Plummer as a repulsive youth of indeterminate age - (from the book: In Spite of Myself A Memoir)
Date of Birth
13 December 1929, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer
Arguably the greatest survivor of the two-fisted drinkers' school of acting that included the likes of Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and Albert Finney, classically-trained actor Christopher Plummer established himself on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the finest stage performers of his generation, particularly in Shakespearean roles. After headlining for three of the world's most noted theater companies - Great Britain's National Theater, The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Stratford Festival in his native Canada - Plummer starred in a host of movies; most memorably playing Baron Georg Von Trapp in the smash hit, "The Sound of Music" (1965). Though he remained prolific both on stage and onscreen, earning awards in several mediums, Plummer languished for the next few decades in mostly mediocre projects that were beneath his skill set. But in 1997, he delivered a Tony Award-winning performance as the besotted actor John Barrymore in "Barrymore" that earned him the considerable attention that had previously eluded him. From that point on, he became a much in-demand character actor, playing "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace in "The Insider" (1999), Captain Christopher Newport in "The New World" (2005), and a managing partner of a power law firm in the excellent political thriller, "Syriana" (2005). While he occasionally returned to the stage, as he did with a sterling Broadway performance as the titular "King Lear" (2004), Plummer enjoyed his late-life success on the big screen after his long struggle to achieve it.
Born on Dec. 13, 1929 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Plummer was raised by his father, John, who worked at McGill University, and his mother, Isabella, the granddaughter of Canadian Prime Minister John Abbott. Plummer's parents divorced the same year he was born. Having gone to live with his mother in Montreal, the young lad discovered the theater at a young age, taking in various stage productions, ballet and opera throughout his youth.
When he was attending Jennings Private School, he worked as a lighting designer on a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which prompted him to trying acting. His first notable role came when he played D'Arcy in "Pride and Punishment." Following high school, he trained with the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa, where he was in countless productions in a mere two years, including "The Infernal Machine," which also featured a young William Shatner, and "Cymbeline." In fact, both Plummer and Shatner worked together in radio drama for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Though he made his small screen debut in a televised production of "Othello" (CBC, 1951), Plummer spent most of the decade honing his chops on the stage.
Plummer left the comfortable confines of Canada to join a repertory company in Bermuda, where he performed in productions of "The Little Foxes," "The Petrified Forest" and "Nina," which led to touring with American theater companies. He soon found himself making his Broadway debut as George Phillips in "The Star Cross Story" (1954), starring Katherine Cornell, but the show only lasted one night. Also that year, he again starred with Cornell in Christopher Fry's "The Dark Is Light Enough," followed by a turn in the short-lived "Home Is the Hero." Plummer found great critical success portraying the Earl of Warwick in Jean Anouilh's "The Lark" (1955), opposite Julie Harris. Following a Paris production of "Medea" (1955) opposite Judith Anderson, he returned to Canada and joined the Shakespeare Festival company in Stratford, Ontario, where he thrived in the title roles of "Henry V" (1956), which also starred Shatner as the Duke of Gloucester, and "Hamlet" (1957). Plummer demonstrated equal facility with comic parts like Sir Andrew Aguecheek in "Twelfth Night" (1957) and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing" (1958).
On American television, Plummer appeared in "Kraft Theatre" productions of "The Light That Failed" and "The Web," while playing Miles Hendon in the adaptation of Mark Twain's novel, "The Prince and the Pauper" (CBS, 1957). Following Hallmark Hall of Fame productions of "Johnny Belinda" (NBC, 1958) and "Little Moon of Alban" (NBC, 1958), he made his feature debut in "Stage Struck" (1958), Sidney Lumet's remake of Zoe Akins' 1933 stage play, "Morning Glory." In an attempt to settle down, Plummer married actress Tammy Grimes in 1956 and a year later had his only child, Amanda Plummer, who grew up to become a notable actress in her own right with performances in "Agnes of God" (1985) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994). After divorcing Grimes following four years of marriage, he portrayed Mercutio in a Shakespeare Festival production of "Romeo and Juliet" (1960). Making his London debut, he portrayed King Henry II in "Becket" (1961), which earned him the London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor. After playing Christian in a production of "Cyrano de Bergerac," Plummer reprised "Hamlet" for a televised production marking the 400th birthday of Shakespeare in 1964. Widely hailed by critics, his sterling performance marked a significant breakthrough for the young actor.
