Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau and Atom Egoyan Talk their New Thriller “Remember”
Between the Lines with … Plummer, Landau and Egoyan
A modern day thriller rooted in the Holocaust about a dementia-stricken widower’s search for the Nazi prison guard who murdered his family in Auschwitz – it’s this unique, somewhat unlikely premise, anchored by its star Christopher Plummer, that earned the film Remember a standing ovation at this year’s Venice Film Festival and gala honours at the Toronto International Film Festival.
And at the early morning media screening I attended in Toronto, not a person in attendance budged as the credits rolled, captivated by Plummer’s brilliant performance as well as by his co-star and fellow Oscar winner, Martin Landau, who plays the man who helps guide him on his quest for revenge.
The film, from acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan, hits theatres today. Zoomer’s Mike Crisolago spoke with Plummer, Landau and Egoyan prior to the film’s TIFF debut.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: When you first read the Remember script, what was it that attracted you to the film?
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: First of all it was quite an interestingly written script. I thought, what a brave sort of thing for the author to write because it could be very boring, actually, if it’s done badly. And the part is so long – it’s wall to wall, actually, all the way – that one has to be terribly careful about making it at all … self-pitying. You don’t want any of that to go on. But I thought the challenge – I’ve never done anything like that before in my life. So I thought, why not? I found the story very gripping … and I needed somebody that I could trust as a friend so I asked Atom [Egoyan] to read it and he liked. If you have a very serious job like that to do you [call] Atom. I call him a good psychiatrist.
MARTIN LANDAU: Well, I liked the fact, of course, that it’s a serious look at a holocaust movie and … it’s a film that’s balanced well. So I also felt that Atom, being as talented as he is, and it’s a bit of a departure for him as well and working with Christopher, of course, is always fun because he’s such a good actor. And I knew that the other actors probably also would be carefully selected.
MC: Atom, what’s your take on Christopher’s performance in this film? He’s literally in pretty much every scene.
AE: I was just so proud of what Christopher [does] in this film. At the very beginning my hope was to put the camera in the right place, to capture what I thought to be a really important performance for him and I think what he does is just – it’s radical. To present the character that is so layered … to play all of that is really, really tough and Chris just nailed it.
MC: It’s fascinating because in reality, Christopher has those leading man good looks so you had to find a way to change his appearance, physically, for the film.
AE: I went to visit him at his house and we were trying to think about how his look should be because, you know, he’s so dapper. And he had just come out of the shower and his hair was slicked back and he sounded so vulnerable. And I went, “Chris that’s it, that’s how you have to look. Your hair has to look like that.” And it was his incredible moment and he looked at himself and said, “You’re right.” And it was suddenly I saw this other possibility. H embodied that by this very simple physical [change]. That was our starting point.
MC: Despite that character’s vulnerable appearance, his will remains firm. Martin, you noted that you go out of your way to avoid roles that would essentially see you playing stereotypical older people, like a grumpy old man.
ML: I don’t play “grunters.” A grunter is an old guy who sits at a table that the young people make fun of – this old grandpa that’s sitting there. And I get too many scripts like that and I just can’t do them, even if they were big pictures. [His Remember character] is an interesting character … and in this instance there were a lot of thoughts I had about how to play him. And Atom had a lot of thoughts about how to play him, and I talked to Atom quite a bit early on by telephone before we got together. And I love challenges. I can’t explain it, but there are too many things that had to go together and I love that and I like Atom’s work and I like the way he thinks and I like him.
MC: Do you look for certain types of roles while attempting to avoid stereotypes like that, Christopher?