CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: REVELLING IN THE FUN
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER’S latest role in BEGINNERS is somewhat of a departure. He plays the father of EWAN McGREGOR who has two big announcements — that he has terminal cancer and (surprise!) he’s gay. It’s a lovely bittersweet movie with yet another winning performance from the Canadian legend.
In a chat with POPEATER, the beloved stage, TV and film actor spoke about the motivation behind his latest role, then dipped into the past by defending his decision to turn down the role of GANDALF in THE LORD OF THE RINGS (too much time commitment) and became flustered when reminded of fans’ enduring obsession with the most visible film in his 100 film plus catalogue: THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
“Yeah, it drives me nuts,” he said about all the fuss over the 1965 film.
“It has nothing to do with the movie. It’s just a relentless pursuing of this film that goes on and on and I’ve gone on and on, far above and beyond it and then to be reminded of it. God Almighty. What is the matter with people?”
NICKI GOSTIN: Did BEGINNERS make you think about your own mortality?
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: Not really, because I’m very much alive thank you! And I’m acting the part of the fellow. So I must be alive and very happily acting the part because it was such a nice change for me and such a relaxed and free part. I loved doing it.
NG: Your character announces he’s gay. Have you had friends who have done that?
CP: Yes, but not quite as honestly as HAL. But yes, I’ve known people who have been married for years who have suddenly discovered to be gay.
NK: I always think that’s sad.
CP: To be discovered to be gay?
NG: That so much of their lives, they were not true to themselves.
CP: Yes that’s right. That’s very difficult and hard but it’s possible because it’s there and they don’t know how to handle it. It’s a very sad thing, you’re right. In HAL’S case of course it was totally different. He was absolutely radiant about it and it freed him totally. He knew finally who he was. I think that’s what the film is about – finding out who you are. It’s not just about being gay.
NG: Does being on stage give you a purpose?
CP: (Laughs) I have too much fun in it…[but a] sense of purpose. No. I don’t think I’ve been sent down from somewhere to bring the happy news. No, I love my work and I’m very lucky to be still in it at a great age…and anything I do I make sure I have a lot of fun.
NG: Your film career has really picked up in the last say…15 years. You’ve had some great roles in films like THE INSIDER and THE LAST STATION.
CP: Yes absolutely. I’m getting better films suddenly. Also, don’t forget I’ve made well over 100 movies and all my life I’ve spent in the theatre. So that’s always come first and a lot of times I wasn’t always available to catch a terrific film role. So sometimes you just have to go on doing films for money so that you could afford to do what you wanted to do, either in the theatre or in a small indie film like this.
NG: Any films you were just thinking, “I’m doing this for the paycheck”?
CP: Of course there were! Also the location. I always put the locations as being very important too.
NG: Have you ever said no to a movie based on location?
CP: Yes, there were two locations that I turned down. One was a very small African town and the other was New Zealand because I didn’t want to spend too long there.
NG: That’s right. You turned down LORD OF THE RINGS.
CP: Yes I did. I was one of the people offered GANDALF and I didn’t want to spend that long there. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to New Zealand but I think they all spent two years there and I thought, “Christ, what happens to the rest of the world while I’m there?”
NG: Do you regret turning that down? That was a pretty major role.
CP: I would only have regretted it if it would have been badly played and that makes you feel like, “Oh, what a waste. I should have done that.” But it was done so beautifully by IAN (McKELLEN) and the movie was of course wonderful.
NG: You had an uneasy relationship with THE SOUND OF MUSIC. But now you’ve made your peace. Right?
CP: Oh, God no.
NG: You have to understand people grew up with it. Every little girl had a crush on CAPTAIN VON TRAPP.
CP: Yeah. Poor things. (Laughs)
NG: Does all the fuss about it just drive you nuts?
CP: Yeah, it drives me nuts. It has nothing to do with the movie. It’s just a relentless pursuing of this film that goes on and on and I’ve gone on and on, far above and beyond it and then to be reminded of it. God Almighty. What is the matter with people?
NG: But you did do the cast reunion on OPRAH.
CP: I did that because first of all I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t done other similar kind of evenings and also I did it because I was paid very handsomely. (Laughs) And I also liked OPRAH enormously. I’d never met her before and I was curious. I liked her enormously. She has a great sense of humour.
NG: Are you surprised by the enduring ardour of the fans?
CP: Yes, I am in a way. Even though it has a timeless quality there is still something slightly old fashioned about it. Perhaps that’s what appeals to them. I don’t know. It appeals to the very young but it does surprise me that people who are in their teens because it’s the opposite to anything out there. But I don’t spend every day thinking about it until somebody like YOU brings it up. (Laughs)
NG: I’m sorry! But you know it comes from love.
CP: I know. Of course.