Following a strong portrayal of the reckless emperor Commodus in "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964), Plummer had his greatest success on the big screen with his performance as the aloof widow Captain Georg Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" (1965). Starring Julie Andrews as a young nun sent by her convent to be a governess for the numerous Von Trapp children, only to fall in love with the captain, "The Sound of Music" was a monster hit, an Oscar winner and the last of the old-fashioned Hollywood movies before the more experimental films of the late-1960s and early-1970s. Though his performance was exquisite as usual, Plummer's singing left something to be desired - at least compared to Andrews - which led director Robert Wise to overdub his voice. He next starred in "Inside Daisy Clover" (1966), a critically panned drama about a tomboy-turned-starlet (Natalie Wood) who reaches stardom in Hollywood, only to suffer a mental breakdown. Plummer made a cameo appearance as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in "The Night of the Generals" (1967), which he followed with a starring turn as the titular "Oedipus the King" (1968).
In the Cold War-era spy thriller, "The High Commissioner" (1968), Plummer starred as a corrupt Australian diplomat wanted for a 25-year-old murder who falls under the uneasy protection of a detective (Rod Taylor) after he becomes targeted for assassination. He next joined an all-star cast as a Canadian fighter pilot in the World War II epic, "Battle of Britain" (1969), starring Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Robert Shaw and Trevor Howard. Plummer had something of a setback with his next film, "Lock Up Your Daughters!" (1969), in which he played the fastidious judge Lord Foppington, who hears the case of three sailors and their lascivious adventures that landed them in jail while on shore leave. Plummer entered the 1970s a heavy drinker - all in good fun, of course - and went from one mediocre role to another with the occasional triumph thrown in. After portraying the determined Duke of Wellington opposite Rod Steiger's Napoleon Bonaparte in "Waterloo" (1970), he wallowed in the supernatural thriller, "The Pyx" (1973), also known as "The Hooker Cult Murders." Back on Broadway, Plummer delivered a sterling performance in the title role of "Cyrano," which earned him a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance as well as a Tony Award for Leading Actor in a Musical.
Plummer parlayed his continued onstage success to the big screen with a strong portrayal of British author Rudyard Kipling in John Huston's "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975). In "The Return of the Pink Panther" (1975), he filled in for David Niven as Sir Charles Lytton, also known as the Phantom, who once again steals the fabled Pink Panther diamond. Returning to television, Plummer earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for "Arthur Hailey's 'The Moneychangers'" (NBC, 1976), an epic drama about two powerful bankers (Plummer and Kirk Douglas) who engage in fraud and corruption while the surrounding inner city crumbles and decays around them. He next co-starred in the controversial, but highly-rated television miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth" (NBC, 1977), in which he played Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great (Peter Ustinov) who was partly responsible for the deaths of both John the Baptist (Michael York) and Jesus (Robert Powell). Though he offered a superb performance in "International Velvet" (1978), critics largely shunned the mawkish sequel to the Elizabeth Taylor classic, "National Velvet" (1944).
After playing a psychopathic bank robber in "The Silent Partner" (1978) and co-starring opposite Harrison Ford in the woeful World War II romance "Hanover Street" (1979), Plummer rounded out the decade playing Sherlock Holmes to James Mason's Dr. Watson in "Murder by Decree" (1979), an uneven thriller that had the famed duo investigating the notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper. He next co-starred opposite Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in the romantic fantasy-later turned-cult favorite, "Somewhere in Time" (1980), which he followed with an appearance in "The Shadow Box" (ABC, 1980), starring Joanne Woodward and directed by Paul Newman. Following forgotten television movies like "Dial M for Murder" (NBC, 1981) and "When the Circus Came to Town" (CBS, 1981), as well as the mystery thriller "Eyewitness" (1981), Plummer delivered a stunning performance as Iago opposite James Earl Jones in "Othello" (1982), which famed Broadway critic Walter Kerr deemed "quite possibly the best Shakespearean performance to have originated on this continent in our time." He next portrayed Archbishop di Contini-Verchese, friend and mentor to the young, conflicted Father Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain) in the acclaimed four-part miniseries, "The Thorn Birds" (ABC, 1983).
