Sound of Music star hated making movie with Julie Andrews Like flogging a dead horse
Julie Andrews: Shock truth behind iconic Sound Of Music scene
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Singing nuns and nazis were a little bit kitsch even in the 1960s but the undeniable delights of Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical won over even the hardest of hearts – all except for the movie’s leading man himself. Christopher Plummer had a long and glittering career in Hollywood and finally bagged an Oscar in 2012 but he will, of course, always be remembered as Captain Von Trapp in the 1965 blockbuster. Despite his smooth charm on-screen, behind the scenes he hated making the movie, which drove him to desperate measures. You may never watch his delivery of Edelweiss in quite the same way ever again.
Many ‘serious’ actors found themselves hoofing in musicals during Hollywood’s Golden Age, from Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls, to Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady. Plummer had started his career with a 1953 Broadway debut in The Starless Sky – a play that closed on its opening night – and was acclaimed for his sensitive and subtle roles through the years all the way to his final 2018 Oscar nomination for All The Money In The World.
It’s safe to say he did not enjoy making The Sound of Music, and his unhappiness grew as the shoot progressed. Even the constantly upbeat Andrews struggled with his behaviour on set. Even though it was an extraordinary box office success, Plummer was already making the infamous Sound of Mucus comments the following year.
Plummer said: “Although we worked hard enough to make him (Captain Von Trapp) interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse. And the subject matter is not mine. I mean, it can’t appeal to every person in the world. It’s not my cup of tea.”
The actor confessed in his 2008 memoir, In Spite of Myself: “I was drinking like mad at the time… I was a pampered, arrogant, young bast**d spoiled by too many great theatre roles.”
Despite his self-professed arrogance, the actor also later admitted that his nerves drove him to drink even more when he had to film perhaps his most iconic moment in the entire film.
On the Sound of Music 35th Anniversary DVD, the actor admitted he was completely inebriated for the shooting of the emotional and important music festival scene where the family performs Edelweiss before fleeing into the mountains.
He later explained his nerves: “I was shaking, I was terrified with a full orchestra the first time. Julie had to hold me, I would have fainted.”
Luckily, like all great actors, he was able to transform the moment into pure on-screen magic, with Captain Von Trapp winning over the festival audience, and cinemagoers, with his show of vulnerability and pure emotion.
Andrews spoke bluntly about Plummer’s behaviour in one of their last interviews together.
Asked if her co-star really had been a ‘curmudgeon’ on set during the Sound of Music 50th Anniversary in 2015, Andrews replied: “‘Afraid so. But a delicious one. But I’m used to that because Blake was one also.” She was referring to her late husband, director Blake Edwards.
Plummer, in response, pays tribute to the inspiring way Andrews’ lead the cast on set: “We followed her like Saint Joan into battle. You would have agreed with me had you been there. It was your film and you drove it… I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.”
When Plummer passed away on February 5 last year, Andrews lead the tributes: “The world has lost a consummate actor today and I have lost a cherished friend. I treasure the memories of our work together and all the humour and fun we shared through the years. My heart and condolences go out to his lovely wife Elaine, and his daughter Amanda.”
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