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IN SPITE OF MYSELF by Christopher Plummer


A Memoir

by Christopher Plummer

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-679-42162-7
Publisher: Knopf

A veteran actor of stage and screen rehearses his long personal and professional life, often with humor, rarely with rancor.

Plummer, who will turn 80 next year, moves swiftly through his privileged Canadian boyhood, pausing to recount some anecdotes with whimsy before arriving at the genesis of his long affection for the stage, especially the classical theater. (He performed most recently at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2008). Sprinkling his text sometimes too liberally with quotations from favorite scripts and writers (often Kipling, a lifelong love), Plummer pulls few punches. He admits, perhaps too gleefully, that his early-career tomcatting and carousing resulted in two divorces—oddly, he chides his second wife for her drinking—but speaks with pride about his third marriage, which has lasted four decades. He has hard words for very few in his profession—generally directors who didn’t get it—and sings the praises of numerous colleagues, including Jason Robards, James Mason, William Hurt, Boris Karloff, Raymond Massey and, more recently, Russell Crowe and Diane Lane, with whom he did Must Love Dogs (Plummer does, by the way). Readers may have some trouble figuring out when exactly he met these folks, as pages go by without any hint of a date. Although he admits to having accepted some unfortunate movie and TV roles merely for the money, Plummer also recounts instances when he turned down film offers to do classical theater. He played all the great Shakespearean roles—in Canada, on Broadway, in England—and writes most excitedly about his success with Cyrano (1973). The insouciant raconteur virtually ignored his daughter, actress Amanda Plummer (product of his brief marriage to Tammy Grimes), until she was an adult, but says they’re now close. He also claims to have lived in an actual haunted house.

As cluttered as the contents of a traveling player’s trunk, but every bit as revealing and charming.