Though he never lacked for work, Plummer was challenged to find higher-quality projects as he got older. He appeared in many forgettable films, often elevating the material more than it deserved to be, including the sci-fi thriller "Dreamscape" (1984), the botched adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Ordeal By Innocence" (1985), the easily dismissed biopic of sculling champ Ned Hanlan (Nicolas Cage), "The Boy in Blue" (1986), and the abhorrent "I Love N.Y." (1987), allegedly directed by celebrity photographer Gianni Bozzacchi, who credited himself as the anonymous Alan Smithee. Though he occasionally appeared in enjoyably hammy roles, as he did in "Dragnet" (1987), Plummer struggled throughout the rest of the decade to find suitable material for his unparalleled talents. Once again, he found solace on the stage, touring the United States in the title role of "Macbeth" (1988), though he returned from the role to star in the abysmal espionage thriller "Mindfield" (1989). It soon became clear that his luck would fail to change in the early part of the 1990s, which started with the actor playing a homeless magician named Shitty in John Boorman's misfire domestic comedy, "Where the Heart Is" (1990).
In his first regular series role, Plummer portrayed Alexander Addington, an international businessman who vows to combat terrorism after his wife is kidnapped, in "Counterstrike" (CTV/USA Network, 1990-93). While on the show, he reunited with old friend William Shatner for "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991), playing Chang, a one-eyed Klingon trying to forge peace with the Federation. Following a small role as a chaplain in Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" (1992), he starred opposite Jason Robards, Jr. in a Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land" (1994). Plummer soon found himself landing a better slate of films, including the gloomy drama "Dolores Claiborne" (1995) and Terry Gilliam's excellent "12 Monkeys" (1995). He also had a string of made-for-cable films like "Kurt Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron'" (Showtime, 1995), "We the Jury" (USA Network, 1996) and "Skeletons" (HBO, 1997). But despite a strong presence onscreen, Plummer's reputation was still reliant on his outstanding stage work, which culminated in a sterling performance in "Barrymore" (1997) as the legendary actor and sot John Barrymore. Though reluctant at first to tackle the part, Plummer gave it his all and earned his second career Tony Award for Leading Actor in a Play.
Because of his acclaimed Tony Award-winning performance, Plummer found the doors to more serious dramatic roles swung wide open. After playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in "Winchell" (HBO, 1998), he delivered a dead-on performance as "60 Minutes" journalist Mike Wallace in the controversial tobacco feature "The Insider" (1999), which starred Russell Crowe as a scientist for Brown and Williamson who blows the whistle on tobacco companies knowing the danger of their product. Though overshadowed by the award-caliber performances of Crowe and Al Pacino, who portrayed "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman, Plummer was nonetheless memorable as Wallace, particularly in a scene were he dressed down a corporate flunky played by Gina Gershon. After playing British prosecutor, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, in the two-part miniseries "Nuremberg" (TNT, 2000), he had a pivotal role as a psychiatrist treating schizophrenic mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe) in the Oscar-winning picture, "A Beautiful Mind" (2001). In 2002, Plummer was cast as David in the historical drama "Ararat," which he followed as Uncle Ralph to the title character in "Nicholas Nickleby" (2002), while co-starring opposite Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid in the supernatural thriller, "Cold Creek Manor" (2003).
