a daughter together, actress Amanda Michael. He was next married to journalist Patricia Lewis from May 4, 1962, until their divorce in 1967. Three years after his second divorce, Plummer married actress Elaine Taylor on October 2, 1970. They lived in Weston, Connecticut. Plummer had no children with either his second or third wives.
Plummer's film career began in 1958 when Sidney Lumet cast him as a young writer in Stage Struck. That same year, Plummer played the lead in Nicholas Ray's film Wind Across the Everglades. In 1963, he was the subject of a short National Film Board of Canada documentary, 30 Minutes, Mister Plummer, directed by Anne Claire Poirier. Plummer did not appear on the film screen for six years after 1958 until he played the Roman emperor Commodus in Anthony Mann's epic The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).
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.
At the Stratford Festival, 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, returning in 1967 to play Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.
He appeared in the live television drama Little Moon of Alban with Julie Harris, for which he received his first Emmy Award nomination. He also appeared with Harris in the 1958 television adaptation of Johnny Belinda and played Torvald Helmer to Harris' Nora in a 1959 television version of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. Plummer starred in the television 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 Broadway), and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (1962). In 1964, his performance of the Gloomy Dane in the BBC production Hamlet at Elsinore garnered him his second Emmy nomination. He played Hamlet in a four-hundred centenary television production Hamlet at Elsinore, produced by Danish and British BBC TV (1964), taped at Elsinore Castle.
In 1968, he was invested as Companion of the Order of Canada, at the time among Canada's highest civilian honours. In 2001, he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts. 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 Hall of Fame in 1986 and into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto in 1998. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the Actor's Branch from 2007. New stamp pays tribute to legendary actor Christopher Plummer October 13, 2021
From June 1971 to January 1972, he appeared at the Royal National Theatre, acting in repertory for the season. The plays he appeared in were 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's Long Day's Journey into Night at the New Theatre in London. From May to June 1973, he appeared on Broadway as the title character 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. 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.
Plummer appeared in Lovers and Madmen at the Opera House at the Kennedy Center in 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. Plummer played "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.
In 1982, he starred on Broadway production of the Shakespearean tragedy Othello, playing Iago opposite James Earl Jones' Moor. The production also featured performances from Kelsey Grammer as Cassio and Dianne Wiest as Desdemona. New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich wrote in his original review, "Mr. Plummer, a sensational actor in peak form, has made something crushing out of Shakespeare's archvillain. He gives us evil so pure - and so bottomless - that it can induce tears. Our tears are not for the dastardly Iago, of course - that would be wrong. No, what Mr. Plummer does is make us weep for a civilization that can produce such a man and allow him to flower." For his performance he received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nomination losing to Roger Rees in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
In 1988, he starred in another Shakespeare adaptation on Broadway in the title role in Macbeth with Glenda Jackson playing his lady. Frank Rich wrote of his performance "Mr. Plummer's thoughtful, beautifully spoken performance best illuminates the strengths and built-in limitations of the entire enterprise. This actor grapples arrestingly with his early bouts of conscience, as horrible imaginings send Macbeth's heart knocking at his ribs."
Plummer great success in 1997 Broadway production of the William Luce play Barrymore portraying John Barrymore a few months before his death. Vincent Canby in his New York Times review he praised Plummer for his performance "With the confidence of the superb actor he has become, and in the trim of an athlete, Christopher Plummer is here in a new play, giving an achingly funny, memorably strong and debonair performance". After a successful run on Broadway he went on tour with production. His performance brought him his second Tony Award (this time as Best Actor in a Play) and a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actor in a Play.
In 2000, Plummer played Sir David Maxwell Fyfe in the Primetime Emmy Award-winning Nuremberg (2000) alongside Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox and Max Von Sydow, and the Emmy-winning The Moneychangers (for which he won his first Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series). That same year he co-starred in American Tragedy as F. Lee Bailey (for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination), and appeared in Four Minute Mile, Miracle Planet, and a documentary by Ric Burns about Eugene O'Neill. He received an Emmy Award nomination for his performance in Our Fathers and reunited with Julie Andrews for a television production of On Golden Pond.
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. He was nominated for a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his 2004 King Lear and for a Tony Award playing Henry Drummond in the 2007 revival of Inherit the Wind. He 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 Award 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.
He was the narrator for The Gospel of John. Plummer appeared as a presenter in the CPAC documentary series The Prime Ministers in 2004. He appeared in the third episode, "John Abbott" (as Plummer is Abbott's great-grandson). In 2011, he 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 references that Shatner, two years Plummer's junior, was the other's understudy in a production of Henry V at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. When Plummer had fallen ill, Shatner took the stage, earning his first big break. Plummer voiced Arngeir, speaker for the Greybeards, in the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Plummer continued acting in films including the science fiction film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), which was a welcome opportunity for him since he was a fan of the Star Trek franchise which also allowed him to perform with his former understudy and long-time friend, William Shatner. He also appeared in Spike Lee's biographical drama Malcolm X (1992), Mike Nichols' horror drama Wolf (1994), Taylor Hackford's psychological drama Dolores Claiborne (1995), and Terry Gilliam's science fiction drama 12 Monkeys (1995). One of Plummer's most critically acclaimed roles was that of television journalist Mike Wallace in Michael Mann's biographical film The Insider (1999), for which he was honoured with several critics' awards for Best Supporting Actor, though a corresponding Academy Award nomination did not materialize. Plummer's other turns from this period include his roles as Dr. Rosen in Ron Howard's Academy Award-winning biographical film A Beautiful Mind (2001), Uncle Ralph to the title character in the 2002 film adaptation of Charles Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby, Arthur Case in Spike Lee's film Inside Man (2006), and the philosopher Aristotle in Alexander, alongside Colin Farrell. In 2004, Plummer briefly played John Adams Gates in the Disney adventure film National Treasure. He also appeared in Stephen Gaghan's drama Syriana (2005), the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs (2005), Terrence Malick's historical drama The New World (2005), and the romantic drama The Lake House (2006). In 2009, Plummer gave a voice performance for Pixar's animated film Up where he played the antagonistic character Charles Muntz. That same year he also lent his voice in Tim Burton-produced action/science fiction film 9 playing elder leader 1.
