Christopher Plummer’s Syllabus – The Ringtone
Christopher Plummer, a true Hollywood legend whose career spanned seven decades, died on Friday at the age of 91. “Chris was an amazing man who loved and deeply respected his profession with old-fashioned high manners, self-deprecating humor and the music of words,” said manager Lou Pitt. in a report. “He was a national treasure who deeply savored his Canadian roots. With his art and his humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will last for all generations to come. Below, we remember some of his biggest moments.
The sound of music
It is only now, as I write these lines, that I learn of an extremely funny fact: Christopher Plummer was not a fan of The sound of music, the 1965 film in which he played the frigid and incredibly handsome father of seven captains Georg von Trapp. Plummer had primarily performed Shakespearean theater before appearing alongside Julie Andrews in the Oscar-winning adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein production, and he called the film his most difficult role in a hollywood reporter round table in 2011: “So horrible, sentimental and sticky,” he explained. “You must have worked terribly hard to try and inject a little bit of humor into it.” To others, he has described the role as an “empty carcass” and an “albatross,” and has reportedly referred to the film over the years as “The Sound of Mucus,” a father’s joke if ever there was one.
Of course, this all sounds a lot like something Captain von Trapp, with his skeptical half-sneer and clearly refined tastes and stern little whistle, could have said about such a blatant movie as well. And to be fair, Plummer finally somehow came around on the charms of the film, thanks to an Easter party for the children. As for me, the only mucus sounds I will continue to recognize are my own sniffles at those first notes of “Edelweiss”, and my tears of jealousy during the dance scenes, and my slobber on Cap von Trapp with the guitar. I bet he would play a villain-like, actually means-version of “What I got.” –Katie baker
“You’re only two years older than me, honey, where have you been all my life?” Christopher Plummer said of his Oscar statuette in 2012, an ironic recognition of his age, as well as the idea that such recognition had been a long time coming. In Beginners, Plummer plays Hal, a 75-year-old man who comes out of the closet following the death of his wife; it is an extremely charming performance that expresses the joy and apprehension of a man who arrives late to himself while also considering the emotional consequences of this revolution for his adult son (Ewan McGregor, whose generous and self-effacing play continues to serve as moments for his co-star to poke on top). Mike Mills’ movie is meant to be crowd-pleasing, and Plummer takes a look at the vibe without demeaning or oversimplifying a character based closely on the filmmaker’s own father. Even a potentially cheesy scene like Hal dancing to house music on his first trip to a gay bar is redeemed by a sweet flamboyance that seems to belong only to the character. You know an actor has been around for a long time when he can do something totally spontaneous. –Adam nayman
60 minutes Correspondent Mike Wallace was, like many other renowned journalists, trustworthy, combative, astute, quick-witted and ego-driven. But what made him a legend was that he was an accomplished performer. Christopher Plummer understood this and introduced this notion in turn as a TV reporter in the Michael Mann film about a tobacco industry whistleblower named Jeffrey Wigand.
The then 69-year-old actor realized that Wallace was always on, even when he wasn’t on the air. No scene illustrates it better only when Wallace learns that the network went behind his back to heavily edit an interview he gave explaining why the network was not broadcasting the entire Wigand segment. Wallace proceeds to unload, first on the president of CBS News who claims he was cut for the time: “Bullshit! You company lackeys! Who told you that your incompetent little fingers had the skills to modify me ?! “Then he lashes out at a lawyer, ending with this bluster:” I’ve been doing this job for 50 fucking years. people you work for destroy the most respected, highest rated, highest grossing show on this network! ”
The initiate was nominated for seven Oscars; somehow, Plummer did not receive one. Bullshit! –Alain Siegel
Knives Out and The girl with the dragon tattoo
Maybe he did his best heartbreaking job early in his career, but Christopher Plummer showed no interest in slowing down in his old age. As Henrik Vanger in the adaptation of David Fincher in 2011 The girl with the dragon tattoo, Plummer settled into a role he would perfect in the final round of his career: Hot Mystery Grandpa. There simply was no one better to play a dashing, wealthy patriarch who dotes on his eccentric family and holds their secrets a little too close to their chest. In Dragon Tattoos, Vanger engages the character of Daniel Craig to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a beloved niece. And in fan favorite mystery of 2019 Knives Out, Plummer’s path crossed paths with Craig again, this time as the murdered novelist (or was he?) Harlan Thrombey versus Craig’s detective, Benoit Blanc. Plummer played other family patriarchs, in films like National treasure and All the money in the world, but his innate warmth and eternally knowledgeable gaze – with unmistakable hints of mischief and foreboding – made him a perfect match for the grandfathers of Dragon Tattoos and Knives Out. –Kate halliwell
Star Trek VI: The Unknown Land
Star Trek movie villains are almost always renowned actors, classically trained, with ridiculous makeup and costumes, with instructions for getting out and blowing the roof off the set. It doesn’t always work – Tom Hardy nearly strangled his own Cradle career in Star Trek: Nemesis, and he was 10 times better in this movie than Benedict Cumberbatch was in Star Trek: Into Darkness– but it’s still, still fun to watch. And while Trekkie orthodoxy demands that Ricardo Montalban’s Khan be seen as the best of them, Christopher Plummer’s General Chang was the best of the rest.
