Christopher Plummer: Busier than ever at 82
"I know you weren't initially a big fan of the movie."
"Listen, I think The 'Sound of Music,' for what it is, is absolutely a wonderful film. I am thankful for it because it certainly helped get audiences in the seats when I went back to the theater."
"That's the blessing. Did you view it as a curse in some way as well?" Mason asked.
"Yeah, because I was immediately cast in all those rather uptight, young arrogant leading men," Plummer said.
Plummer preferred playing character roles, like Rudyard Kipling in "The Man Who Would Be King" . . . Sherlock Holmes in "Murder by Decree" . . . and CBS' Mike Wallace in "The Insider."
But there was a part that got away: "Yes, I do regret that I didn't play the king in 'Becket.'"
Plummer had won raves in the play in London, but in 1964 the film role went to another rising star named Peter O'Toole.
"Well, he had just made 'Lawrence of Arabia,' you know, that tiny little film that hardly anyone saw," Plummer said.
Mason offered that, 'It's up there with 'Sound of Music' as one of the really bad films of all time."
"Yes!" Plummer laughed. "I love Peter. But the son of a bitch took my part, and I'll kill him."
By his own admission Plummer lived a wild life in his early years.
In the late Sixties, he met actress Elaine Taylor, who became his third wife. They've been together now more than 40 years: "In this business, it's a record-breaker," said Plummer.
"Especially for you, given your early record."
"I've only been married three times. Good God, it's not an awful lot, is it?"
"Well, early on, they were coming fast."
"Yeah, well, every 5 years. You know, but at least 5 years. So I got to know their names."
"So why did this one stick?"
"Elaine's strength has really been extraordinary for me. She's saved my life. First of all, I was drinking too much. And she said, 'If you don't stop, we're finished. We're out.' So she saved my life, literally.
"When we do fight, which is occasional, we always end up absolutely screaming with laughter because we suddenly see ourselves performing, and it turns into a performance."
"Can your hear yourself acting sometimes?"
"Oh God, yeah," Plummer said.
"What's that like?"
"It's awful. Most of this interview has been acting!" Plummer replied.
"I was afraid of that . . . "
But it's a part Christopher Plummer plays well.
When asked if he ever tires of walking out of the wings, Plummer said, "No, I just love it."
Another fine performance from an actor who, at 82, isn't about to leave the stage:
For more info:
- Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, Conn.
- "In Spite of Myself" by Christopher Plummer (Knopf)
- Thanks to Peter Le Donne, producer of "Barrymore"; and to Harpo Productions, Inc,, for the clip of Christopher Plummer's appearance on "Oprah."
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