Christopher Plummer will always be remembered for being the handsomely sophisticated Captain von Trapp in the hugely successful movie The Sound of Music.
Other names considered for the role included Bing Crosby, Yul Brynner, Sean Connery, Stephen Boyd, Richard Burton, David Niven and Peter Finch. Director Robert Wise kept returning to Plummer, who needed plenty of persuading to take the part of The Captain. Had it not been for the persistence of Wise, he might never have been in the film.
Christopher said that he had accepted the part because he wanted to find out what it would be like to be in a musical comedy. He had not worked much in the film industry before The Sound of Music, making only three movies. However, after The Sound of Music was released, Plummer became an international face that everyone recognized.
Christopher was thirty-six years old when he was filmed in The Sound of Music.
“Chris was marvellous to work with, because he never came into a scene where he didn’t add something” - Robert Wise
After Christopher had signed up for the part, he then wanted to change certain aspects of the Captain’s character, giving him more substance and humor. He felt that he should be more equal to Maria.
“He was still very much a cardboard figure, humourless and one-dimensional” - Christopher Plummer about The Captain
So Christopher approached screenwriter Ernest Lehman, and the two worked on the character for days. He also asked songwriter Richard Rodgers to write a solo for him to sing about his love for Maria. Rodgers ended up writing ‘Something Good’.
“I’ve never worked with an actor who was so intelligent about how his scenes should work” - Ernest Lehman
Even though Christopher Plummer has been known to refer to The Sound of Music as ‘The Sound of Mucus’, he has always acknowledged it as being a beautifully made film. He has some great memories of filming in Salzburg and of his drinking days when staying at The Bristol Hotel! He said that they didn’t drink because they had problems, but they drank because they ‘adored it'!
Here is a rare piece of video footage from a 1999 interview with Pamela Wallin, which shows a wonderful clip of Plummer playing the piano at the Bristol Hotel, where many of the cast would gather in the evenings to socialize and listen to him play:
Christopher has said that the greatest thing about starring in The Sound of Music was that he was allowed to get the best table in his favourite restaurants! In fact he ate and drank so much whilst he was in Salzburg that he needed to have all of his clothes let out, and a couple of outfits completely remade!
The Captain starts off in the movie as being a strict disciplinarian Father to his seven children, who were not allowed to play and who answered only to the sound of a whistle. The family had forgotten how to have fun since The Captain’s wife died, but it was Maria’s presence and her love of music that reunited The Captain with his children again. The Captain sings some very emotional songs during the film, in particular ‘Edelweiss’, which is sung on more than one occasion.
After much discussion, Christopher’s voice had to be dubbed by Bill Lee as Plummer could not match Julie Andrews' singing quality.
“If I had been singing with someone else other than Julie, my voice might have been OK to use, but Julie’s voice is so perfect, there’s just a difference in quality.”
During filming, Christopher had the opportunity to meet the real Maria von Trapp, who said upon meeting him that he was so much more handsome than her real husband! He then met her again a couple more times after that, once when he was in Nassau and once in Hollywood. They grew very fond of each other.
He also formed a great friendship with Julie Andrews from filming The Sound of Music together, one that has lasted over the decades.
“As far as I’m concerned, he couldn’t have been nicer or more professional” - Julie about Christopher
“Julie was great fun. Terribly professional, with a healthy attitude. We were great Pals” - Christopher about Julie
Christopher still sees his screen family at various functions, as can be seen in the photo on the right. Here he is with Julie Andrews on the 40th Anniversary of this classic film.