Christopher Plummer loves words. Be they the gentle musings of Winnie the Pooh or the powerful doctrine of the Old Testament, words have a special place in the Weston actor’s life.
To that end, Mr. Plummer is celebrating some of his favorite words in a one-man show this summer at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, called A Word or Two.
The show is an autobiographical journey featuring literature that has inspired Mr. Plummer since his youth and will include readings from Stephen Leacock, A.A. Milne, and of course, William Shakespeare.
Although Mr. Plummer is busy traveling and preparing for his new show, he took a few minutes to talk to The Forum about his latest endeavors.
On Sunday, June 10, he had a lively night as a presenter at Broadway’s Tony awards. After handing Nina Arianda a best actress award for her play Venus in Fur, she quipped, “Sir, you were my first crush. When that whistle was blown in The Sound of Music, it made my day.”
While Mr. Plummer was amused by Ms. Arianda’s comments about one of his most popular films, he was less amused with the heat in the Beacon Theater, where the Tonys were held. “The air conditioning wasn’t working that well and equipment was blocking the air so I had to have my jacket steamed before I went on,” he said.
The Tonys were the latest in a long line of award shows Mr. Plummer attended this year. At the Academy awards in February, he received his first-ever Oscar — for best supporting actor — as a compassionate father who tells his son he is gay in the film Beginners. The low-budget independent film was a huge hit and Mr. Plummer also received numerous film critic awards, a Golden Globe award, SAG award, BAFTA award, and Independent Spirit award.
So when he read the script for Beginners, did Mr. Plummer think this would be the part that would win him an Oscar? No. He said he doesn’t think about awards when accepting roles. “You just don’t think that way. I took the part because it was a well-written script that told of a real family and their problems and it was not self-pitying. They treated their misfortunes bravely and with humor,” he said.
Mr. Plummer said he was personally asked to do the film by Michael Mills, who wrote and directed it. The story is based on Mr. Mills’ own experiences with his father. “I could see this was delicate and I said I hope I will do this justice,” Mr. Plummer said.
Mr. Mills turned out to be a generous director and Mr. Plummer said he was free to do what he wanted with the part. But the script was so good he did it just as written.
“With most films you go through four or five drafts. But we were hanging onto the original draft. I didn’t change a word,” he said.
Mr. Plummer enjoyed working with actor Ewan McGregor, who played his son in Beginners and said he hopes to work with him again. “He’s a terrific actor,” Mr. Plummer said.
Winning an Oscar for Beginners was a definite positive for Mr. Plummer’s career. “Of course your stock goes up,” he said. But a real turning point came following his performance as Mike Wallace in The Insider. “I got lucky. Ever since The Insider I started getting better quality scripts and deeper and more distinguished stories,” he said.
Mr. Plummer lit up the big screen recently when a special filmed version of his play The Tempest was shown in 565 movie theaters in the U.S. for one night only. The play was filmed at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival over the course of two nights in 2010.
Mr. Plummer received raves as Prospero the magician, the banished Duke of Milan, who is marooned on an island with his daughter. He had terrific chemistry with actress Julyana Soelistyo, who played the acrobatic sprite Ariel. “She was just marvelous,” Mr. Plummer said
This isn’t the first time a film version of one of Mr. Plummer’s plays has hit the big screen. Last year, his filmed play Barrymore opened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Des McAnuff, who directed The Tempest, is also directing A Word or Two, which is based on A Word or Two Before You Go, a one-man show Mr. Plummer wrote and has performed for charitable causes at venues such as the Westport Country Playhouse.
Mr. McAnuff visited Mr. Plummer and his wife Elaine at their home in Weston and, after hearing some of the material from A Word or Two Before You Go, decided it would make a great addition to the Stratford Shakespeare festival’s 60th anniversary season. So the show was revamped and updated and Mr. Plummer hopes his friends and neighbors in Weston will make the trip to Canada this summer to see it.
“The food in Stratford is excellent,” Mr. Plummer said. “There is a cooking school there and some really first class restaurants. So if you don’t like the play you can like the food,” he said with a laugh.
At 82, Mr. Plummer shows no signs of slowing down or retiring. He considers acting his hobby as well as his profession.
When asked what films he has coming up he was a bit reticent to answer. “I do have some new films coming but I don’t want to talk about them until they come out because it is bad luck, especially if for some reason they aren’t released,” he said.
A Word or Two will be playing at the Avon Theater in Stratford, Ontario. Previews start July 25. Opening night is scheduled for Aug. 2 and the show will run until Aug. 26.
Tickets are available by calling 800-567-1600 or visiting stratfordshakespearefestival.com.