In 2004, Plummer remained an in-demand supporting player, appearing as Aristotle in Oliver Stone's disappointing historical epic "Alexander" and as Nicolas Cage's grandfather - one of a long line of American treasure hunters - in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster, "National Treasure." Another Tony nomination, but no win, came his way after an awe-inspiriting performance as "King Lear" (2004) at the famed Lincoln Center Theater in New York. The following year was a busy one for the actor, which included an Emmy-nominated performance as the arrogant Cardinal Bernard Law in "Our Fathers" (HBO, 2005), which focused on the sexual abuse cases that plagued the archdiocese of Boston in 2002. After a turn as Diane Lane's father in the romantic comedy misfire "Must Love Dogs" (2005), Plummer was an influential, seemingly untouchable managing partner of a law firm overseeing the dubious merger of two oil companies in the complex political potboiler "Syriana" (2005). He next appeared in Terrance Malick's "The New World" (2005), a lyrical, but ultimately meandering take on the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and the ensuing love affair between Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and a young Native American girl, Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher).
Plummer next appeared in "The Lake House" (2006), an odd romantic drama about a doctor (Sandra Bullock) and an architecture school dropout (Keanu Reeves) who live in the same house but two years apart and fall in love via letters exchanged through a mysterious mailbox that bridges time. He teamed up again with Spike Lee for the director's impressive genre piece, "Inside Man" (2006), playing the founder of a bank who calls in a well-connected fixer (Jodie Foster) for the rich and powerful to keep quiet a secret buried inside a safe deposit box, while his employees are held hostage by a master thief (Clive Owen) battling a negotiator (Denzel Washington) in an effort to pull off the perfect heist. After a supporting role in the low-budget teen comedy, "Man in the Chair" (2007), Plummer earned his seventh Tony Award nomination for his Broadway performance as Henry Drummond in "Inherit the Wind" (2007). Turning to animated features, he voiced the villain Charles Muntz, who does battle with a 78-year-old balloon salesman (Ed Asner) in the jungles of South America, in Pixar's "Up" (2009). In "The Last Station" (2009), he delivered a stirring portrayal of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy during his last tumultuous years, in which the author struggled to reconcile his vow of poverty with his enormous wealth. Plummer earned Golden Globe, Independent Spirit, and Screen Actors Guild for Best Supporting Actor. On 26 February 2012 Christopher Plummer won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in "Beginners". He may be the oldest Oscar winner ever but he's not showing any signs of slowing down. The 82-year-old came on stage to accept his best supporting actor award and stared at the statue before remarking on how great it looked. "You're only two years older than me darling, where have you been all of my life?" Plummer asked. Backstage, Plummer told reporters of the recognition he's received recently, "it's sort of a renewal, it has recharged me. I hope I can do it for another 10 years at least".
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer on December 13, 1929 in Toronto, Ontario, CA
Daughter: Amanda Plummer. Born March 23, 1957; mother, Tammy Grimes
Father: John Plummer. Worked at McGill University; divorced Plummer s mother in 1929
Mother: Isabella Mary Plummer. Granddaughter of Canadian Prime Minister John Abbott; divorced Plummer s father in 1929
Wife: Elaine Taylor. Married since 1970
(Elaine Taylor Biography)
Wife: Patricia Audrey Lewis. Married from 1962-1967
Wife: Tammy Grimes. Married from 1956-1960
Jennings Private School
1948 Stage debut in Cymbeline at Canadian Repertory Theatre, Ottawa
1951 TV debut in CBC production of Othello
1954 Broadway debut in The Starcross Story starring Katherine Cornell
1955 Delivered a compelling performance as the Earl of Warwick in Anouilh s The Lark opposite Julie Harris
1955 Starred opposite Judith Anderson in a Paris production of Medea
1956 Portrayed title role in Henry V at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada
1958 Made film debut in Sidney Lumet s Stage Struck
1961 London stage debut in Becket
1965 Most memorable film appearance as Baron Von Trapp opposite Julie Andrews Maria in The Sound of Music
