Cana­dian ac­tor Christo­pher Plum­mer, 88, still lusts af­ter a great part

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - ENTERTAINMENT - JAKE COYLE

NEW YORK Re­gal and com­mand­ing even in his youth, Christo­pher Plum­mer has turned into an even might­ier force in old age.

The Toronto-born Plum­mer, 88, ear­lier this year be­came the old­est ac­tor ever nom­i­nated for an Os­car (for his J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World) six years af­ter set­ting the mark for el­dest act­ing win­ner (for his coming-out 75-year-old in Begin­ners). The King Lear phase of Plum­mer’s ca­reer has been colour­fully crowded with aged men too roiled by ap­petite to re­sem­ble any stan­dard por­traits of the el­derly.

In his lat­est, Shana Feste’s Bound­aries, Plum­mer plays the es­tranged, weed-deal­ing fa­ther of a sin­gle mother ( Vera Farmiga). The film, play­ing in se­lect Cana­dian cities, is Feste’s semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal road trip about her own com­i­cally flawed fam­ily.

“I loved play­ing that old geezer,” Plum­mer said with char­ac­ter­is­tic rel­ish for a meaty role:

Q When we spoke six years ago, you said the on­set of your 80s made you pan­icked at hav­ing enough time to ac­com­plish what you wanted. Do you still feel that way?

A No, I don’t. There isn’t as much panic be­cause now I’ve been through my 80s. That kind of panic does not ex­ist any­more. I’m en­joy­ing my­self very much. And in my 80s, I had an­other ca­reer. I’m very happy about that. It’s gone bet­ter than most other decades have.

Q Why is that?

A The parts. I played ev­ery­thing in the theatre. I still would like to do some­thing else in the theatre, of course. But I’ve played all the great parts. And not too shab­bily. Now I want the same great parts, if I can, on the screen. And so far, yes. I’ve played mar­vel­lous char­ac­ters.

Q In your mem­oir In Spite of My­self, you ro­man­ti­cally re­counted your heavy-drink­ing days. Do you have any mar­i­juana ex­pe­ri­ence, such as your char­ac­ter in Bound­aries?

A No, I’ve tried lit­tle at­tempts at mar­i­juana and a cou­ple of oth­ers. It never did any good to me at all. I just fell asleep. I just dis­ap­peared into my­self. No, I pre­fer the gre­gar­i­ous­ness of booze. It’s a much more gen­er­ous drug. You can make friends with peo­ple. If you’re drugged out of your skull, you don’t know who you’re talk­ing to. I made my de­ci­sion. Booze was my re­li­gion.

Q Did you con­nect per­son­ally to the film’s fa­ther-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship? You weren’t much a part of the life of your daugh­ter, the ac­tress Amanda Plum­mer, from your first mar­riage.

A I sup­pose un­con­sciously. Par­tic­u­larly the stuff about tak­ing each other for granted. There’s a lit­tle bit of that in the film. There’s a bit of I-owe-you and you-owe-me par­ent ban­ter. That also ex­ists in real life.

Q The ex­pe­ri­ence coming in to re­place Kevin Spacey in All the Money in the World must have been head-spin­ning. You were nom­i­nated for a Golden Globe be­fore ...

A It was fin­ished! Just for re­mem­ber­ing my lines I get an award? I also had fun, be­lieve it or not. Ri­d­ley (Scott), I al­ways wanted to work with him. So I thought it was a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity. I said yes and he made it so com­fort­able for me. They all came back and we had to do the whole thing over again. The cam­eras were ready at 6 a.m. They flew us ev­ery­where pri­vate, thank God.

Q Did you have any doubt that you could work so quickly? A No, I was just hope­ful that at my age, my mem­ory would serve me. Be­cause I had to learn my lines very quickly and I thought, “Oh, Christ, am I go­ing to be able to hold on to this?” But that’s be­cause of years in theatre. You’re trained to be in an emer­gency like that. The whole the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence is an emer­gency.

Q Since then, when­ever scan­dal be­falls an­other per­former, it’s be­come a reg­u­lar joke that you should sub­sti­tute in.

A It’s ter­ri­bly funny. I think it’s hi­lar­i­ous. The lat­est one was Roseanne. I thought: What the hell? That was a bit far-reach­ing. But it tick­led me pink.

Q Are you en­cour­aged by what the #Me­Too move­ment has done for women in the movie busi­ness?

A It’s go­ing to take time be­cause there’s still so many, hun­dreds and hun­dreds, of the old-school tie, the old-club men that still, even now in mod­ern times, have in­her­ited this big­otry, this su­pe­ri­or­ity, this “my lit­tle woman.”

It’s great, though, that the fight is on. Long be­fore this hap­pened, my wife and I both thought there should be a woman pres­i­dent. And it doesn’t have any­thing to do with Hil­lary Clin­ton. Be­cause it’s time for a woman. We’ve seen what hap­pens. Men go hys­ter­i­cal. Women are far stronger and would be able to run a coun­try with less tem­per­a­ment.

Q You came up at a time when the ac­tor, on stage and on screen, was supreme. What do you think dig­i­tal ef­fect­sheavy block­busters have done to act­ing ?

A This whole new wave of young studs who look great against the green screen, they’re at the mercy of all that. It’s at the mercy of phoney croc­o­diles and drag­ons. Tech­ni­cally it’s sim­ply won­der­ful what goes on now. I’m in love with the dragon lady (Emilia Clarke on Game of Thrones), for ex­am­ple. I think she’s great. And the other night I re­played Peter Jack­son’s Lord of the Rings. Those are di­rec­to­rial tri­umphs and the ac­tors are along for the trip.

On stage, it’s a dif­fer­ent thing but that doesn’t ex­ist any­more. Some­body said, “Are you go­ing to the Tonys?” I said no be­cause the Tonys are a funny thing now. It’s all mu­si­cals and not par­tic­u­larly ter­rific mu­si­cals. Some are, some not. But that’s it. What’s hap­pened to the le­git­i­mate theatre, the writ­ing ? Where’s all that now? I’m not in­ter­ested any­more. It’s be­cause English is not the first lan­guage. We’re now play­ing to a huge for­eign au­di­ence.


Christo­pher Plum­mer cred­its his stage train­ing for help­ing him step into the role of J. Paul Getty, orig­i­nally held by the dis­graced Kevin Spacey, at the last minute in the movie All the Money in the World.

DID SOME­ONE CALL A PLUM­MER? Christo­pher Plum­mer has had many looks over the years in­clud­ing when he ar­rived on the Strat­ford stage in the 1960 pro­duc­tion of King John, left; as Shake­speare-quot­ing Klin­gon Gen­eral Chang in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undis­cov­ered Coun­try; as King Lear in an­other Strat­ford pro­duc­tion in 2002; and his lat­est look as the dope-deal­ing grand­fa­ther Jack Ja­coni in Bound­aries.

The fa­ther-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship between Christo­pher Plum­mer, left, and Vera Farmiga in Bound­aries has some real-life echoes for the ac­tor.

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