I won’t hold it against Canadian-wanna-be-British actor Christopher Plummer that when we met on a set in London 34 years ago, he never spoke, only sneered. I’d pissed him off by humming “Something Good.” He famously despises “The Sound of Music.”
But if he doesn’t win an Oscar on Sunday for his charming turn as a geriatric who comes out to his son four years before dying of cancer, it will be my turn to be pissed.
Touring the city as a teen while my sister studied at the Royal College of Music, I had been lingering near Albert Hall, when I spied a glowing house on the edge of Hyde Park. Klieg lights everywhere. I fancied myself a “film student” then, and was drawn like a moth. (Though, technically, moths aren’t drawn, just disoriented, and they don’t make a beeline for anything, but I digress.)
Wearing my London fog reporter’s garb and flashing my instamatic camera, I slipped into the Victorian house along with a cadre of curious tourists and climbed two stories, until a bouncer announced, “Closed set” and started pushing folks away. I managed to peek inside the door at the top of the stairs, and randomly waved to a bearded beefeater bloke in a huddle of grips and carpenters and boldly fibbed, “I’m with him,” so he reeled me in on crooked finger. “No pictures, though,” the bouncer growled.
That’s when I made a sweep of the hazy room — artificial smoke was being pumped in for a dingy lighting effect — and spied Christopher Plummer, in his own little corner, all alone, much smaller than I’d imagined. My inner Julie Andrews did somersaults over to him. I tried making small talk, about the smoke and torturous working conditions, about my love of films and, eeek, did I mention “The Sound of Music”? Possibly. He just eyed me cautiously, down the slope of his nose, when I broke into song, “Perhaps I had a wicked childhood … perhaps I had a miserable youth …” and lost the lyrics. Music, the universal language. He had nowhere to escape to, so I took my cue and sauntered over to my fake friend, Dennis Bovington, with whom I got along famously and who, after the shoot, invited me to share a pint with the union boys and a baby-faced Harrison Ford, who also happened to be working on the movie. Say, what?! And I cared more about Christopher Plummer!?
“Hanover Street,” that was the film, a 1979 World War II bomb. But I was issued a three-day studio pass and given the red-carpet treatment, courtesy of Master Bovington, as well as a visit to Stanley Kubrick’s estate and a tour of “The Shining” set (just the exterior of a fake Overlook Hotel, used in the scenes when Danny is trying to escape out the window and Wendy is working on getting the Snowcat to work), as well as the “Star Wars” graveyard, where I combed through spare C3PO and R2D2 body parts. It was an aspiring-film-student’s dream.
But back to Plummer. The poor sod has never won an Oscar. Never even nominated for Best Actor. I believe this is only his second Best Supporting Actor nom. And though the stage actor despises fluff and loves playing villains, he was brilliant as an over-the-hill gay man with vistas yet to conquer.
A look at his competition:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Kenneth Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”) — Lost in the character of Laurence Olivier, he nonetheless seemed to be wearing some sort of fat suit. Too distracting.
- Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”) — Loved him, proud of him to cross over from goofy sidekick to geeky sidekick, but he later lost his fat suit. Let’s give this guy some more serious roles. Too soon for his award.
- Nick Nolte (“Warrior”) — The recovering-alcoholic-deadbeat-father-dismal-has-been role was written for him, and I totally soaked up his relapse scene, but the role fits him like a glove. Too tailored.
- Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”) — His silent performance was waaaaay better than Jean Dujardin’s, and he provided one of the few emotional entry points to this disappointingly clinical film. But, sorry. Too muted.
Neither von Sydow nor Plummer has won an Oscar before. Both are 82. It’s extremely tough and incredibly close, but flipping a coin here: Plummer had lines AND a death scene. The Shakespearean actor must get his due. If not, it would be truly a bummer for Plummer.
Chris, you can thank me later for supporting you in your time of need.
“Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could …
But somewhere in (his) youth and childhood
(He) must have done something good.”
More educated-guessing picks tomorrow.