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An actor for all seasons: Christopher Plummer brings ‘Beginners’ to Ridgefield

Elaine Taylor and Christopher Plummer

Elaine and Christopher Plummer at their Weston home, are back after spending the summer in Stratford, Ontario. Mr. Plummer will be appearing at a screening of his film Beginners on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Ridgefield Playhouse. —Patricia Gay photo

Although many people enjoy leisurely time off in the summer, not Christopher Plummer. The actor spent July and August performing a one-man show, A Word or Two, a celebration of his lifelong love of words, at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario.

The show was a huge hit, with New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood calling it “a passionate love letter to language and poetry above all.”

Having just returned to his home in Weston from Canada, Mr. Plummer is not skipping a beat, and is making an appearance at the Ridgefield Playhouse this Saturday, Sept. 8, for a screening of his film, Beginners. He will participate in a Q&A with the audience hosted by Ira Joe Fisher after the screening.

It’s been a busy year for Mr. Plummer, who received numerous accolades and awards for Beginners, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best supporting actor.

In the film, he plays Hal, an aging widower who tells his son, played by Ewan McGregor, that he is gay. The film was based on the true life story of its director/writer Michael Mills.

Mr. Plummer credits Mr. Mills for writing an excellent script. “We didn’t have to change anything. It was all there,” he said.

He also enjoyed acting with Ewan McGregor. “I trusted Ewan and would love to work with him again,” he said.

Mr. Plummer lives in his bucolic home in Weston with his wife Elaine Taylor. At 82, his show business career has spanned more than six decades, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

A Shakespearean-trained actor, he is equally at home on stage and in film, and likes to float back and forth between them. “Life would be very boring if you only stuck to one,” he said.

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor play father and son in Beginners.

Having just finished a stage performance, he’s anxious to get back into film. After that, he’s considering doing a tour of A Word or Two, perhaps bringing it to Broadway.

In November, the best of both Mr. Plummer’s professional worlds will collide when the film Barrymore is scheduled to open in the U.S. The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last year and stars Mr. Plummer as legendary American actor John Barrymore, who looks over the highs and lows of his life while attempting to make a comeback in Richard III.

The film is based on the 1977 Broadway production that won a Tony award for Mr. Plummer as best actor. It was filmed over the course of seven days last year during a limited onstage run at the Elgin Theater in Toronto.

Mr. Plummer said he feels a special connection to John Barrymore, who inspired him to go into acting. “I grew up loving the biography Gene Fowler wrote about him, Good Night Sweet Prince. It was about this crazy, wonderful, glamorous, naughty life. I thought if that was what acting was all about then I wanted to be an actor,” he said with a laugh.

Although Mr. Plummer is known publicly for many serious roles such as The Captain in the Sound of Music, Mike Wallace in The Insider, and Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, he has a definite sense of whimsy in his personal life.

His living room is bedecked with paintings on the walls themselves of a coy little monkey, the cage he escaped from, and the exotic birds and animals he encounters on the loose. Mr. Plummer loves telling a story, one he no doubt created himself, about the monkey and his misdeeds.

He clearly loves good storytelling, which he says was the point of his show, A Word or Two. The younger generation, he fears, is not exposed to the world of literature and the richness and nuances of language.

“We live in a Twitter universe. Everything is made so easy. What is going to happen to books, and nuance, and our language? It is disappearing. We need to teach kids that their language is their heritage. It’s not a chore, it’s fun,” he said.

Reflecting on his career, he said the 1950s were the last glory days of the theater, when plays had to wait to open on Broadway because theaters were so packed there wasn’t enough room for them. He said Cyrano, which he starred in, had to wait eight weeks in Boston for a Broadway theater to open up.

Mr. Plummer performed a lot of Shakespeare in London during the “swinging 1960s” and said it was an exciting time for new music, new sound, and new clothes. But in the 1970s, he noticed things starting to fizzle and plays started slowly disappearing while theaters were taken over by musicals.

“I was so happy in Stratford to see not only older people, but younger people in the audience relating to the works I was reading. That’s a good sign,” he said.

Beginners is playing on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 p.m., at the Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge Street, in Ridgefield.

Tickets, which include the post-movie Q&A with Mr. Plummer, are $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, $5 for students, and may be purchased online at ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

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