In the final graph of her entertaining N.Y. Times review of Christopher Plummer‘s In Spite Of Myself: A Memoir (Knopf), Alex Witchel writes, “If your stock in trade is feeling for a living — think about that — you are required to make some messes along the way.
“In spite of himself — his relentlessly high artistic principles; his penchant for playing the underdog, even when he was the star; his keen ear, equally attuned to the precision of Elizabethan verse and to what passes as truth across a whiskey at 5 a.m. — [Christopher Plummer] has experienced a life rich in textures, and he is able to give most of them glorious voice. His is a life in the theater lived hard and true, in the grand tradition of those distinguished players who went before, whom he has surely made proud.”
I’ve always known — understood, believed — that Plummer is a classical stage actor of a very high order, but for decades in movies he’s always played elite pricks of one sort of another — sinister-villain types who were (or certainly seemed to be) way ahead of the hero-protagonist, almost teeming with pleasure at the exercising of their snootiness or venality, or both.
How many times have I “liked” (i.e., felt a form of emotional kinship with) Plummer in a film? In exactly one role — Mike Wallace in The Insider — but really only in that one scene when he talks to Al Pacino in that hotel room about his legacy, his doubts, “what future?” And in that early scene when he has that big argument with the flunkies for that Middle Eastern guy, and when he pitches his first question (“Are you a terrorist?”).
I’ve always enjoyed his creepy psychopathology (the bad guy in The Silent Partner, the sinister book publisher in Wolf) but of course, that’s par for the course.