Christopher Plummer has finally quit membership of an elite group – the one comprised of fine actors never to have been nominated for an Oscar.
Not that Plummer, 80, has exactly been sitting around waiting for Oscar to call. He’s been far too busy enjoying himself on stage and on television, taking home two Tony and two Emmy awards, and now working as much as at any time in his more than 50 year career.
So the Canadian actor, most famous for a role he would rather forget but has come to make peace with (Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music), is delighted by his best supporting actor Oscar nomination for playing Tolstoy in The Last Station, yet sanguine about the prospect of NOT winning.
“I’m not going to win so I don’t really have to make a speech, which is rather a relief,” he laughed.
“It is extremely nice to be honored and I think that is the award. How can you possibly compare one to the other because they are five such different people? So it’s rather nice to leave them as five and I am very proud to be in that five,” Plummer told Reuters.
The other supporting actor nominees are Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, Matt Damon (Invictus), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) and Woody Harrelson (The Messenger).
On film, Plummer has brought audiences iconic people such as Aristotle, Rudyard Kipling and Sherlock Holmes, while his career in the theatre has seen him play almost every male Shakespeare lead except Falstaff.
But it was The Last Station, in which he plays the aging and adored Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in a battle of wits with his tempestuous wife Sofya (Helen Mirren), that finally brought him to the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mirren also earned an Oscar nomination.
“What I enjoyed most is working with Helen, whom I am crazy about. She is such a marvelous actress and she is such fun to be with, so we had a marvelous time together.
“I am fascinated by doing research on people and trying to, not imitate them, but at least suggest them. In the case of Tolstoy, of course, all you have to do is to put on a beard and you look like him,” Plummer said.
THAT DARNED CAPTAIN VON TRAPP?
The Last Station is one of seven movies featuring Plummer to arrive in movie theaters in the past 12 months, including The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He has given his rich, distinctive voice to animated films Up and 9.
This summer takes him back to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario to play Prospero and next year sees him playing a man who discovers in his later years that he is gay in the movie Beginners.
“I have been extremely lucky to find I am working almost more now than I was. Maybe it’s because there are only a few of us left my age, and they all think ‘let’s hire him before he croaks’,” he joked. “I am in a profession that I actually love, and I don’t want to leave it. I am still just as ambitious for the next good part.”
None of his movie roles have brought him the popular acclaim of the captain with seven children in 1965’s The Sound of Music, yet for more than 40 years, he has been portrayed in the media for hating the movie.
He now disputes that characterisation, regarding the movie as a blessing and the role as only a small curse.
“It is not a film which I detest. The press have always got that wrong. I didn’t hate the movie at all. I just didn’t think my role was terribly exciting,” he said.
“The film was so popular, which helped me a lot in selling tickets to the theatre so I am grateful for that. A bit of a curse because it typed me for a long time. They cast me in rather similar uptight leading male roles.
“But then I became a character actor because of my age, and it is so much more fun because you have such a wonderful variety of parts to play.”