Despite famously disparaging his role as Captain Georg von Trapp in The Sound of Music as not “attractive or interesting,” Christopher Plummer does have some fond memories of shooting the beloved 1965 musical. “They kept enlarging my costumes because the food in Austria is awfully good, and so is the drink,” he tells Closer Weekly gleefully, adding with a German accent, “Der Schnaps und die Biere!”
Throughout his 70-plus-year career on stage and screen, Christopher’s sly sense of humor has always shined through. And as he prepares to turn 91 on Dec. 13, he refuses to shrink back into a dull retirement. “I would rather die right on stage doing my craft,” he insists. The day after his birthday, he’ll narrate an audio version of A Nantucket Christmas Carol for a local Cape Cod radio station, and he’s lending his voice to the animated movie, Heroes of the Golden Mask, currently in production. “Nobody retires in our profession. We just go on until we drop,” he jokes. “And acting — learning all those lines — helps keep [the brain] alive.”
During the pandemic, the actor has stuck close to his Connecticut home, which he shares with his wife of 50 years, Elaine Taylor. “[She’s] a terrific cook,” says Christopher, who has one daughter, Pulp Fiction actress Amanda Plummer, from his first marriage. “[Elaine] knows how to cook organic food fantastically. It’s delicious and hardly any calories.” Christopher credits that healthy diet, along with his exercise regimen of playing tennis and walking, with keeping him in good shape. And he now drinks organic wine with dinner, forsaking the stronger stuff he consumed in his earlier years while he starred in everything from the musical Cyrano, for which he won a Tony, to The Thorn Birds, earning him an Emmy nod.
Born in Montreal, Christopher’s first role was playing Mr. Darcy in his high school production of Pride and Prejudice. “I was very lucky,” he says. “I went to work professionally when I was 18, and I did not look back.” His first love — other than playing classical piano, which he contemplated pursuing professionally — has been the stage. “I was snobbish about movies,” he admits. “I thought theater was the bee’s knees.”
But Hollywood came calling, and thanks to his matinee-idol looks, he soon became an international sex symbol, a moniker that never sat comfortably. “There’s nothing more boring than a leading man,” he scoffs. “I couldn’t wait until I was a character actor in my 40s. The roles immediately got more interesting and more diverse.”
And they’ve only gotten more so. Over the past decade alone he’s starred as a murdered patriarch in the dark comedy Knives Out, J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, and won his sole Acade- my Award for portraying an aging, openly gay father in 2010’s Beginners, making him, at 82, the oldest actor to win.
These days, he is looking forward to his upcoming birthday and the holidays. “Christmas has always been big for me because I grew up in Montreal and it’s cold and bitter, so you need cheer,” Christopher says. But he also can’t wait to get back to work. “I’ve done more interesting stuff in the last five or six years than I’ve done all my life in the theater. I don’t feel old. Never retire. Don’t want to. There [are] too many wonderful things to do.”
— Lisa Chambers
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