Christopher Plummer portrayed the greats of Shakespearean theatre, but his seemingly effortless craftwork as a thespian was introduced to most audiences through characters he played on the silver screen.
Whether it was starring alongside Sean Connery and Michael Caine in the Hollywood epic The Man Who Would Be King or donning Klingon makeup for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, no role was outside Plummer’s abilities.
He could even raise C-movies to a B-movie level, which he did as an intergalactic emperor in 1978’s Starcrash, a rip-off of Star Wars that he admittedly took for the free flight to Italy.
Here are six cinematic roles Plummer made all his own:
Sound of Music (1966)
After a run of small parts on television, Plummer became a household name in one of the greatest cinematic musicals of all time. He stars as Capt. Georg von Trapp, a retired naval officer and widower whose cold and guarded nature is softened by a young woman hired to care for his seven children. Julie Andrews is the free-spirited Maria, who leaves an Austrian convent to take the job and charm the stoic Captain. The role made Plummer a heartthrob, even though his voice on “Edelweiss” and other songs was overdubbed by playback singer Bill Lee, who usually carried the tune of animated Disney characters.
The Silent Partner (1978)
Plummer dialled up his performance a couple of notches to play an unhinged villain in this riveting Toronto-set thriller. A bank teller (Elliott Gould) learns he’s about to be robbed by a thief disguised as a mall Santa (Plummer). But instead of handing over the money, he turns the tables on the crook by pocketing the cash for himself. It kicks off a suspenseful cat-and-mouse chase with Plummer veering dangerously close to camp. The Silent Partner was filmed inside Toronto’s Eaton Centre during its first years of business, and features a young John Candy as an obnoxiously chatty bank employee.
Atom Egoyan’s drama centres on a young man who lands in Toronto with plans to work on a film about the 1915 genocide committed against the Armenian people by Ottoman Turks. He’s detained by a customs official, played by Plummer, who is finishing his last day on the job and believes the traveller is smuggling drugs into Canada. Plummer’s scenes capture his ability to take on a deeply nuanced character in the barest of settings.
Plummer won a Golden Globe and Academy Award for his gently sympathetic performance as a gay man who comes out to his family at 75 years old, shortly after the death of his wife. Ewan McGregor plays his son, who shares the joys and pains that come with the revelation, coupled with learning that his father, too, is dying.
All the Money in the World (2017)
Stoking controversy and winning awards, Plummer stepped into the role of billionaire J. Paul Getty, replacing Kevin Spacey in scenes that were filmed before sexual assault allegations derailed Spacey’s acting career. Over the course of 10 days, Plummer reshot scenes with director Ridley Scott, and he went on to garner his third Oscar nomination.
Knives Out (2019)
Somebody has killed acclaimed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) on his 85th birthday, and a sharp police detective (Daniel Craig) has rounded up all the suspects to find the guilty party. Rian Johnson’s murder-mystery is a spunky ensemble affair with Plummer bringing a heightened level of prestige to a cast of major Hollywood stars.