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Inside the head of… Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer, 87, is one of the most respected actors of stage and screen, and the oldest actor to win an Oscar (aged 82, for ‘Beginners’) although he will forever be known as the stern Captain Von Trapp in ‘The Sound Of Music’. He has one child, actress Amanda Plummer, from his first marriage, to Tammy Grimes, and lives in Connecticut with third wife Elaine Taylor.

What is your earliest memory?

My dog Byng, a huge Airedale terrier and the only thing I could see when I was three years old. He supervised my very young years until I looked up a little higher and saw a very nice lady who turned out to be my mother.

‘I don’t dislike my appearance at all. I think I’m terribly handsome’

What sort of child were you?

Horrible. Awful. Spoiled. I was an only child, so I was very demanding. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I wasn’t very pleasant.

What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

As a young actor I was in Katharine Cornell’s theatre company – she was a very great stage star in America. I’d started drinking heavily at a very early age and I was in love with the idea of being a drunk. One day, I missed a performance because of it and Miss Cornell told me: ‘If you ever do that again – and if you don’t give a top performance tonight – you’ll never work on Broadway again.’ It scared me enough that I’ve never been late since. I still drink though, but not so heavily.

What has been the worst job you’ve done?

I wasn’t thrilled about The Sound Of Music – not the movie itself but my role in it. Captain Von Trapp was a bore and they tried to help by giving it a bit more cynicism, but it wasn’t my favourite role. I enjoyed the music and I loved Julie Andrews. But Captain Von Trapp… let’s move on!

Who would be your dream dinner date? 

Marilyn Monroe and Oscar Wilde. They’d be so deliciously funny together.

Do you have any phobias?

I hate turbulence in life, but also on planes. I’ve never got used to it and of course now travel is even more unattractive than it used to be.

Tell us a secret about yourself

When I was young, I played the piano and studied classical music and jazz. I wanted to be a concert pianist and if I’d devoted myself to it, I could have been. But it would have been too much work and a very lonely life.

'I enjoyed the music and I loved Julie Andrews. But Captain Von Trapp... let¿s move on!'

‘I enjoyed the music and I loved Julie Andrews. But Captain Von Trapp… let’s move on!’

What one law would you change?

Anything to do with putting down animals is anathema to me, so I’d like a law that makes us save animals. I prefer most animals to human beings. Being brought up by an Airedale obviously brainwashed me.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

To the Renaissance period. I’ve always auditioned to be a Renaissance man, but I haven’t quite made it.

What is the best advice you’ve ever had?

Don’t dwell on self-pity and face disasters with as much humour as you can. Everybody in my family treated disaster with dismissal and humour and that greatly influenced me.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I love Game Of Thrones. It’s beautifully done and great fun to watch. More dragons please. I wouldn’t mind being in it, actually. As long as I could keep out of the ice – it doesn’t look like a very pleasant shoot.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I don’t dislike my appearance at all. I think I’m terribly handsome. I’ve worked very hard to keep everything in shape and I think I look pretty good, particularly for my age. Perhaps my nose is a little off, but that’s it.

Who would you like to say sorry to?

My dear wife. I’ve been a terrible patient, but she’s nursed me throughout my life. She’s a selfless lady and without her I wouldn’t exist.

Which word do you most overuse?

I try to watch that very carefully, but I suppose I use ‘formidable’ quite a bit and in the most ordinary places. ‘That’s a formidable scar.’ Awful.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a wonderful painting by Renoir that I love. It’s an original and rather unusual. I got it very reasonably, too, many years ago.

What skill should every person have?

Kindness. If it doesn’t come naturally, then people should learn it – I would make it compulsory. Sadly, I don’t have enough.

What song do you want at your funeral?

I think the lovely strains of Tristan And Isolde by Wagner. That would be a lovely farewell. 

‘The Exception’ is available on digital platforms now and on DVD from October 2


Last film you saw? 

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Conrad Veidt and Werner Krauss. It’s an old German silent film and it’s just very weird.

Last book you read?

I’ve just finished re-reading Ada by Nabokov. I’m absolutely astounded by his knowledge of the English language. He writes it better than most English writers.

Last TV show?

I don’t really watch TV shows because they come at drink time when I’m having a wonderful dinner and that just won’t do.





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