Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for playing a gay dad in ‘Beginners’

Christopher Plummer won his only Oscar for his role as Hal Fields, a gay father and widower who comes out of the closet near the end of his life to his son. Hal’s loving, final relationship becomes an inspiration for his son, who struggles with his father’s death and how to find intimacy in a new relationship.

Plummer won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2012 for his work in “Beginners.” The story is semi-autobiographical, based on the life of the film’s writer-director Mike Mills, whose father came out as gay as a senior.

Hal comes out to his son, Oliver, (Ewan McGregor) after his wife of 44 years dies. Hal then acquires a rainbow-colored neckerchief and a circle of party-loving friends and sets out to make the most of his remaining time.

Hal finds a younger boyfriend, throws parties, and visits dance clubs, sharing his adventures with Oliver.

Hal also becomes the happiest person in the film – even after he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“It’s because he’s found himself. He’s free from all that burden of trying to suppress his homosexuality, and he’s also in love,” Plummer told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. “I think that’s why the film has the lightness of tone that it does — there’s not an ounce of self-pity in it.”

Plummer died Friday morning at his home in Connecticut with his wife, Elaine Taylor, by his side, said Lou Pitt, his longtime friend and manager. A cause of death was not listed. Plummer was 91.

When he won the Oscar, Plummer was 82. With his award win, Plummer displaced George Burns, who in 1976 was the oldest nominee to win a supporting actor Oscar at age 80. Jessica Tandy, 80, who won for “Driving Miss Daisy” was the previous oldest winner.

Plummer was in the entertainment industry more than 60 years. He played an eclectic catalog of roles ranging from Capt. Von Trapp in the “The Sound of Music” to the voice of the villain in 2009’s “Up.” He was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for his portrayal of Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station.”

On Oscar night in 2012, Plummer walked onstage to accept the award and stared at the golden statuette before remarking on how great it looked.

“You’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all of my life?” Plummer said.

At birth, he joked, “I was already rehearsing my academy acceptance speech, but it was so long ago mercifully for you I’ve forgotten it.”

Plummer also won a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and SAG Award for his role in “Beginners.”

Plummer was married three times, the first to actress Tammy Grimes, the second to journalist Patricia Audrey Lewis.

He is survived by his daughter from his first marriage, actress Amanda Plummer, and his wife, actress-dancer Elaine Taylor.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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