In Depth

People In Film | Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer | Being Hal

For Christopher Plummer, playing the role of Hal in Mike Mills' Beginners took him into exciting new territory – something that happens very infrequently now for the 80-year-old veteran actor of stage and screen. The father of Ewan McGregor's character, Oliver, Hal is a 75-year-old man who, after his wife of 44 years dies, announces to the world that he is gay.  “I've never played a part like that before, on screen or stage,” Plummer told Toronto's Globe and Mail. “It was fascinating.” Collaborating closely with Mills, whose own father came out in similar circumstances, Plummer gained a deep understanding of his character, saying, “I gradually felt as if the part had been written for me. It wasn’t on some distant plane you tried to reach. It was very close.” Hal in Beginners looks set to be one of the defining characters Plummer has portrayed over his long and illustrious career, and the actor says, “I don’t think I’ve ever had as good a time playing a role, anywhere... I found it so touching and funny and charming and innocent. A man whose whole life has changed into the upper register of ecstasy since he’s discovered he can be free is very moving.”

Christopher Plummer | Musical Roots

Christopher Plummer, born in Toronto, Canada in 1931, was on course to become a concert pianist until, during his teens, he fell in love with the theater and acting took the place of music as his great passion. Plummer rose through the ranks as a stage actor in the 1950s, and broke into movies in 1958, when Sidney Lumet cast him in Stage Struck. However, the movie that made him a heartthrob and a household name was, fittingly enough, The Sound of Music, in which Plummer played Captain von Trapp, the widower father of seven who falls for Julie Andrews' ebullient nun-turned-nanny Maria and offered up a memorably husky rendition of “Edelweiss.” Though it may be the movie that many remember him for, the irreverent Plummer is typically cheeky in the opinions he now voices on The Sound of Music, saying in a recent interview that he finds the film “a bit saccharine” and that it is not his “particular cup of tea…Unless the nuns are interesting, and kind of kinky.”

Christopher Plummer | Cinematic Everyman

Over the course of more than 50 years as a film star, there is seemingly nothing Christopher Plummer has not done. In the 1950s, his first screen roles were for directing greats Sidney Lumet and Nicholas Ray. In the 1960s, he played Hamlet and Oedipus, acted in a string of World War II movies (including the box office behemoth The Sound of Music), and witnessed The Fall of the Roman Empire. During the 1970s, he put his own unique interpretation on one iconic figure after another: the Duke of Wellington(Waterloo), Don Juan (Don Juan in Hell), Rudyard Kipling (The Man Who Would Be King), Archduke Franz Ferdinand (The Day That Shook the World), Herod (Jesus of Nazareth) and Sherlock Holmes (Silver Blaze and Murder by Decree). He showed his diversity in the 1980s, working on the small screen (his Emmy nominated turn as Archbishop Vittorio Contini-Verchese in The Thorn Birds), flexing his comic muscles in cop spoof Dragnet, and showing a softer side by voicing Henri, a French pigeon, in the animated hit An American Tale. Indeed probably no actor has capture the personality of so many great minds: Aristotle in Alexander (2004), Vladimir Nabokov in Nabokov on Kafka (1989), Alfred Stieglitz in A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (1991), J.R. Ackerley in My Dog Tulip (2009), F. Lee Bailey in American Tragedy (2000), Franklin D. Roosevelt in Winchell (1998) and finally Tolstoy in The Last Station (2009). Indeed having played so many historically famous, remarkable smart individuals, Plummer has devised his own acting strategy. As he explained to Kimber Myers about playing Tolstoy, “I can't draw from me because I'm not a genius…I'm not quite as great a man as Tolstoy. No, you have to use your imagination!"

Christopher Plummer | Not Slowing Down

Like Hal in Beginners, Christopher Plummer has recently found a new lease on life. While most actors find themselves slowing down as they age––due to a lack of energy, desire or opportunity––Plummer seems to be doing the opposite. What's more, in the past decade or so––since his acclaimed performance as Mike Wallace in Michael Mann's The Insider––he has arguably been getting even better as a performer. Major directors such as Ron Howard, Terrence Malick and Spike Lee demanded his talents in their films A Beautiful Mind, The New World and Inside Man,and he memorably lent his voice talents to two major animated movies of the past few years: Pixar's Up and Focus Features' own 9. In 2009, Plummer's late career resurgence reached new heights when he was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards for his portrayal of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. While speaking to Entertainment Weekly about Beginners, Plummer said, “I've got to keep working. It really keeps you young, and I can't stand the idea of retiring. Actually, there's no such thing in our business, so I don't know what the hell retire means.”

1 of 4

Display this slideshow on your own site:

Share This: