Reel Dad: Remembering CT actor Christopher Plummer

The late actor Christopher Plummer outside the Westport Country Playhouse in 2005.

The late actor Christopher Plummer outside the Westport Country Playhouse in 2005.

File Photo /John Galayda /

In the summer of 2001, while talking with Christopher Plummer in the bar at the Goring Hotel in London, he recalled his triumphs on stage, his work in film, and his optimism for the roles he would get to play in the coming years.

As the exchange came to an end, he said, “thank you for not bringing up ‘The Sound of Music.’ Everyone wants to talk about ‘The Sound of Music.’” I replied, “well, I was getting to that.” And he smiled.

Of the many reasons that we cherish the work of Christopher Plummer, who died Feb. 5 in, and starred in “The Sound of Music” as Captain von Trapp is we believe every moment, gesture and expression the actor brought to his masterful interpretation of this deceptively complex character. And his prediction that evening was correct: the later years in his career did bring a rich collection of opportunities.

Plummer died at age 91 in his Connecticut home, and while I remember many chances to see Plummer on stage, here are seven of his screen performances (in addition to Captain von Trapp) that will live on.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)

Four years after “The Sound of Music,” Plummer recreates his Broadway performance as Atahualpa in Peter Shaffer’s powerful look at the Spanish conquest of Peru. In a brave performance filled with deliberate moments of exaggeration, the actor demonstrates his classical roots and unique ability to simplify a writer’s intent.

The Shadow Box (1980)

After winning a Tony on Broadway for “Cyrano,” and making us laugh on stage in Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor,” Plummer joins Joanne Woodward and director Paul Newman on television for this heartfelt exploration of the impact of terminal illness. As Brian, Plummer is touching and terse, warm and wistful in a performance that makes us think about what matters with living and dying.

The Insider (1999)

Following Broadway triumphs in “Othello,” “No Man’s Land” and winning another Tony for “Barrymore,” Plummer makes an indelible film impression as Mike Wallace in this study of “60 Minutes’” efforts to expose big tobacco companies. In just a few scenes, with minimal dialogue, the actor perfectly conveys the arrogance and defiance that mark this legendary television journalist.

On Golden Pond (2001)

Returning to television, Plummer stars with Julie Andrews for a live production of Ernest Thompson’s play. Working against type, and confronting audience memory of Henry Fonda’s performance in the film version, Plummer creates a unique interpretation of Norman Thayer, the elderly man trying to adjust to the realities of age.

The Last Station (2009)

After two more Tony nominations for Broadway roles - “King Lear” in 2004 and “Inherit the Wind” in 2007 - Plummer returns to film to explore the aging mind of author Leo Tolstoy. He wins his first Oscar nomination for his detailed portrayal of the writer’s last year, a period defined by struggles with the realities of age, relationships and disappointments.

Beginners (2010)

As a senior citizen who comes out of the closet, Plummer delights with a captivating sense of mischief and an endearing dose of humanity. He expands what could have been a cardboard character into a compelling look at how authenticity can change someone’s life at any age. And, finally, Plummer wins that long overdue Oscar.

All the Money in the World (2017)

In a most unusual assignment, Plummer is asked - a few weeks before the film is scheduled to be released - to reshoot the scenes that feature Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty in this recreation of the billionaire’s grandson. With little time to prepare, and only nine days to film, Plummer creates a masterful interpretation that wins one more Oscar nomination.

Thank you, Christopher Plummer, for moments on stage we will never forget and performances on film we will forever remember. And for being Captain von Trapp.