1968 Portrayed title role in feature Oedipus the King
1973 Conceived and directed Lovers and Madmen, an evening of Shakespearean love themes for Zoe Caldwell and himself
1974 Won a Tony Award for his performance in Cyrano
1976 Delivered Emmy-winning performance in Arthur Hailey s The Moneychangers (NBC)
1979 Played Sherlock Holmes in the feature film Murder by Decree
1980 Appeared in award-winning telefilm The Shadow Box (ABC), directed by Paul Newman and co-starring Joanne Woodward
1986 Provided voice of Henri for the animated feature An American Tail
1988 Toured the U.S. in title role of Macbeth
1990 Starred in TV series Counterstrike on USA Network
1994 Acted opposite Jason Robards Jr. in revival of Harold Pinter s No Man s Land on Broadway
1997 Returned to Broadway in the one-man show Barrymore, about the actor John Barrymore
1999 Portrayed TV journalist Mike Wallace in The Insider, a film about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe)
2001 Had pivotal role as a psychiatrist treating schizophrenic mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe) in A Beautiful Mind
2002 Co-starred in the historical drama feature Ararat
2004 Cast as Aristotle in Oliver Stone s Alexander
2004 Returned to the stage for a production of King Lear at Lincoln Center s Beaumont theater; received a Tony nomination for his performance
2005 Earned Emmy and SAG nominations for his portrayal of Boston s controversial Cardinal Bernard Law in Showtime s Our Fathers
2005 Starred in the geopolitical thriller Syriana, based on the real-life memoirs of CIA agent Robert Baer; produced by George Clooney
2006 Co-starred with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen in the Spike Lee directed hostage drama Inside Man
2007 Returned to Broadway as Henry Drummond in a revival of Inherit the Wind ; earned seventh Tony nomination
2009 Cast in the title role of Terry Gilliam s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
2009 Lent his voice to the feature-length adaptation of Shane Acker s short film 9
2009 Nominated for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role ( The Last Station )
2009 Nominated for the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture ( The Last Station )
2009 Nominated for the 2009 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male ( The Last Station )
2009 Nominated for the 2009 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role ( The Last Station )
2009 Portrayed Leo Tolstoy in the German biographical film The Last Station ; earned Independent Spirit, Golden Globe, SAG and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor
2009 Voiced the villain in the Pixar animated film Up
Worked extensively in live TV during the 1950s on shows like Kraft Television Theatre and Producers Showcase (both NBC) and Appointment with Adventure (CBS)
Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer, actor (b at Toronto 13 Dec 1929). Christopher Plummer, a great-grandson of Prime Minister Sir John ABBOTT, is an international star who has worked widely in the US, Britain and Canada. Raised and educated in Montréal, Plummer apprenticed with the Montréal Repertory Theatre and made his professional debut in 1948 with Ottawa's Stage Society, performing over 100 roles with its successor, the Canadian Repertory Theatre. Performances in Bermuda led to a US tour of Nina (1953) and Broadway recognition in The Starcross Story (1954), The Lark (1955) and as Marc Antony in the American Shakespeare Festival's 1955 inaugural season.
Other notable New York City engagements included The Dark Is Light Enough (1955); the devil in J.B. (1958); Arturo Ui (1963); Pizarro in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1965); The Good Doctor (1971); the title roles in the musical Cyrano (1973) and the drama Barrymore (1996-98), both of which garnered him Tony Awards; Iago in Othello (1981-82) and Macbeth with Glenda Jackson (1988); Pinter's No Man's Land (1995) with Jason Robards, Jr; and King Lear (2004). In 2007 he appeared in Inherit the Wind and was nominated a seventh time for a Tony Award.
In 1961 Plummer appeared at Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, as Richard III while alternating in London as Henry II in Becket (winning the Evening Standard Award). He continued his British career at the National Theatre in revivals of Amphitryon 38 and Danton's Death in 1971 and The Scarlet Pimpernel at Chichester in 1985. His first King Lear was directed by Sir Peter Hall in 2001.
