Christopher Plummer was a true artist.
According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), over the course of a career that started in 1953 and finished in 2019, spanning 217 projects and roles, Plummer collected 47 different awards and was nominated 66 different times. Nominated for seven Emmy awards, winning twice, Plummer was nominated for an Oscar three times and won once.
The movie he was last Oscar-nominated for was Ridley Scott’s much-troubled “All the Money in the World.” It wasn’t even near his finest hour in front of the camera. But Plummer wasn’t the first actor to receive an award nomination that carried more lifetime achievement than actual merit. He was so well-respected and worked on so many projects, that you wouldn’t think about doubting him. His award-worthiness should have been for the circumstances under which he had to give that particular performance. After all, after Kevin Spacey made an ass of himself, it was Plummer who came in with ZERO prep and gave a performance that was better than the movie itself.
While many will champion his performance in “The Sound of Music,” and rightfully so, I grew up with a different neighborhood of his work. Here are my personal five best performances from a guy who once said he was absolutely thrilled and in disbelief to get a note from Al Pacino.
A movie that pivoted on the interactions between a father and son rode easy on Plummer’s skill. This was his Oscar-winning performance. Playing a man who gives his son (Ewan McGregor, very good in his own right) a series of revelations late in his life: He has terminal cancer, is gay, and has a young lover. Writer/director Mike Mills packed so much heart, wit, and soul into this honest portrayal of freedom after 70 years of age. Plummer towered over grand material and a solid cast to give a performance that I think is his finest role. How many closeted gay men came out after watching this film? I’d bet on a lot.
Plummer’s rich novelist loomed over Rian Johnson’s entire film, stealing subsequent scenes with heavy hitters such as Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis-even if his character spends most of the dark comedy dead as a doornail. Combining his signature ability to convey strength and vulnerability, Plummer’s scene with Ana de Armas when the “accident” happens, is my favorite scene of the critically-acclaimed film, and it rides and dies (literally) with his Harlan Thrombey.
Could anyone have played Mike Wallace as well as Plummer? Not even close. Well-known figure, tricky role, opposite Pacino and Russell Crowe, in a Michael Mann film. He nailed it. Full stop.
The second half of this Pixar gem could have started to lose its legs if it weren’t for Plummer’s Charles Muntz. What a great adversary with so much vocal wizardry injected by an actor who sounded like he was having the time of his life.
A Beautiful Mind
Just another vital role that the actor made look easy, playing the doctor who has to inform the wife (Jennifer Connelly) of John Nash (Russell Crowe) that he has schizophrenia, and that he isn’t being followed, that the conspiracy is only in his mind. For that scene alone, you could put him on this list.
I always thought Plummer was the flipside to Max Von Sydow in the world of film. Tall, dominating men with a resume few can match and a presence that could always be trusted. Sydow passed away last March. Plummer died this week. Both 1929 babies. Thankfully, an artist’s work never dies. It just lives on, waiting for new guests to come into its house of intrigue.