Canadian screen and stage legend Christopher Plummer dies at age 91

By Zach Harper

Beloved Canadian star Christopher Plummer, best known for his role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, has died at age 91.

The Toronto-born actor passed on Feb. 5 at his home in Connecticut, reports say. Actress Elaine Taylor, his wife of more than 50 years, was reportedly by his side at the time.

"Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashioned manners, self-deprecating humour and the music of words," his manager Lou Pitt 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."

In an interview with The Canadian Press after the news broke, Elaine said her husband had sadly passed away after suffering a fall a few weeks ago.

"It's so sad, but he had a great life," she said. "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 continued. "But eventually I think he thought... 'Exit stage right.'"

Julie and Chris in a scene from The Sound of Music. Photo: © Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Stars from Hollywood to the stage were quick to pay tribute to the incomparable, versatile actor.

"The world has lost a consummate actor today and I have lost a cherished friend," Julie Andrews, his Sound of Music co-star, said in a statement. "I treasure the memories of our work together and all the humour and fun we shared through the years."

"We're saddened to hear of Christopher Plummer's passing," the official Sound of Music account tweeted. "His legacy as our Captain will live on in THE SOUND OF MUSIC forever. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this time."

"Deeply saddened to hear of Chris Plummer's passing," Kym Karath, who played Gretl in The Sound of Music, tweeted. "He was a lovely, brilliantly talented man, with a wickedly witty sense of humour. And he was extremely sweet to me. I will miss him."

"Christopher Plummer was our North Star," Antoni Cimolino, the artistic director of the Stratford Festival, said in a tweet shared by the annual event. "His support for Stratford was unparalleled as he returned time and again to fondly rejoin his company of players. We shall not look upon his like again."

"This is truly heartbreaking," Chris Evans, who worked with the elder Christopher on Knives Out, tweeted. "One of my favourite memories from Knives out was playing piano together in the Thrombey house between set ups. He was a lovely man and a legendary talent."

Ana de Armas, who starred with the legend in Knives Out, took to Instagram to express her sadness and shared some lovely photos of her and the Oscar-winner on set.

"How lucky I was having you next to me in what's been one of the best experiences of my career," she wrote. "Thank you always for your laughter, your warmth, your talent... your patience, your partnership and your company. I will always think of you with love and admiration."

"The Sound of Music is a sad one today as Christopher Plummer has left us today," George Takei, who starred with Chris in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, tweeted.

Chris, who was the descendant of Canadian Prime Minister John Abbott on his mother's side, spent his childhood in Quebec. He didn't intentionally have designs on a film career, since he studied piano in his childhood and wanted to play professionally. But in high school, he decided to pursue acting as a career instead after seeing Sir Laurence Olivier in Shakespeare's Henry V.

Chris backstage before performing in a Broadway play in 1955. Photo: © Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

He quickly acquired acclaim after starring in a school production of Pride and Prejudice, in which he played the misunderstood Mr. Darcy. He landed more stage roles very fast, starring as Oedipus in Jean Cocteau's La Machine infernale when he was only 18 years old.

Chris became known to audiences across Canada when he starred in a CBC production of Othello in 1953. That same year, he branched out into Broadway appearing as the understudy in The Dark is Light Enough. He went on to work with stage and film directing legend Elia Kazan in J.B., for which received his first Tony Award nomination

His critical acclaim in the theatre world continued when he landed roles in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, The Tempest and Henry V, the latter of which saw him debut at Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 1956

That same year, he married his first wife, actress Tammy Grimes. The two had a daughter, Amanda Plummer, who went on to become an actress herself, winning a Tony Award for Agnes of God in 1982. Chris and Tammy divorced four years after marrying, and he later wed journalist Patricia Lewis in 1962. Their marriage lasted until 1967. Four years later, Chris married actress Elaine, and their relationship lasted for the rest of his life.

Chris with Elaine Taylor in 1971. Photo: © Dove/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In 1958, Chris moved into film, starring in Stage Struck, and receiving an Emmy Award nomination for his work in TV drama Little Moon of Alban. But it was 1965's film adaptation of the stage musical The Sound of Music which made him a legend. Chris completely captivated audiences of all ages starring as Captain Georg Von Trapp, a stern father of seven children who falls in love with Maria (Dame Julie Andrews), their governess who teaches the entire family how to have fun.

Chris with Julie and the cast of The Sound of Music in a publicity photo released around the time as the film. Photo: © Bettmann/Getty Images

The movie was a massive box office success, going on to become the highest-grossing film of all time during that period. It received five Oscars and turned made Chris a household name. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn't know the words of "Edelweiss" by heart.

Chris's acting success continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s, though he focused a bit more on the stage in the early half of the latter decade. He further endeared himself to Hollywood and audiences with appearances in The Return of the Pink Panther alongside Peter Sellers in 1975 and Murder by Decree in 1979, in which he played Sherlock Holmes. Roles in thrillers such as Dolores Claiborne, 12 Monkeys, The Insider and A Beautiful Mind took up most of his time in the 1990s and early 2000s.

His work in a stage production of King Lear in the early 2000s saw him nominated for a Tory Award, and he continued to star in stage productions throughout that decade, making appearances at Stratford in George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra in 2008 and The Tempest in 2010.

Chris accepting his Oscar for Beginners in 2012. Photo: © Kevin Winter/Getty Images

That same year, he finally received an Oscar nomination for his work in The Last Station, in which he played legendary Russian author Leo Tolstoy. He didn't win, but later struck Oscar gold with his role in Beginners in 2012. In it, he starred alongside Ewan McGregor, playing an older man who realizes he is gay. His Best Supporting Actor win at age 82 made him the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar.

Most recently, he had thrilled audiences with his work in the whodunit Knives Out. The film, in which he starred with Daniel Craig and Chris Evans, achieved critical acclaim and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019.

At the time of his death, Chris was due to work on a film adaptation of King Lear, Elaine told The Canadian Press.

Don't miss a beat with HELLO! Canada's Daily Hits newsletter, your daily dose of royal and celebrity news, fashion, weddings and more. CLICK HERE to sign up for free!