Between 1956 and 1967 he starred at Canada's STRATFORD FESTIVAL playing Henry V, Hamlet, Andrew Aguecheek, Mercutio, Leontes, Macbeth, Cyrano de Bergerac and Marc Antony, as well as other roles. He returned 26 years later on 13 July 1993 to help the festival celebrate its exact 40th anniversary day with a gala one-man show entitled A Word or Two, Before You Go. Barrymore made its 1996 Canadian debut at Stratford and Plummer's King Lear was seen in 2002. He played Caesar in the Stratford Festival's Caesar and Cleopatra, which was also filmed for television in 2009.
Among his more than 100 feature films are Stage Struck (1958), The Sound of Music (1965), Inside Daisy Clover (1966), Oedipus the King (1967), Lock Up Your Daughters! (1969), Waterloo (1970), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Silent Partner (1978), Murder by Decree (GENIE Award, 1979), Dreamscape (1984), The Boy in Blue (1986), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Wolf (1994), Dolores Claiborne (1995), 12 Monkeys (1996), The Clown at Midnight, Hidden Agenda and Blackheart (all 1998), and the part of TV personality Mike Wallace in The Insider (1999), for which he won the Boston, Los Angeles and National Film Critics’ awards. He appeared in Ron Howard's award-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001), Atom EGOYAN's ARARAT (2002), and Oliver Stone's Alexander (2004), in which he played Aristotle. Other film appearances include Must Love Dogs with Diane Lane, Syriana with George Clooney, and New World, all in 2005; Inside Man and The Lake House in 2006; and Man in the Chair, Closing the Ring, and Already Dead in 2007. Christopher Plummer played Doctor Parnassus in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009).
His work on television is equally extensive. Highlights include Little Moon of Alban (1958) and Hamlet at Elsinore (BBC 1965), both nominated for Emmy Awards; The Money Changers (Emmy Award 1977); Sir John A. Macdonald in Riel (CBC 1979); Spearfield's Daughter (1986); The Young Catherine (Primedia 1991); the made-in-Canada series Counterstrike (1991-93); and Nuremberg (2000), filmed in Montréal. In 2005 he was seen in Four Minutes, the story of Roger Bannister's breaking of the mile-run record, and as Cardinal Law in Our Fathers, an indictment of the Catholic Church's sexual scandals.
Plummer is also a skilled narrator whose voice has been heard on everything from cartoons to the soundtrack for the 1994 Barnes Art Exhibit in Toronto. He has recorded several books for young people, including Alice in Wonderland and Mordecai RICHLER's Jacob Two-Two. An accomplished pianist, he has branched out musically to narrate concert versions of Henry V (with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1992-93), Peer Gynt (1995) and Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible (1996). Other platform presentations have included a solo evening with Stephen Leacock as well as Love and Master Will, Shakespeare's verse in tandem with actress Zoë CALDWELL. His was the voice of the villainous Charles Muntz in Up (2009), which won an Academy Award for best animated film.
Christopher Plummer, who became a Companion of the ORDER OF CANADA in 1968, has received many honours and awards for his work. In 1986 he was inducted into the American Theatre's Hall of Fame and in 1997 into Canada's Walk of Fame. The National Arts Club of America awarded Plummer its gold medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1999). In 2001 he was made an honorary doctor of fine arts at New York's Juilliard School and received the Canadian Governor-General's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002 he was the first performer to be presented with the Jason Robards Award for Excellence in the Theatre. The New York Times has hailed Christopher Plummer as "the finest classical actor in America."
His daughter, Amanda Plummer (b 23 March 1957), has also had a successful acting career with roles in the films The Fisher King (1991) and Pulp Fiction (1994), and in The Lark (2005) at Canada's Stratford Festival.
From: Garner, David. "Plummer, Arthur Christopher Orme." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica-Dominion Institute, 2011.
Until the 2009 Academy Awards were announced, it could be said about Christopher Plummer that he was arguably the finest actor of the post-World War II period to fail to get an Oscar nod. In that, he was following in the footsteps of the late great John Barrymore, whom Plummer so memorably portrayed on Broadway in a one-man show that brought him a Tony Award.
