If all the world truly is a stage, then at 85, Christopher Plummer is no mere player. As the Canadian icon returns to the screen in Remember, Mike Crisolago discovers that the answer is “to be” Photography Chris Chapman
That’s the length of red carpet I want,” Christopher Plummer quips, gesturing toward the short swath of scarlet fabric leading to the entrance of his downtown hotel ahead of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. “Can you imagine,” he chuckles, “having a red carpet at home and just practising walking up and down it?”
It’s a joke, sure, but not a bad idea given the succession of professional triumphs Plummer has enjoyed in the last decade – good fortune, in fact, that his own mother once predicted wouldn’t come until his greying years.
“Well, I’m sure she thought it was going to be sooner,” Plummer, 85, laughs as we’re served at the hotel bar, packed with cocktailing patrons unaware of the titan of theatre and screen in their midst. We sit in cushy chairs in an elevated corner of the room – fittingly reminiscent of a stage.
“I’d been successful since I was in my 20s,” he continues, “but a lot of people think that [winning the Oscar] is the be all and the end all. That just comes nicely toward the end of a career.”
Plummer, of course, is referring to his 2012 best supporting actor Academy Award for the film Beginners which, at 82, made him the oldest Oscar winner in history. The last decade also included his first Oscar nomination, again for best supporting actor, in 2010 for The Last Station, celebrated turns on Broadway and at Stratford, a return to his Tony-winning role in the stage and film versions of Barrymore and his popular autobiographical one-man show, A Word or Two.
The most success he’s enjoyed this side of Salzburg, some call it a career renaissance. Some but not Plummer.
“My whole life in the theatre has been rich, and that’s what counts because that’s where all the great roles are played,” he explains, countering any revival babble. “[On stage] I feel exactly as I did as a child – more so now than in middle age. We’re going back to our senile years. It’s fun.”
He laughs and takes a sip of espresso. Dressed in a light jacket, blue shirt and jeans, he cuts a dashing figure, his piercing gaze and handsome Old Hollywood jawline undercut by his belt, emblazoned with little skulls and crossbones. It’s an accidental, albeit fitting, juxtaposition for a man blessed with matinee idol looks who claims, “There’s nothing more boring than a leading man. I couldn’t wait until I was a character actor in my 40s. The roles immediately got more interesting and more diverse.”
If there’s even the slightest notion of a career renaissance, Plummer traces it back to 1999 and the Michael Mann film The Insider, in which he portrayed legendary 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace opposite Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.
“The minute that was out,” he recalls, “the scripts started to come in better written and at a higher level. I had already been doing fairly well as far as good scripts are concerned. And it just was a slow rise.”
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