Christopher Plummer, “Sound of Music” star, dies at 91

Christopher Plummer, “Sound of Music” star, dies at 91

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Christopher Plummer, the legendary stage actor whose career spanned more than seven decades and who played Captain von Trapp in the film “The Sound of Music,” has died, his manager confirmed. He was 91.

Plummer died in his home in Connecticut with his wife, Elaine, by his side, his talent agency said. The cause of death has not yet been announced. 

“Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self deprecating humor and the music of words,” his manager and longtime friend Lou Pitts said in a statement. “He was a National Treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come. He will forever be with us.”   

A veteran of the stage, Plummer became a household name in the 1965 megahit musical “The Sound of Music.” Despite the film’s runaway success and place in American film history, Plummer famously was never really a fan of it. In 2015, he told CBS News: “I’m so sick of hearing my own voice talking about it.”

“I just didn’t particularly think my role was the most exciting thing I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.  

Christopher Plummer poses for a portrait on July 25, 2013, in Beverly Hills, California.

Chris Pizzello

Plummer appeared in over 100 films over his 75-year career, but he didn’t win his first Oscar until 2012 at the age of 82, making him the oldest person to receive an Oscar in the history of the Academy Awards. He picked up the Oscar for the role of Hal Fields in “Beginners,” a role he told CBS “Sunday Morning” in 2011 was the freest he ever felt on camera.

In his Oscar acceptance speech, he said he had been practicing since he “first emerged from my mother’s womb.”

Born in Canada, Plummer was the great-grandson of a former Canadian prime minister. He began acting in his teens, and came to the U.S. in the early 1950s. His New York stage debut was in 1954 and legendary film director Sidney Lumet introduced him to the screen in 1958’s “Stage Struck.”

He met the actress Elaine Taylor in the late 1960s, and she became his third wife. Their marriage lasted over 50 years, something he called a “record-breaker” in Hollywood.

By the time he starred in “The Sound of Music,” he had appeared in 1964’s “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” and had numerous stage credits under his belt. He had also started working in television and earned an Emmy nomination for his role as Hamlet in the 1964 TV movie “Hamlet at Elsinore.” 

But “The Sound of Music,” which filmed in Salzburg, Austria, was something else entirely. He said in 2015 that he thought he’d “like to be in a musical,” and he later praised director Robert Wise and costar Julie Andrews. He was known as a “bad boy” on set, and he famously called the film “The Sound of Mucus.” 

Despite his personal dislike of the film, “The Sound of Music” was a runaway international success, and it set his career on a successful path. Plummer’s notable film roles included Rudyard Kipling in 1975’s “The Man Who Would Be King,” Chang in “Star Trek IV,” a doctor in the in 1995’s “12 Monkeys” and Mike Wallace in the 1999 film “The Insider.” He provided his voice in the 1986 animated musical “An American Tail.” 

Plummer continued to perform on stage as well. He won his first Tony in 1974 for the musical “Cyrano” and he won again in 1997 for “Barrymore.” He had seven nominations, including one in 2004 for “King Lear” and in 2007 for playing Clarence Darrow in “Inherit the Wind.” 

From 2011: Christopher Plummer, in his prime


He had nearly 100 TV roles as well, including in the 1980s mini-series “The Thornbirds” and “Crossings.”

Plummer earned his first Oscar nomination in 2010 for “The Last Station.” He continued acting throughout his 80s, with notable roles in “Up,” “Beginners,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “Danny Collins.” He replaced Kevin Spacey in Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World,” which had already been completed, filming all his scenes in just nine days. His last movie appearance was in the Oscar-nominated “Knives Out.” 

He told CBS News in 2015 that retirement was not an option.

“Retirement is just not possible…If I slow down now, I’ll die. I’ll drop dead,” he said.  

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