Christopher Plummer honoured with lifetime achievement award as longtime leader of the pack for Canadian actors
Christopher Plummer has been a class act for more than 50 years. Fittingly, the Toronto-born, Montreal-raised 87-year-old was honoured by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television with a lifetime achievement trophy at the Canadian Screen Awards on Sunday.
The respected thespian has been a mainstay in film, on TV and the stage, including high-profile productions in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. And he’s still going strong.
Despite the accolades and his many international awards, including an Oscar at 82 for his Beginners portrayal, Plummer is pleased with his Canadian Screen Awards salute. That’s especially true now that Canada seems to have asserted itself as a nation proud of accomplishments. “It’s always nice to receive something from your own home country, particularly now that it’s much better than it was,” says Plummer. “When I was young, Canada was very indifferent to the arts, and we fought hard to become professionals, and we did. And then Canada began to perk up and listen to its own people.”
Certainly, Plummer was one of the few leading the way at the time. Over the years he established his reputation as a multi-faceted performer earning an Oscar, two Emmys, and two Tonys along the way. On stage, he made his high-profile debut at the Stratford Festival in 1956, playing the title role in Henry V. He also enjoyed celebrated performances in Cyrano, Barrymore, King Lear and Inherit the Wind, among many other productions, mounted at various times at Stratford, on Broadway and London’s West End.
He also dabbled in TV with roles in the popular miniseries The Thorn Birds and the telefilm Cyrano de Bergerac. And he co-starred in over 100 films with memorable portrayals in The Sound of Music, The Insider, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Last Station, which gave him his first Academy Award nomination for his Leo Tolstoy portrayal. “Versatility is so attractive to me,” Plummer says. “If I could do something, and it would never be the same, I’d be happy. That’s what I went after and that’s the way I always wanted to do it.”
Only The Sound of Music proved difficult for him to shake. The classic 1965 musical became a huge hit and labelled Plummer as the debonair leading man type. “It was such a successful film,” he says. “There was nothing wrong with it. I just didn’t want to always be known as Captain von Trapp. It wasn’t my favourite role but it taught me a lot about musicals.”
His dedication to variety eventually served him well, and likely provided him with the longevity he so richly deserves. “I’ve always liked the smell of the business,” says Plummer of acting. “It is something that I’ve grown to love, and I’ve always had such fun doing it, whether it’s tragedy, comedy or whatever.” And he’s not done. A Word or Two, his “autobiographical journey through literature,” may be heading to Broadway after a recently well-received tour of Canada and the U.S.