Christopher Plummer (1929-2021)

2001 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Stages (formerly Theatre))

Hailed by the New York Times as "the finest classical actor in North America," Christopher Plummer belongs to that rare species of elegant, classically trained actors who can, as critic John Simon puts it, "embody equally both devils and angels." On stage or on screen, in roles ranging from Shakespeare's Hamlet to journalist Mike Wallace in the Oscar-nominated The Insider to the complex and legendary John Barrymore, Mr. Plummer radiates versatility, discipline, and a confident grace and intensity.

Mr. Plummer was born in Toronto in 1929 and grew up in Montreal. He began acting professionally immediately after graduating from high school, and in 1950 joined the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa, where he played nearly 100 roles in two years. He made his Broadway debut in 1954 in The Starcross Story, and the following year appeared as Jason opposite Dame Judith Anderson's Medea at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, and as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar, the inaugural production of the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut.

Mr. Plummer has triumphed on the world's three premiere Shakespearean stages: Stratford-upon-Avon, England; the early Stratford, Connecticut; and Stratford, Ontario. His association with the Stratford Festival of Canada goes back to its formative years under Sir Tyrone Guthrie and Michael Langham: he made his debut there in 1956 as the young and fiery Henry V, and over the next decade played a succession of leading roles including Hamlet, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Macbeth. He will return to Stratford in 2002 (the Festival's 50th season) to play King Lear. Mr. Plummer was recently appointed to Stratford's Board of Governors.

He was a leading actor at Great Britain's National Theatre (under Sir Laurence Olivier) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (under Sir Peter Hall), and played major roles on the stages of Broadway and London's West End. Selected later Broadway successes include Iago in Othello (Tony Award), Macbeth (opposite Glenda Jackson), and most recently his multi-award-winning solo performance in Barrymore (1997), a production developed at Stratford, Ontario.

Since Mr. Plummer's first screen role in Sidney Lumet's Stage Struck (1957) he has appeared in over 80 films, including the Academy Award-winning The Sound of Music, The Man Who Would Be King, Murder By Decree, The Pink Panther, Twelve Monkeys, The Insider, and Full Disclosure. Since television's golden age, his appearances number in the hundreds, including the award-winning BBC Hamlet at Elsinore, Oedipus Rex, Don Juan in Hell, The Thorn Birds, The Money Changers, the Counterstrike series, Winchell, and recently On Golden Pond.

With conductor Sir Neville Marriner he created a new concert version of Walton's Henry V, and with Michael Lankester, new concert versions of Peer Gynt, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible. His own one-man show A Word or Two Before You Go, which he arranged and performed, has raised money for World Literacy and theatre companies in Canada and the U.S.

Awards and honours include: Companion of the Order of Canada (1968); Great Britain's Evening Standard Award; two Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, three New York Drama Desk Awards, the Theatre World Award, the New York Drama League Award, the Edwin Booth Award, and in Canada, a Genie Award; Austria's Golden Badge of Honour and Salzburg's Chalice of Honour; inducted into Theatre's Hall of Fame (1986); Commonwealth Award (1998); Canada's Walk of Fame (1999); honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School of Performing Arts.