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Screen legend Christopher Plummer, known for 'Knives Out' and 'National Treasure,' passes away

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Feb 5, 2021, 4:18 PM EST (Updated)

A prolific, era-spanning cinematic career has ended with the passing of Christopher Plummer, whom Deadline reports has passed away at his home in Conneticut at the age of 91. He passed peacefully, according to his family.

A Canadian actor who got his start in traditional theater, Plummer cemented his place in cinematic history early in his career, bringing heart, conviction, and an earnest and able singing voice to the character of Captain Georg von Trapp in the 1965 movie musical The Sound of Music

“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. He was a National Treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots," friend and manager Lou Pitt said in a statement to Deadline. "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.”

Through each of the ensuing decades, he went on to appear in high-grossing and critically acclaimed films, branching out in the 2000s and 2010s to lend his distinct, dignified rasp to memorably-voiced characters in numerous video games and animated films.

In addition to major roles in conventional studio tentpoles from the 1970s onward (he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Hal Fields in 2010’s comedic drama Beginners), Plummer appeared in numerous genre pictures, beginning with his starring turn opposite Karen Black in the 1973 occult thriller The Pyx. The late 1970s and early 1980s led Plummer further into what would prove to be a durable stint as a genre actor, with a string of sci-fi and horror thrillers. 

Highlights include 1979’s Murder by Decree (in which he played Sherlock Holmes), 1980’s Somewhere in Time (as the meddlesome William Fawcett Robinson, who tragically intervenes in a couple’s time-traveling love affair), 1986’s An American Tail (as the animated, French-accented city pigeon Henri), 1988’s Shadow Dancing, 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (as Klingon General Chang), 1994’s Wolf (opposite Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer), 1995’s Dolores Claiborne (the Stephen King adaptation in which Plummer played Detective John Mackey), and Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi smash 12 Monkeys, as Jeffrey Goines, founder of the Army of the 12 Monkeys.

By the 2000s, Plummer forged ahead with his ongoing, reliable genre film work while adding a growing slate of voice acting roles into the mix. He starred as Gates family patriarch John Adams Gates in 2004 in National Treasure (alongside Jon Voight and Nicolas Cage), voiced Pixar’s nefarious explorer Charles F. Muntz in Up (2009), and gave life to a craven “stitchpunk” ragdoll avatar in the animated, futuristic 9 (2009). 

Adding to a series of lower-profile appearances in earlier games, Plummer also lent his distinctive, gravelly baritone for a key role in Bethesda’s landmark The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). Plummer voiced the character of Arngeir — the lone member of the game’s monastic, dragon-worshipping Greybeard sect to be exempted from the vow of silence that kept the group hermetically separate from the outside world.

Plummer was born Dec. 13, 1929 in Toronto and raised in the outskirts of Montreal. With family ties to both Canadian politics and the early days of cinema (Plummer was a cousin to Nigel Bruce, who played Watson in Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes films), he fell in love with classical stage acting early in life and eventually was discovered while performing in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at the High School of Montreal.

From the 1980s onward, Plummer won at least one industry award in each decade, culminating with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Beginners in 2011. He most recently appeared in 2019's whodunnit hit Knives Out.