Christopher Plummer

Active - 1990s - 2016  |   Born - Dec 13, 1929 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada  |   Genres - Drama, Children's/Family, History [nf], Thriller, Romance

Share on

From his 1950 debut onward, Christopher Plummer has been regarded as one of the most brilliant Canadian actors of his generation. His portrayal of Hamlet was a major ratings coup when telecast over the CBC in the early '60s. Following his first Broadway appearance in 1954 (among his New York stage credits are JB, Royal Hunt of the Sun and The Good Doctor), efforts were made to convert Plummer into an American matinee idol, most of these attempts were resisted by Plummer himself. His first two films, Stage Struck (1957) and Wind Across the Everglades (1958), set no new box office records, although the latter, directed by Nicholas Ray, did earn strong critical notices. Plummer was shown to better advantage in such live network-TV presentations as The Prisoner of Zenda and A Doll's House.

In 1965, the actor was cast as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, an assignment he despised, reportedly referring to the musical blockbuster as The Sound of Mucus. Nonetheless, and as Plummer has ruefully noted on many occasions, this one film did more to make the actor bankable in Hollywood than any previous effort. He went on to do steady, if varied, work throughout the rest of the century. Among Plummer's more notable films were The Return of the Pink Panther (1974), the British Empire extravaganza The Man W ho Would Be King (1975), 1979's Murder by Decree (in which he starred as Sherlock Holmes), Somewhere in Time (1980), the legendary 1983 miniseries The Thorn Birds, 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and 1995's Dolores Claiborne and Twelve Monkeys. In 1999, Plummer received some of the strongest notices of his career for his uncannily accurate portrayal of 60 Minutes anchor Mike Wallace in Michael Mann's The Insider. Throughout his long career, the actor has won many awards, including Tonys for the musical Cyrano and the one-man stage show Barrymore, and an Emmy for his work in the TV miniseries The Moneychangers. Genie nominated for performances in the films Ararat and Blizzard in 2002 and 2003 respectively, Plummer and his daughter Amanda were both nominated for Emmy awards for their television performances in 2005. Though the father would ultimately walk away empty-handed, the award would stay in the family when Amanda was bestowed the honor for her memorable guest appearance in an episode of Law and Order: Special Victim's Unit. With roles in such high profile theatrical releases including The New World, Inside Man, and The Lake House keeping Plummer very much in the spotlight, it was obvious that his talent and passion for acting were still as strong as ever.

2009 turned out to be one of his busiest and most successful years in a very long time. In addition to appearing in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Plummer voiced the bad guy in Pixar's mega hit Up, and portrayed the legendary author Leo Tolstoy in Michael Hoffman's The Last Station. His work in that film, opposite Helen Mirren, earned the Canadian his first Academy Award nomination, as well as nods from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, and the Independent Spirit Awards.

He followed up and improved on that awards success in 2011 with his role as a senior citizen who comes out of the closet in Beginners. That performance garnered him the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Supporting Actor, as well as an Oscar in that same category. He also scored a box-office success as the head of the feuding Vanger clan in David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Talent seems to run in Plummer's family: he and first wife, actress Tammy Grimes, are the parents of acclaimed actress Amanda Plummer.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography

Factsheet

  • Is the great-grandson of former Canadian prime minister Sir John Abbott.
  • Considered a career as a concert pianist before turning to acting.
  • In 1954, made his Broadway debut in Star Cross Story.
  • In the final cut of The Sound of Music (1965), the singing vocals he recorded were dubbed by another singer.
  • Was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor, by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968.
  • The American Theater Critics Association inducted him into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1986.
  • Portrayed actor John Barrymore in the one-person play Barrymore at the Stratford Theatre Festival in Ontario, Canada, in 1996. He won a Tony for the performance on Broadway in 1997, and then reprised the role in 2011, first in Toronto and then on a North American tour.
  • Reunited with Julie Andrews, his costar in The Sound of Music, for CBS's live presentation of On Golden Pond in 2001. 
  • Is the author of In Spite of Myself: A Memoir (2008).
  • Appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show with his Sound of Music castmates in an October 2010 episode devoted to the film.
  • Calls theater his favorite venue for acting.