Christopher Plummer

  1. Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings, 1961.  Pope John XXIII met producer Samuel Bronston and approved the script. – never knowing that scenarist Philip Yordan  saw Jesus as a cowboy…! “Christ was a loner. He’s not much different than my usual character. The Western character. It’s the same character. The man alone.” And, indeed, while Bronston looked over the English Cushing and Alec Guinness, Scottish Tom Fleming (the BBC’s TV Jesus of Nazareth in 1956),, Australian Keith Michel, Canadian Christopher Plummer and even Swedish  Max Von Sydow (who became George Stevens’ Christ in 1964) , he signed Hunter,  who .had made 16 Westerns, including two for  the guy who recommended him: John Ford. Despite being, at 35, closer to Christ’s age than per usual in Schmollywood epics, Jeff was soon found himself  labeled “I Was a Teenage Jesus”!
  2. Jason Robards, Tender Is The Night, 1961.   Producer David Selznick first tried to film F Scott Fitzgerald’s last completed novel  at RKO in 1951,  with his wife, Jennifer Jones and Cary Grant –  who disapproved of  Dr Dick Diver, the shrink falling for his patient.  George Cukor decided on Elizabeth Taylor and Glenn Ford (!), John Frankenheimer voted for Warren Beatty or  Christopher Plummer. Veteran toughie Henry King helming Jones with a miscast Robards was a fiasco.  Other potential Dicks over the years had been Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman and true Brits Dirk Bogarde and Richard Burton.   Hmm, Burton and Taylor – now that would  have worked.
  3. Peter O’Toole, Becket,  1963.  Having played the role on-stage in London’s West End (when first choice O’Toole left for Lawrence for Arabia), Plummer  was led to  believe that he had King Henry II in the bag… However, director  Peter Glenville managed to land Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole for the screen version of the Jean Anouilh play about the 1170 murder of  the titular Archbishop of Canterbury.   (A Broadway hit with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn). Peter Finch, Albery Finney, Laurence Harvey and Maximilian Schell were also up for the king.  O’Toole enjoyed Henry II so much, he played him again four years later in The Lion in Winter… opposite Katharine Hepburn’s Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. “Nobody could play Becket like Burton did,” said O’Toole, “as a sort of sacred coal-miner,” said O’Toole. They both won Oscar nods. But the award went to the Rex Harrison that nobody wanted for My Fair Lady.
  4. Rod Taylor, The VIPS, 1963The business man in financial trouble became Australian when Plummer split  for a bigger payday as Commodus  in The Fall of the Roman Empire.
  5. Richard Burton, The Night of the Iguana, 1963. 
    Nipping in quick, producer Ray Stark paid $500,000  for the new Tennessee Williams play – before it opened as his last  Broadway hut in 1961.  The main character is the Reverend T Lawrence Shannon, reduced to  being a Mexico tour guide after bejng defrocked for calling God a juvenile delinquent. So who should be Shannon: Stanley Kowalski or Brick Pollit? Aka Marlon Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire or Paul Newman from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  (He’d also been another Williams sad-sack in Sweet Bird of Youth).  Also up for the Rev were, Richard Harris, William Holden, Burt Lancaster (too close to his Oscar-winning Elmer Gantry, 1959), Christopher Plummer and, surprisingly, James Garner  – “Just too Tennessee Williams for me!” there was more tenson off-screen as among those putting Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map, were…  Elizabeth Taylor living with Burton, whose agent was her first ex-husband, Michael Wilding. Plus Ava Gardner’s old, “platonic bedmate,” Peter Viertel, was also around as he was now wed to co-star Deborah Kerr! To help avoid friction, John Huston gifted each star with a gold-plated pistol, complete with bullets engraved with the names of the other stars, so the right bullet could be used (or, aimed, at least!) on the right target!  It worked well. Nary a discouraging word.  Except from the critics. 

