Oscars 2012: Christopher Plummer on his 'explosion' of great roles
Christopher Plummer made films for close to five decades without getting an Oscar nomination, but on Tuesday he picked up his second in three years with his work in “Beginners,” in which he plays a retiree who comes out of the closet after his wife’s death.
“Awards and nominations don’t cross your mind. They’re not something you think about when you do the work. You just think about simply doing something that’s good,” Plummer said with a chuckle. “That’s your focus and your goal -- just to do the thing that’s right in front of you.”
Plummer was nominated for supporting actor for portraying Leo Tolstoy, the lion of Russian literature, in “The Last Station,” and he heard his name called again Tuesday in the same category for the very different role of Hal Fields, a retired museum director who shocks his adult son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor), by announcing that he is gay and also facing a terminal cancer prognosis.
“There’s no pity in it,” Plummer said of the movie written and directed by Mike Mills. “It’s tough, and it's honest. I adored the role the first time I read the script, and it changed very little. What was there at the beginning [in the script] was there in the film. There’s a sweetness and a hopeful feeling about death and this feeling that it’s never too late for your life to be fulfilling and to be contributing to society.”
Plummer has never won an Oscar, but he may be the man to beat in his category this year (he’s already picked up the Golden Globe for the role), but on Tuesday he was more interested in praising costar McGregor. “He doesn’t act. He reacts. He walks on the screen, and he simply is his character,” Plummer said. “We had a wonderful time working together. He’s an extraordinary actor.”
Plummer just celebrated his 82nd birthday in December, and the Toronto native said that instead of celebrating on Tuesday, he would do prep work for “A Word or Two,” the one-man play he will perform this summer at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Through the years, the stage was the place where Plummer found the most consistently satisfying and challenging work. Hollywood, he said, has been a trickier forum with seasons in the spotlight and then years spent in work that he took “just to pay the bills” and free himself up for the stage.
“The Sound of Music” star has -- like his “Beginners” character -– found a new chapter of engagement later in life with signature performances in “The Insider,” “Up,” “The Last Station” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
“I’ve been acting for close to, what, 60 years? I’m happy to be doing it, and when I look back, as far as film roles that I was offered, there were explosions of quality and then years where there was no quality at all. And this one of the explosive times.”
-- Geoff Boucher
Photo: Christopher Plummer, left, and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." Credit: Focus Features