Christopher Plummer, the Oscar-winning acting legend whose storied career encompassed stage, television and film, and who was perhaps best-known for portraying Capt. Georg von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” has died.
Plummer died “quite peacefully” at his home in Connecticut Friday morning after suffering a fall two and a half weeks ago, said his wife, English actress Elaine Plummer. He was 91.
“It’s so sad but he had a great life,” she told The Canadian Press by phone. “He had a fall, unfortunately. He hit his head against my car and he was taken to the hospital. They repaired the leaks and he came home, but it was a really horrible accident.”
“He fought the good fight,” she added. “But eventually I think he thought … ‘Exit stage right.”’ The star was supposed to start working on a “King Lear” film with Ontario-raised director Des McAnuff, she said.
Recently he starred in the Toronto-shot television series “Departure,” which began production on its second season last fall, with Plummer shooting scenes from his home, taking COVID-19 precautions.
Gordon Pinsent, a veteran Canadian actor of the same generation, said Plummer’s “likeability” was unflagging, as was his drive to continue performing into his twilight years.
“It must have seemed very much like a game at this stage in his life to continue adding yet another accomplishment,” said Pinsent, a Stratford Festival colleague of Plummer’s.
“He wanted to cover the entire baseball diamond of show business.”
Pinsent said Plummer gave the impression that “the road is wide and the work is plentiful” for veteran actors.
“(It was) certainly enough to keep him busy for as long as he wanted,” he added.
“He simply would continue to turn out the good ones, and boy he did.”
The actor went through a particularly fertile creative period in his golden years, receiving his first Academy Award at age 82 for his supporting turn as a widower who embraces life as a gay man in “Beginners.” The trophy made him the oldest-ever Oscar winner in an acting category.
“You’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all my life?” Plummer said as he accepted the statuette in 2012.
The Oscar came just two years after Plummer received his first Academy Award nomination for playing Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station.”
He also received a nomination in the supporting actor category in 2018 for “All The Money In the World,” a mere month after he’d replaced Kevin Spacey as billionaire J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s biographical drama. Spacey was abruptly cut from the film in the wake of sexual assault allegations.
The “All the Money in the World” situation made Plummer a social media sensation, with fans heralding him for stepping in at the last minute.
The more mature he got, the more the scripts improved and the more he learned about his craft, said Plummer, who scoffed at the word “retire.”
“If you love your work, which I do – and I’ve grown to love it more and more as I get older and realize that I’ve got to cram a lot in before I croak – I wouldn’t think of stopping,” Plummer told The Canadian Press in December 2010.
His other memorable roles include industrialist Henrik Vanger in 2011′s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and the patriarch in the 2019 murder mystery “Knives Out.”
“You’ve got to keep going,” he told The Canadian Press in February 2010 when asked about his busy schedule. “I’m very happy that I seem to be getting more work as I get older. I seem to be doing more than less, which is fabulous, because it keeps one young.”
The “celebrity” portion of his job, however, was not something he enjoyed. Plummer’s first trip to the Oscars was in 2010.
“I don’t like going unless one is up for an award. Why would one put oneself through that agony?” he asked.
“I’m not crazy about (the fanfare). It’s a business you know, it’s a flesh-peddling business, and I don’t always like the feeling on the red carpet. You feel like you’re pushing yourself, which I don’t do.”
And yet, he seemed to revel in the moment as he received an armful of trophies for his role in “Beginners,” culminating in the Oscar.
“I have a confession to make. When I first emerged from my mother’s womb, I was already rehearsing my Academy thank-you speech,” he said onstage at the awards show. “But it was so long ago, mercifully for you I’ve forgotten it. But I haven’t forgotten who to thank.”
He went on to express gratitude to his family, his fellow nominees, “Beginners” director Mike Mills and co-star Ewan McGregor.
In addition to the Oscar, Plummer was a companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He also won two Tonys, two Emmys and a Genie.
For all of his success, the on-set nerves never went away, he admitted.
“I usually walk on terrified that I’m going to not make it through the first take,” Plummer told The Canadian Press in January 2020.
“Without jitters, you’re no good, you’d be terrible. They supply all sorts of different colours.”
With files from Victoria Ahearn and David Friend