Magazine article Screen International

Christopher Plummer

Magazine article Screen International

Christopher Plummer

Article excerpt

Christopher Plummer tells Screen about playing the septuagenarian widower who comes out of the closet in Beginners and why casting is the key for a good director.

One of the more enduring mysteries of Academy folklore is why Christopher Plummer has never lifted a golden statuette. In fact, it was only in 2010 that Plummer earned his first nomination, for playing Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. Many believe that with his charming supporting role as Hal Fields in Beginners, Plummer has positioned himself as a strong Oscar contender for the second time in three years.

At first, the Canada-born actor was as intrigued by the idea of the film's writer-director Mike Mills as he was by the role of Fields, a dying septuagenarian widower who comes out of the closet. "They sent me the script and Mills wrote me a very polite and wonderful letter, rather like they used to do," Plummer says. "I thought he seemed so strange and courteous, and he wrote like the old school.

"I liked the script but I was rather reticent and thought, 'Oh here we go, how am I going to pull this off?', because I thought it was going to be very intense." Such reservations were understandable: it was one thing for a senior actor of stage and film to turn his hand to such an unusual role, but quite another to do so when the part was inspired by the director's late father.

However, Plummer's concerns evaporated when he met Mills. "He wanted to see me, you know, to make sure I didn't have three heads," Plummer chuckles. "I mentioned how tentative I was about playing his father. I never knew his father and said, how was I going to do justice to him? He told me to do what I wanted -- he was such a generous man."

Plummer took his cue and infused Fields with an uncomplicated self-acceptance that radiates warmth and vitality. "We didn't depart from the script in any way because it was honest," he says. "There was the occasional improvisation but the spirit was there in the writing, so it wasn't difficult to make [Fields] a happy and grateful man who realises at the end of his life he can be honest with himself. He's extraordinarily thankful that he can end on such a happy note -- he isn't sorry for himself in the least. …

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