The classically trained stage actor does movies for the money

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Christopher Plummer is taken aback. The 64-year-old Canadian-born actor, who plays corporate raider Raymond Alden to patrician perfection in Wolf, has just learned that the scene in which he engages in hand-to-hand combat with his daughter (Michelle Pfeiffer) does not appear in the movie. ”They didn’t keep that in?” he asks coolly. Then, flashing an ironic smile, he adds, ”You see, that’s the reason one sometimes doesn’t give a damn about movies.”

Nonetheless, Plummer is probably best known for a movie role — as the dashing Captain Von Trapp in 1965’s The Sound of Music. No matter that he has had a distinguished stage career on Broadway and in London’s West End, tackling classical heroes from Hamlet to Henry V; Plummer seems to revel in his role as Classically Trained Actor Grandly Making Ends Meet. ”I’ve always tried to keep the same lifestyle wherever I’ve lived,” says the resident of the tony suburb of Weston, Conn. ”Far beyond my means.”

Plummer took the small role in Wolf partly out of respect and for director Mike Nichols. Also, he says, ”I hadn’t done a film in a while and I needed to.” With a self-deprecating laugh, he adds, ”It isn’t a brilliant role. It’s not something where you say, ‘My God! That part!’ I can’t even remember his name. What was it? Raymond Alden. Thank you. Raymond Alden is not the highlight of my career.”

Nor was playing Pfeiffer’s father a pleasant notion — particularly for a man who clearly savors the impact of his European-flavored elegance and charm. ”You feel like a potential lover, actually,” says Plummer. ”Certainly an actor never thinks of himself as being a father at all. We all think of ourselves as able to portray glamour at any given time no matter how old we get. I used to joke with Michelle a little bit about how much too old I thought she was to be my daughter.”

Plummer seems remarkably unapologetic about taking on some less-than-remarkable movie roles (anyone remember Firehead and Starcrash?). And while Wolf may not have turned out to be the best showcase for his talents, he is well aware that turning up in a No. 1 movie is never a mistake. As for the scene that got snipped? He playfully leans forward and narrows his piercing blue eyes. ”Maybe,” Plummer whispers, ”we were too good in it.”


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  • Mike Nichols