Mar 12, 2015

TCMFF Prefunc: 10 Reasons I Dig Christopher Plummer

Plummer in 2009

Handsome, intelligent and wickedly talented, Christopher Plummer is a legend of both the stage and screen. I'm thrilled that he will be attending TCM Classic Film Festival 2015. Though I will not be in the audience when he introduces the opening night film, The Sound of Music (1965), with Julie Andrews and a trio of his screen offspring, I plan to attend his handprint and footprint ceremony in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre (yeah, still having trouble with the TCL Chinese name...).

There are several reasons why I adore Plummer. Here's a few of them:

1. He was my first movie crush

I only recently realized this. While enjoying all the 50th anniversary tributes to The Sound of Music (1965), I remembered that he was the first actor to give me that delightfully swoony feeling. So good looking! So sophisticated! He enthralled my 6-year-old self. I'll never forget the butterflies I had in my stomach the first time I saw him dance with Julie Andrews. That scene has the same effect on me today:

2. He has great career integrity

Though he has found widespread fame for his movie roles, Plummer stepped gingerly into the cinematic world. I admire that he has continued to do significant work in the stage roles he enjoys. He even chose Hamlet over film stardom when David O. Selznick offered him a lucrative movie contract, which he discusses in this 2009 interview:

3. He has a sense of humor about "that movie"

Though, as Plummer says in the clip above, the fact that The Sound of Music (1965) overshadows his long and varied career "pisses me off," the story "was not his cup of tea" and it isn't his favorite film, he appreciates that he was part of a beloved classic. He has also always spoken generously of his costar Julie Andrews.

In this clip filmed on the set of the movie, it is clear that Plummer was given the part because he had that extra depth to offer that he felt was better embodied in his other, more serious works. He shares some interesting insights on acting here (Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise make appearances too):

4. He makes silly movies not so silly

The particular silly movie I have in mind is Star Crash (1978). This Star Wars rip-off, which I adore by the way, features ridiculous dialogue, costumes that look like they were made out of garbage bags and plastic sheeting, and a crazy, but fantastic cast including David Hasselhoff, former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner, cult favorite Joe Spinell and British bombshell Caroline Munro.

It's all a gorgeous, goofy mess. However, while wearing an eye-searing metallic costume, Plummer gives his brief part as the Emperor, and dad to Hasselhoff, all the majesty of a Shakespearean actor performing King Lear. Check out the way he proclaims "halt the flow of time!":

5. He truly deserved his Oscar for Beginners (2011)

When a performer has had a long, celebrated career, sometimes an Academy Award can seem like a lifetime appreciation award. While an award of that sort was certainly due Plummer, his performance as a man who comes out of the closet at age 75, and not long after learns he has cancer, stands on its own as a remarkable achievement. He brilliantly embodies the happy/sad persona of a dying man who never stops living life to the fullest or succumbs to self pity. You can see him in action here:

6. He brings great excitement to classic roles

Check out the electricity he generates as Hamlet, opposite Jo Maxwell Muller as Ophelia, in a 1964 television production:

7. He plays a mean piano

Plummer apparently trained as a classical pianist before beginning his acting career. As can be heard from this clip of him playing the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano concerto on the set of Elsa and Fred in 2014, he has kept up with his practicing:

8. He continues to be active as a performer

Speaking of Elsa and Fred, his starring role opposite fellow TCMFF guest Shirley MacLaine is one of three movies he made in 2014. According to IMDb, he has made appearances in or done voice work for five upcoming films in 2015. Here's the trailer for Elsa and Fred. I love these two together:

9. He still makes great movies

In addition to his wonderful performance in Beginners, Plummer has contributed to several interesting films over the past decade, including Up (2009), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), The New World (2005) and Inside Man (2006).

10. He speaks his mind

One of the things I most admire about Christopher Plummer is his ability to speak his mind in an intelligent, frank and essentially kind manner. Whatever issues he may have with a film, director or whatever, he always has something nice to say,but he doesn't pull punches. Here he talks about his frustrations in working with Terrance Malick on The New World (2005):

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