Christopher Plummer keeps on ticking
At 87, no one could fault Christopher Plummer if he decided to settle into retirement and play a few rounds of golf every now and again. But that wouldn’t be Christopher Plummer.
In 2013, at the age of 82, Plummer became the oldest actor to win an Oscar — for the film Beginners — and he shows no signs of stopping now.
Plummer is currently starring in five very different films. One is a romantic war drama called The Exception which recently played at the Tribeca Film Festival. Critics praised Plummer’s portrayal of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor and King of Prussia. David Edelstein of Vulture said, “Christopher Plummer can put more shading into fewer syllables than any actor alive.”
Plummer’s other new films are a road comedy called Boundaries; Cliffs of Freedom, a Greek epic; and The Man Who Invented Christmas, a story about Charles Dickens and the real people who served as the inspiration for his characters in A Christmas Carol. Plummer plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
A fifth film, due out in 2018, The Last Full Measure, is the true story of a young soldier who does courageous things in the Vietnam war. Plummer plays the soldier’s father.
Despite his busy Hollywood schedule, Plummer, who lives in Weston with his wife Elaine, finds time to support the arts in Fairfield County. On Sunday, June 18, Plummer will kick off a new season of The Lost and Found Film Series at the Ridgefield Playhouse with a screening of his 2015 film, Remember. Plummer will take part in a Q&A with the audience afterwards, hosted by Ira Joe Fisher.
The film series was started by The Ridgefield Playhouse Film Society in 2004 as a way to honor films that have been lost to audiences due to inadequate promotional budgets or lack of Hollywood hype.
So when Joseph Consentino, a documentary filmmaker and artistic director of the film society, asked Plummer if he would be interested in making an appearance this season for the benefit of the playhouse, Plummer agreed and said he had the perfect picture for the series — Remember. The film had a modest run in Canada and did not get widespread distribution in America.
Directed by Atom Egoyan and written by Benjamin August, Remember is an intense thriller starring Plummer as Zev, a Holocaust survivor and widower who seeks revenge on a Nazi guard who murdered his family. Zev also suffers from dementia, and is helped in his mission by Max, played by Martin Landau. IGN critic Josh Lasser praised Plummer in the film for “an utterly heartbreaking performance.”
Speaking from his home in Weston, Plummer says Remember is unlike anything he has done before. “It was another look at the Holocaust and I thought it was important to do. I don’t think there is any reason not to do films about the Holocaust — to remind people of the extreme danger if they fall into the wrong hands.”
Plummer appears in nearly every scene in the film, which includes a harrowing encounter with a Nazi sympathizer, played by Dean Norris of Breaking Bad, and a frightening German Shepherd that threatens to tear him apart. “Fortunately, off screen the dog was very gentle, a very good dog,” Plummer says with a laugh.
Plummer was pleased with the audience response to the film. “A lot of people were affected by it. I keep hearing from people who have seen it, and it means something to them,” he said.
Born on Dec. 13, 1929 in Toronto, Canada, Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer is the great-grandson of Canadian prime minister Sir John Abbott.
A musical prodigy, Plummer initially planned on becoming a professional pianist. “I was enamored with music when I was young and I studied in Germany under fine masters. There was always music in the house and I was particularly seduced by the piano,” he said. “But then I got lazy because I discovered that I could play by ear, and I gave up,” he said.
The music world’s loss was stage and screen’s gain. Plummer has spent the past 60 years appearing in plays and films, earning numerous awards and accolades, including the Academy Award for Beginnings, two Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, and a BAFTA Award.
His most notable film roles include Captain von Trapp in Sound of Music, Mike Wallace in The Insider, and Leo Tolstoy in the Last Station, for which he was also nominated for an Oscar. On stage, he has appeared in a large number of productions in Canada and on Broadway, snagging Tonys for the musical Cyrano and the play Barrymore.
So where does Plummer get all the energy to do what he does?
Looking trim and fit, he credits Elaine Taylor, his wife of 46 years, for keeping him on the straight and narrow. “I am in good shape because of Elaine. Besides being a wonderfully loyal friend, she is a great cook and studied at the Cordon Bleu. She balances food quite cleverly,” he said. After their marriage in 1970, she convinced him to give up drinking hard liquor, which he says saved his life.
Another sacrifice he has made for his career is giving up tennis, a sport he used to play with a passion. “My knees are a little wonky for the type of tennis I like to play so I decided to stop and put all my energy into my acting,” he said.
As long is Plummer is able to work, he said, he never plans to retire. “If you continue working, that keeps you young. You don’t want to stop,” he said.
Catch the Lost and Found Film Series screening of Remember at the Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge, Ridgefield, on Sunday, June 18 at 7 p.m.. The film will be followed by a Q&A with Christopher Plummer, hosted by Ira Joe Fisher. Tickets are $10. Order online at ridgefieldplayhouse.org, or call the box office at 203-438-5795.