Plummer's memoir, In Spite of Myself, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in November 2008. He was a patron of Theatre Museum Canada. He was a member of The Players social club in New York City.
In 2009 and 2010, Plummer starred in two stage to screen adaptations of the Stratford Festival productions of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Both plays were directed for the stage by Des McAnuff and produced by Barry Avrich. The Tempest won Plummer a Canadian Screen award for Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program. Plummer returned to the Stratford Festival in the summer of 2010 in The Tempest as the lead character, Prospero (also videotaped and shown in high-def in cinemas), 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 2014, Plummer presented A Word or Two again, at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
In 2009, Plummer said that he was "a bit bored with the character". He said: "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, he admitted that the film itself was well made and was proud to be associated with a film with such mass appeal. "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." In one interview he said that he had "terrific memories" of making the movie.
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 added, tongue-in-cheek, "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, however, he lost to Christoph Waltz.
Although embarrassed, at first, about his role, Plummer remains widely known for his portrayal of Captain Von Trapp due to the box office success and continued popularity of the Robert Wise directed musical epic The Sound of Music (1965), which Plummer once described as "so awful and sentimental and gooey". The film made cinematic history, becoming the all-time top-grossing film, eclipsing Gone with the Wind. He found all aspects of making the film unpleasant, except working with Andrews, and he avoided using its name, instead calling it "that movie", "S&M", or "The Sound of Mucus". He declined to attend the 40th Anniversary cast reunion, but he did provide commentary on the 2005 DVD release. He relented for the 45th anniversary and appeared with the full cast on The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 28, 2010.
Plummer received various awards for his work, including an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a British Academy Film Award. He is one of the few performers to have received the Triple Crown of Acting, and the only Canadian to accomplish this feat. In 2011, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at the age of 82 for Beginners (2010), becoming the oldest person to win an acting award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a distinction he held until being supplanted by 83-year-old Anthony Hopkins in 2021), and he also received an Oscar nomination at the age of 88 for All the Money in the World, making him the oldest person to be nominated in any acting category at the Academy Awards.
Earlier that year, Plummer received his second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Mike Mills' independent comedy drama film Beginners (2011) starring Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent. Plummer was announced as the winner at the 84th Academy Awards. Plummer's win made him, at age 82, the oldest actor to win an Academy Award. When he accepted the award, he quipped "You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?". In 2015, he starred in the Atom Egoyan directed thriller Remember starring alongside Martin Landau and Bruno Ganz. Plummer played Ebenezer Scrooge in The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017), which is based on Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol.
In 2016, Plummer received the Canadian Screen Award for Lifetime Achievement.
In November 2017, Plummer, who was director Ridley Scott's original choice to play J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, was cast to replace Kevin Spacey in the then-already completed film. The move came amid numerous sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations made towards Spacey. All scenes that had included Spacey were re-shot with Plummer. Co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams were part of the necessary filming. The decision was made not long before the scheduled release date of December 22. TriStar Pictures intended to meet that release date in spite of the tight re-shooting and editing schedule; it was eventually pushed back to December 25. For his role, Plummer earned Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
At the age of 89, he appeared in a leading role in Departure, a 2019 Canadian-British TV series by Global for NBCUniversal about the disappearance of a trans-Atlantic flight. Plummer was set to return to Departure for season 2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Canadian travel lockdown, he would film his parts from his home in Connecticut, instead of venturing to Toronto, in 2020 and 2021. He completed his filming for the second season shortly before his death.
Plummer died at his home in Weston, on February 5, 2021, at the age of 91. According to Taylor, he died two and a half weeks after a fall that resulted in a blow to the head. A statement released by the family announced that Plummer had died peacefully with Taylor by his side.
In 2021, Plummer was set to play the lead for a film adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear, to be filmed in the summer, in Newfoundland, under director Des McAnuff. He died before filming commenced.
Others who paid tribute to Plummer included Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford, Rian Johnson, Chris Evans and Don Johnson (who all collaborated with him on Knives Out), as well as William Shatner, Anne Hathaway, Elijah Wood, Vera Farmiga, Ed Asner (his costar in Up who also died in 2021), Ridley Scott, Spike Lee, Simon Pegg, Antonio Banderas, Leonard Maltin, Daniel Dae Kim, George Takei, Russell Crowe (his costar in The Insider and A Beautiful Mind), Bruce Greenwood and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.