One could fairly argue that in terms of sheer longevity, Christopher Plummer has had the greatest career in the history of movies.
Other actors have spent more than five decades in the industry, but few if any have spent them working at such a consistently high-quality, and that’s not even to mention years of tremendous performances on stage and on the small screen.
In 2010, some 45 years after “The Sound of Music,” for example, Plummer won an Oscar for “Beginners.”
Now, the 85-year-old is playing the grandfather in a family of thieves that also consists of a son played by John Travolta and a sick grandson (Tye Sheridan), in “The Forger,” which hits theaters and video on demand Friday. amNewYork spoke with the icon.
You’re a busy guy, so what made you sign on to this project?
I thought it was a rather enchanting story of three generations of crooks and a very touching one as far as the boy is concerned, who is dying slowly, who brings us together. We go on one last heist together. I thought it was fun and touching, both. I thought it was excellent. I’m also a fan of John’s and I admire the boy very much because I saw him in that film he made with Matthew McConaughey, “Mud.”
What does the family dynamic add to this sort of story? Does it make it resonate more for you?
It has nothing to do with it. I look at a script to see if it’s well written and if it’s true to its characters, if they’re rich and interesting and if it’s entertaining. I think all three applied to this movie and that’s why I did it.
Is that your general standard, or is there ever an instance where you’d taken on a part for a different or more personal reason?
Yeah, I love playing real life people. I find the research fascinating. So in that way, that’s different. I’ve played a lot of very famous real life heroes and that I find absolutely fascinating. But not because it’s family, it also has to offer me something a little different that I didn’t do in my last picture. I search for that too and I found this to be fairly different, so I grabbed it.
Can you still find anything new or different in a part at this point?
That’s a bit tough because I’ve had so many roles, I’ve kind of eclipsed. But I keep looking. I keep looking for something I’ve never done before. I may have one I’m about to [start] now for instance, this summer, which I don’t want to talk about because it isn’t signed, sealed and delivered but it’s a project that fascinates me because indeed the character is someone that I have never done before and someone that I can bring on different parts of one’s personality.
Did the Oscar somehow change things for you?
Not really. There were just more of same. Since I appeared in “The Insider,” which was a good film, I started receiving top scripts, really wonderful scripts, and the Oscar came along, of course that was wonderful too. It didn’t change anything. It just gave me more. I found more scripts coming in of the same sort of high caliber, so I was pleased.
Is it fair to assume that the business is cyclical, and there have been periods where you thought things weren’t going as well?
I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve spent half my life in the theater and half in film. I’ve had great success in the theater. I always go back to it. I have no regrets and there were never any really stale periods. I was always on Broadway or in London, doing plays for the Royal Shakespeare and the National Theatre. How much better can you get? I’ve been very lucky, very lucky.
Given how prolific you are, there’s no retirement planned, right?
What is all this about retirement? Why should I retire? First of all, in our profession, nobody retires. You drop dead on the stage.
It’s the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music.” Has your connection with the film changed over the years?
It’s fine. I’ve always admired the film as a film. I just wasn’t very excited about the role I was playing. It’s as simple as that. And suddenly, the film enjoyed such fame, the part I didn’t like particularly was part of this fame, and that was rather uncomfortable. But of course, of course, I’m great friends with Julie [Andrews], I’ve made so many friends, I admire [director] Robert Wise so much. There are many things that I loved about the film. Just not my character particularly.