Christopher Plummer - The Man, The Myth, The Legend

On February, 5th this year we lost Academy Award winner, Christopher Plummer. He was 91 years old when he died peacefully at his home in Connecticut, beside his wife and partner of 53 years, Elaine Taylor. Born in Canada, Plummer spoke French fluently and became an actor early on. Starring in lead Shakespearean roles, Plummer made a name for himself through the 50s on Broadway but gained worldwide recognition for his role as the affable Capt Georg Von Trapp in the acclaimed movie The Sound of Music (1965) where he starred alongside Julie Andrews. 

Over a career that spanned 70 years, Plummer was one of the few people in history to win the Triple Crown of Acting – The Academy, The Tony and The Emmy Awards. His work was diverse, poignant and always riveting. Having seen many films with the acting legend in them, I find it difficult to pinpoint some of his best performances. But put a gun to my head and I’d say – Arthur Case in Inside Man, Henrik Vanger in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and as the legendary American billionaire J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. I’ve chosen the roles he’s played in the twilight of his life because this is when Plummer truly received critical success. Though he was prolific, his career truly took off once he began playing parts that depicted grand-old men, to whom money and power were tools of life that were to be taken for granted. 

In each of these roles, Plummer exudes style and panache, the likes of which I am yet to witness in other actors of his ilk… Anthony Hopkins perhaps or maybe even Jeremy Irons, though both are several years his junior, come close. Take for instance the role of banker Arthur Case in Inside Man – though not the main protagonist of the film, the villainous Arthur Case comes off as a man who made some hard choices in life, but was able to wriggle out of any repercussions through the use of experienced acumen and cunning. Surrounded by the gilded treasures of his success (a portrait of the Card Players by Paul Cezanne sits effortlessly in the corner of his walnut-panelled office) Arthur Case is a character that is brought to life by Plummer’s simple elegance and a nonchalance, that has probably taken 70 years in the making. Be it the cut of his suits, the way he holds his cane, the dialogue delivery and the simple way Plummer blends into the role, almost as if he has played the part of the old, moneyed villain even in his real life, it all comes together seamlessly to paint the perfect picture… possibly the best and most believable character portrayal in a movie with such heavy hitters as Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster. 

Then there’s the role of Henrik Vanger, a millionaire Swedish industrialist who hires an investigative journalist to solve the 36-year-old mystery of his missing niece. Portraying the role in the English adaptation of the famous Stieg Larsson novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Plummer pulls off the portrayal beautifully, adding emotion and warmth to the patriarch, almost matching the character precisely the way the author had meant him to be. Wheel-chair ridden by the end of the movie, Vanger eventually meets his estranged niece, thanks to Mikael Blomkvist’s efforts, played by Daniel Craig and Lisbeth Salander portrayed by Rooney Mara. The meeting is filled with emotion, where Plummer breaks down and cries, the oxygen supply still affixed to his nostrils, while he embraces his forlorn niece. 

Nominated by the Academy for an Oscar for his portrayal of the oil tycoon John Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, Plummer had to take on the difficult position of Kevin Spacey in the wake of his #metoo movement fiasco and eventual boycott. Shooting over nine days in a rushed production, which cost the movie an additional USD 10 Million, Plummer added depth to the part, earning him critical acclaim and appreciation, even though the production was squeezed in to such a tiny time frame. Plummer’s success at reenacting Getty’s famous stubbornness, his aloof nature and bargain-hungry ways was pure genius, rightfully resulting in a nomination, making him the oldest actor nominated for acting by the Academy, at the age of 88.  

His passing, in many ways, is the end of an era. While Plummer may not have been as famous, flamboyant or ‘A-list’ as many others he had starred alongside; he was no less of a cinematic powerhouse. Colleagues and fellow-actors flooded the internet with condolences and wishes of support to his family on his death, only fortifying the fact that one of Hollywood’s brightest constellations had finally burnt out. Having lived a full life, seen the world, been married thrice and achieved the feats he went on to, Plummer surely came a long way. May he Rest In Peace.     --- Vishwaveer