Aside from the youngest member of the Barrymore siblings (which counted Ethel Barrymore and 'Lionel Barrymore' in their number), Christopher Plummer is the premier Shakespearean actor to come out of North America in the 20th century. He was particularly memorable as Hamlet, Iago and Lear, though his Macbeth opposite Glenda Jackson was -- and this was no surprise to him due to the famous curse attached to the "Scottish Play" -- a failure.
Plummer also has given many fine portrayals on film, particularly as he got older and settled down into a comfortable marriage with his third wife. Like another great stage actor, Richard Burton, the younger Plummer failed to connect with the screen. Dynamic on stage, the charisma failed to transfer through the lens onto celluloid. Burton's early film career, when he was a contract player at 20th Century-Fox, failed to ignite, despite his garnering two Oscar nominations early on. He did not become a star until the mid-1960s, after hooking up with Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra (1963). It was Liz who he credited with teaching him how to act on film, Burton said.
Christopher Plummer never made it as a leading man in films. He did not become a star, lacking that je ne said quoi that someone like a Gary Cooper or a Paul Newman had naturally. Perhaps if he had been born earlier (he made his debut in Toronto in 1929) into the studio system of Hollywood's golden age, he could have been carefully groomed for stardom. As it was, he shared the English stage actors' disdain -- and he was equally at home in London as he was on the boards of Broadway or on-stage in his native Canada -- for the movies, which did not help him in that medium, as he has confessed. As he aged, Plummer excelled at character parts. He was always a good villain, this man who garnered kudos playing Lucifer on Broadway in Archibald Macleish's Pulitzer Prize-winning "J.B."
Though he likely always be remembered as "Baron Von Trapp" in the atomic bomb-strength blockbuster The Sound of Music (1965) (a film he publicly despised until softening his stance in his 2008 autobiography "In Spite of Me"), his later film work includes such outstanding performances as the best cinema Sherlock Holmes--other than Basil Rathbone -- in Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack (1979), the chilling villain in The Silent Partner (1978), his iconoclastic Mike Wallace in The Insider (1999), the empathetic psychiatrist in A Beautiful Mind (2001), and as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009). It was this last role that finally brought him recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, when he was nominated as Best Actor in a supporting role.
Plummer remains one of the most respected and honored actors performing in the English language. He's won two Emmy Awards out of six nominations stretching 46 years from 1959 and 2005, and one Genie Award in five nominations from 1980 to 2004. For his stage work, Plummer has racked up two Tony Awards on six nominations, the first in 1974 as Best Actor (Musical) for the title role in "Cyrano" and the second in 1997, as Best Actor (Play), in "Barrymore".
Surprisingly, he did not win (though he was nominated) for his masterful 2004 performance of "King Lear", which he originated at the Stratford Festival in Ontario and brought down to Broadway for a sold-out run. His other Tony nominations show the wide range of his talent, from a 1959 nod for the Elia Kazan-directed production of Macleish's "J.B." to recognition in 1994 for Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land", with a 1982 Best Actor (Play) nomination for his "Iago" in William Shakespeare's "Othello".
He continues to be a very in-demand character actor in prestigious motion pictures. If he were English rather than Canadian (he is the great-grandson of Sir John Abbott, the third Prime Minister of Canada) he'd have been knighted long ago. (In 1968, he was a made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor and one which requires the approval of the sovereign). If he were an American, he might have been honored by the Kennedy Center. If he lived in the company town of Los Angeles, he likely would have several more Oscar nominations to go with the one for "The Last Station."
As it is, as attested to in his witty and well-written autobiography, Christopher Plummer has been amply rewarded in life. In 1970, Plummer - a self-confessed 43-year-old "bottle baby" - married his third wife, dancer Elaine Taylor (I), who helped wean him off his dependency on alcohol. They live happily with their dogs on a 30-acre estate in Weston, Connecticut and, although he spends the majority of his time in the United States, he remains a Canadian citizen.
