A LIFE IN THE THEATRE: Christopher Plummer, From Stratford to "The Sound of Music" to Barrymore

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13 Nov 2012

Christopher Plummer in <i>Barrymore</i>
Christopher Plummer in Barrymore
Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Christopher Plummer, the octogenarian Oscar winner, talks about his theatrical roots in Canada, his plays and movies, and his recent return to a favorite character — John Barrymore — in a new film.


When Christopher Plummer was growing up, he studied piano. "I thought seriously of becoming a concert pianist," he says. "But I soon found that that was very lonely and very hard work. So I thought, 'Well, I'm a good mimic, I might as well go into the theatre.' I wasn't good at anything else, so in I went."

That happy decision has led to a more than 60-year career in theatre, film and television. Plummer is a stage giant. He has won many awards, including two Tonys for Best Actor — one for a play, one for a musical — and this year, at age 82, an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (for "Beginners").

He is beloved for his 1965 film role as Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music." Plummer won his Tonys in 1974 for a musical version of Cyrano and in 1997 for a tour de force performance in the title role of Barrymore, William Luce's play based on the life of John Barrymore. A film version, also called "Barrymore," opens this fall.

Plummer was born in Toronto and started acting while in high school in Montreal. "My mother took me to every play that came to town, and ballet, and music," he recalls. He decided on acting, he says, in part for the "glamour." One early influence was seeing Laurence Olivier in the 1944 film of "Henry V." "I was still at school and went to see the film and thought...this was terrific stuff. And glamorous."

He spent time learning his craft in repertory companies. "That's the way you should start. Playing hundreds of different roles."


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