Star Trek VI: The Unknown Land, released in 1991 at the end of the Cold War, explores the confusion of longtime warriors awkwardly and suddenly plunged into an era of peace. On the one hand, Captain Kirk. On the other, Chang, a Klingon general with a mustache and eye patch (Plummer reportedly said his costume made him look like Moshe Dayan). Plummer owned every scene he was in, quoting Shakespeare and Adlai Stevenson, delivering each line with a playful smirk or a menacing skinny. There must be something liberating about playing a character like Chang – if you’re a Klingon with an eye patch and an affinity for quotes. Hamlet, you’re probably the bad guy – and Plummer played it with infectious glee; with evil Bond-villain fun levels. And that’s why you ask an actor like Plummer to play a character like Chang. He lent skill and gravity to a character who could have been silly and turned him into the best part of one of the best movies in the series. –Michel Baumann
The silent partner
This rocky thriller set in Toronto, a classic from Canada’s tax shelter era and a Quentin Tarantino favorite, stars Plummer as Harry Reikle, a petty criminal who tries to rob a bank as he is disguised as Santa Claus. He is thwarted by a clever cashier (Elliott Gould) who pockets the money after sounding the silent alarm, leading to the indelible image of a Kris Kringle armed with a gun by a mall cop. At this point in his career, Plummer was still primarily identified with his goody-two-shoes role in The sound of music, and playing a sociopath seems to free him; he runs through his scenes with unbridled and seething fury as he plots his vengeance against a worthy adversary. Throughout his training on stage, Plummer was always second to none when it came to what and how he showed on camera; shot mostly in close-up here, he focuses the majority of Reikle’s threat in his searing icy blue eyes. In The silent partner‘s most famous shot, Reikle gazes at his prey through the narrow rectangle of an apartment door slit, a cartoon-style sight gag that’s also deeply, lengthily creepy in a way that connects to the previous trail the character’s Santa Claus: he sees you when you sleep, he knows when you are awake. –Nayman
All the money in the world
A few weeks ago, amid calls to erase Donald Trump from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, several people made the same joke: Christopher Plummer should replace it in the movie. This is a fallout from a joke that has flourished on Twitter in recent years – Plummer’s bogus ads replacing problematic men in everything from dead Pool To Master of None to that of Steven Spielberg West Side Story. It’s rooted in reality, of course: In 2017, as reports of sexual misconduct by Kevin Spacey came to light, Ridley Scott made the decision to replace Spacey with Plummer as J. Paul Getty in All the money in the world, mainly using digital technology.
It is an onerous, unenviable task to put yourself in the shoes of such a shameful man, in such a public way. The list of actors serious enough to do it well is not very long; Plummer, as the jokes on Twitter show, is at the top. “I was like, ‘Hell, I’m doing this,'” Plummer said. The New York Times. “There was no time to be afraid or to be afraid.” The performance earned Plummer an Oscar nomination, a nomination that made him the oldest person to ever be nominated for Best Actor. It is the least form of recognition he deserves, for entering such a dark situation with such grace; to remind the world that good people exist. –André Gruttadaro