"An actor should be a mystery," says Christopher Plummer. But these days actors must do publicity, he laments -- so the popular film and stage actor has agreed to answer numerous questions in a surprisingly candid, honest manner in this 1967 CBC-TV interview. He opens up about his reluctance to star in The Sound of Music, gives his opinion on why actors tend to drink heavily, criticizes Hollywood's "star system," and explains why he chose acting over a music career.
Elaine Taylor (2 October 1970 - present)
Patricia Lewis (4 May 1962 - 1967) (divorced)
Tammy Grimes (19 August 1956 - 1960) (divorced) 1 child
Father, with Tammy Grimes, of actress Amanda Plummer.
Awarded The Edwin Booth Lifetime Achievement Award by The Players, 1997.
He was awarded the C.C. (Companion of the Order of Canada) in the 1968 Queen's Honours List for his services to drama.
Grew up in the village of Senneville, Québec, Canada.
Is the great grandson of former Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Abbott.
On April 22 he was awarded the first Jason Robards Award for Excellence in Theatre by the Roundabout Theatre. His The Sound of Music (1965) co-star Julie Andrews was among those in attendance. [April 2002]
His first paying part was in "Machina Infernale" (The Infernal Machine) by Jean Cocteau, in which he worked with another young Montreal actor, William Shatner. The two were reunited years later when they both appeared in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).
He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Western Ontario on June 8, 2004.
Schoolmate of jazz piano master Oscar Peterson.
Has won two Tony Awards: in 1974, as Best Actor (Musical), playing the title role in "Cyrano," and in 1997, as Best Actor (Play), playing the title role of John Barrymore in "Barrymore." He has also been nominated for the Tony four other times: as Best Actor (Dramatic), in 1959 for "J.B.," and as Best Actor (Play), in 1982 for Shakespeare's "Othello," in 1994 for "No Man's Land," and in 2004 for Shakespeare's "King Lear."
He and his daughter Amanda Plummer both received Emmy nominations in 2005. She won, he didn't.
Trained to become a concert pianist before turning his attention to acting.
Was actually born on December 13, 1929, although most publications usually state his birthday as December 13, 1927.
Is only 13 years older than Charmian Carr who played his daughter in The Sound of Music (1965).
Invited to join to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences .
One of 115 people invited to join AMPAS in 2007.
Turned down the role of Gandalf in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and admits to regretting that decision.
(why he prefers playing evil characters) "The devil is more interesting than God."
Unless you can surround yourself with as many beautiful things as you can afford, I don't think life has very much meaning.
I'm bored with questions about acting.
[on Julie Andrews] Working with her is like being hit over the head with a Valentine's card.
Where Are They Now
(December 2002) Headlining "Royal Christmas" Tour in Mid-west/East-coast US and Ontario with Sound of Music Co-Star Julie Andrews, Charlotte Church; The Royal Philharmonic; Kiev, London and Bolshoi Ballets; and the Westminster Bell Choir and Westminster Concert Choir from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey.
(March 2004) Playing title character in Shakespeare's "King Lear" in the Lincoln Center Production. Through April 2004
(May 2007) Long time resident of Fairfield County's Weston, Connecticut.
(June 2008) Acting at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. Playing the role of Caesar in "Caesar and Cleopatra" a George Bernard Shaw play. From August 7 to Novemeber 9.
(2008) Release of his book, "In Spite of Myself: A Memoir".
(August 2010) Stratford Shakespeare Festival - as Prospero in The Tempest.
(2011) Barrymore the Play at Toronto's historic Elgin Theatre for 30 performances January 27th - March 9th, 2011.
(February 26, 2012) On 26 February 2012 Christopher Plummer won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his rol in "Beginners". He may be the oldest Oscar winner ever but he's not showing any signs of slowing down. The 82-year-old came on stage to accept his best supporting actor award and stared at the statue before remarking on how great it looked. "You're only two years older than me darling, where have you been all of my life?" Plummer asked. Backstage, Plummer told reporters of the recognition he's received recently, "it's sort of a renewal, it has recharged me. I hope I can do it for another 10 years at least".