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The enigmatic Christopher Plummer gracefully accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal as a closeted gay man who takes the leap and owns up to his identity when diagnosed with terminal cancer. The announcement, however, comes as a shock to his grown son, played by Ewan McGregor.
The 82-year-old actor was immortalized after appearing in the Oscar-winning ‘The Sound of Music’, which made cinematic history in 1965. Since then, Plummer has enjoyed a diverse career, including ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (1975), ‘The Silent Partner’ (1978), ‘Malcolm X’ (1992), ‘The Insider’ (1999), ‘Syriana’ (2005) and ‘The Last Station’ (2009).
The Oscar press corps were ready to ask the elated winner about his win.
Q. The obvious question: How does it feel to be the oldest Oscar winner ever?
A. I don’t believe that for a second. I think that Charlie Chaplin, even though it was an honorary Oscar wasn’t he 83? I mean, an honorary Oscar after all is an Oscar, we hope. I’m not sure, but it feels pretty good anyway.
Q. I’m getting married soon, so I would love to talk about your wife. You’re so romantic when you thanked her for rescuing you. What does that mean and tell me about your wife?
A. What do you think it means? I thought it was abundantly clear. Of course, I’m a naughty boy. I’ve been bad all my life, and she always puts me in line. I think it’s great what she’s done. It’s extraordinary. But it doesn’t strike you when you hear the phrase, “She rescues me every day of my life”? What could be clearer?
Q. Good evening. Congratulations, and I’m curious how you look back at awards of any kind, specifically, the two nominations and now the first Oscar win. In terms of a measure of a career, because it’s, obviously, not the reason you do things, but what kind of dessert topping does it put on a distinguished career?
A. That’s absolutely a wonderful phrase. It is a le creme on top, and it’s lovely to be sort of accepted, because you know that beyond the pleasure of working in front of a live audience, particularly, it’s a general acceptance of your work. So it’s thrilling, and I don’t pretend not to poo poo awards, although there’s so many of them, I can’t keep up. I mean, they’re inventing a new one every day.
Q. Mr. Plummer, congratulations. Congratulations, on your role, it was very charming and lovely. And the Academy has a long history of awarding straight actors for gay roles. Do you think there’s a double standard for the public supporting gay actors in real life as opposed to on film?
A. Well, I think of actors as being universally the same, gay or straight. We’re all actors, and a gay actor can play a straight guy beautifully and vice versa. It’s wonderful, because it cancels out all of the sexual differences and all the sort of preconceived misunderstandings of a sexual existence.
Q. Hello, Mr. Plummer, congratulations. I just wanted to ask you, for you, is this a beginning for you tonight and what do you think it’s the beginning of?
A. Well, it is sort of a renewal, it’s not a beginning exactly, but it has recharged me and I hope I can do it for another ten years at least. I’m going to drop dead wherever I am, on stage or on the set. We don’t retire in our profession, thank God.
Q. You always do a good job. In your long and illustrious career, who stands out as your favorite actor besides yourself? Who did you look up to?
A. No, not myself. Tons of actors for different reasons. In the French cinema we had when I grew up, I saw a lot of French film, because I lived in Quebec from France, great actors and Pierre Brasseur, Lewis Gilbert, and people who are just extraordinary stage actors, particularly although they did do film. And the great classical actors that inspired me when I was quite young [inaudible], and then later the whole new school of Marlon Brando. I lived through all of those various changes, and they all had their made their mark upon me, thanks.
Q. I’m so excited. I see you’re wearing your Order of Canada pin. I wanted to know why you decided to wear that tonight?
A. I do because I sort of feel that I’m in a way representing my country here tonight, just as Max was representing Sweden. And I feel that my country gave me the highest this is the highest civil honor that a Canadian can get and I’m very proud of it and I think an evening like this deserves to have all the medals and awards showing, so that’s why I did it.
Q. You were born in 1929?
Q. The same year as the Oscar?
Q. And you won the award for being an old man, at the age of 70. So I wondered if it mattered to have a naked man in your own hands. Are you brave enough to say that you love him?
A. The question is I’m sorry do I love the Oscar?
A. Well, if the Oscar is gay, yes, of course.
Q. Just another Canadian question.
A. Oh, God.
Q. Can you bring back anything during the war, growing up during the war that gave you so much strength? Canada is so much a part of your life and it was such a strength, you know, [inaudible].
A. Yeah, it was great to grow up in Quebec, particularly, because Quebec never closed. Montreal stayed open 24 hours a day, even jaded New Yorkers would come up and enjoy the night life in Montreal. I’m glad I grew up in a really racy town, and it was marvelous and the cabaret was so important. Piaf, Chevalier, we had a young Julie Garland, Frank Sinatra, and you can see these people for nothing, just sitting at a bar and having a beer. It was a glorious time in Montreal and I was lucky enough to be there. The courage that you talk about was from my mother who was in the first Great War as a nurse, and anything that she lived through a pretty horrific time. I don’t know if that’s funny to some of you. Oh, there’s two things going on here, all right. Does that answer your question a little bit?
Image Courtesy of Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.