TORONTO — Legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer says he’s not bothered at all that he had to wait so long to get his first Academy Award nomination.
“Charlie Chaplin had to wait until he was in his 80s to get it — can you believe that? — and so I’m in good company,” Plummer, 80, said recently with a chuckle from his winter home in Palm Beach, Fla.
The Toronto-born stage and screen star, winner of multiple Tony and Emmy Awards, is up for the best supporting actor Oscar for playing ailing War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station.
Plummer’s performance is a rich blend of playful and powerful, from his ferocious arguments and whimsical bedroom scenes with Helen Mirren, who plays his marginalized wife, to his pitch-perfect mannerisms.
Despite not knowing what the Russian author sounded like, playing him wasn’t a huge challenge as the screenplay was well written and theatrical, said Plummer, noting he’d also already read the writer’s novels.
Still, Plummer doesn’t expect to win the golden statuette.
The honour, he believes, will go to Christoph Waltz for his role as an exuberant and ruthless Nazi in Inglourious Basterds.
“He’s terrific in it and it’s a marvellously showy role. He’ll get it,” said Plummer, adding he isn’t feeling the pressure ahead of the show.
March 7 show, where he’ll also compete against Matt Damon for “Invictus,” Woody Harrelson for “The Messenger” and Stanley Tucci for “The Lovely Bones.”
“To me, it’s over because once you’re nominated that’s it, really. And that’s the nice part of it — that you’re nominated. I think that’s great.
“The actual show is sort of rather long and we have to sit there for a long time, I think, but I will certainly go because of my competitors and it would look awful not to be there.”
Plummer, who also has a home in Connecticut, has never been to the Academy Awards as he’s never been nominated before and isn’t keen on the fanfare the comes with such glitzy events.
“I don’t like going unless one is up for an award. Why would one put oneself through that agony?” he said, putting emphasis on the word “agony” in his crisp, Mid-Atlantic accent.
“I’m not crazy about (the fanfare). It’s a business you know, it’s a flesh-peddling business, and I don’t always like the feeling on the red carpet. You feel like you’re pushing yourself, which I don’t do. But it’s expected, so …”
As for what he and his wife, Elaine Taylor, will wear to the bash: “We’ll just drag out the old dinner jackets and evening dresses again,” he said with another chuckle.
Plummer is in two other movies that are up for Oscars this year: he has the title role in the surreal fantasy “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus,” which earned nods for art direction and costume design nominations. And in “Up,” which has five nods including best picture, he voices evil explorer Charles Muntz.
He also voiced a character in another animated film, “9,” which came out last year, and in April, he’ll return to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in southwestern Ontario to play Prospero in “The Tempest.” This, after his triumphant role in “Caesar and Cleopatra” at the festival in 2008, the same year he played the U.S. president in the miniseries “The Summit.”
Indeed, 45 years after his beloved turn as Capt. Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” Plummer is still as in-demand — and keen to work — as ever.
“You’ve got to keep going,” said Plummer, whose great-grandfather was Prime Minister John Abbott. “And I’m very happy that I seem to be getting more work as I get older.
“I seem to be doing more than less, which is fabulous, because it keeps one young.”