  6. Michael Caine,The Ipcress File, 1965.    Caine’s agent knew producer Harry Saltzman was in a fix.Plummer had jumped ship for what he would call The Sound of Mucus.  Or plain S&M. So, Caine nipped into The Pickwick Club at 9pm, when Saltzman was dining. The producer recognised the Zulu revelation, called him over for a drink. “Have you read The IpcressFile?” Yeah.“Do you want to play the lead?” Yeah. “Do you want a seven-year-contract?” Yeah. “OK, call me in the morning.” Yeah. Straight after creating the anti-Bond spy, Harry Palmer, Caine was Horatio opposite Plummer’s Hamlet, shot by BBC TV in Denmark’s real Elsinore Castle.
  7. Richard Burton,The Sandpiper,1965.    Plummer’s busy? So, get me another Hamlet awready!
  8. Rex Harrison, Doctor Doolittle, 1967.    Rex never complained when his My Fair Lady librettist-lyricist Alan Jay Lerner quit and Leslie Bricusse was signed,nor when Fox’s first directors, veterans John Huston, Vincente Minnelli, William Wyler,became the house helmer, Richard Fleischer.  But Harrison quit allthe same.“Sue me, I’m not going todo it.”HearingproducerArthur P Jacobs secured Plummer for $300,000, Harrison’s agent called -“He’sback in.” To be, as he reported, “bitten by the chimp, a Pomeranian pony, a duck and the parrot whomplayed Polynesia.”
  9. Dirk Bogarde, Sebastian, 1967.    Michael Caine, Rex Harrison. Patrick McGoohan, Peter O’Toole, David Warner all refused. “A busy year for actors,” noted Brit director Michael Powell, “scattered all over the map.” He located Plummer in the South of France – much good it did him.
  10. William Daniels, The Graduate,1967. 

  11. Peter O’Toole, Goodbye Mr Chips, 1969.  For the musical version of  the 1938 classic which won British Robert Donat an Oscar for his portrayal of the gentle schoolmaster, Mr Charles Edward Chipping, almost every  possible Brit was contacted. From Albert Finney to Peter Sellers, by way of Richard Harris, Christopher Plummer and Paul Scofield. Mrs Chips was important, too, and the couple went from Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn or  the Doctor Dolittle‘s Rex Harrison-Samantha Eggar to Camelot’s Richard Burton-Julie Andrews or  Burton-Lee Remick…or surprise, surprise, Elizabeth Taylor. Plus Burton-Petula Clark, except he turned down “a singer!” (What was Julie Andrews?). Finally, gloriously, the Chips became Pete ‘n’ Pet.
  12. Walter Matthau, A New Leaf, 1970.    Elaine May lacked the magic of her ex-comedy partner, Mike Nichols, when directing movies. This was her first film; she only made four (and none since the worst flop – Beatty and Hoffman in Ishtar, 1986). She wanted Plummer as the ageing and suddenly penniless bon vivant. Even so, May felt Matthau’s murder of Jack Weston was the funniest thing she ever saw. We will never know. The scene was cut (the Production Code insisted you can’tget away with murder!) and May never knew if all the film’s “butchered” footage still existed in a vault somewhere.
  13. William Shatner, The Devil’s Rain, 1975.    Now that’s real mucus!   So Plummer passed Mark Preston to Shatner – who had go quit shooting for three days because of a Star Trek convention in New York City. Ah, the price of fame.
  14. Terence Stamp,  Superman, 1977.
  15. Timothy Dalton, Sexette, 1978.    Mae West liked his style. After TheSound ofMusic, she told director Robert Wise: “There’s your sex person. There’s your box-office.Him! He carried thatpicture. She was all right, you know, Julie Andrews… but she hasn’t got the sex personality.”
  16. Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, Gerrmany-France-Italy, 1986.    Two decades later, and Plummer and Richard Harris are still vying for the same role…   Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective.  Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Five Americans: De Niro (dropped when insisting on  a duel scene… with real swords), Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider;  four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp;  two Canadians:  Plummer and Donald Sutherland; plus  the French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris and Italian Vittorio Gassman. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
  17. Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings, trilogy, 2001-2003.
  18. James Corden, Into The Woods, 2013.
  19. Kurt Russell,Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2016.    Aged between Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow’s 87 and Matthew McConaughey’s 47,  fifteen actors were Marveled about for Ego, father of Chris Pratt’s hero, Peter Quill aka Star Lord.  The others in the  loop were Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Stephen Lang, Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christoph Waltz and Bruce Willis.


 Birth year: 1929Death year: 2021Other name: Casting Calls:  19