Brian Collins February 10, 2021 - 10:48am
Ever since Ridley Scott made the unprecedented decision to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in All The Money in the World (just three weeks before the film premiered!), there have been countless jokes about the latter filling in for whatever performer was being unceremoniously removed from this or that film. Like most things, Twitter ran it into the ground, but it was still amusing in small doses; in fact it was only a week or so ago that someone joked he could replace Marilyn Manson on an episode of Creepshow. Unfortunately, the meme will no longer be appropriate, as the veteran actor passed away on February 5th at age 91, a number that surprised many (including yours truly) as he was more active and lively than actors twenty or thirty years his junior.
Thanks to Rian Johnson we got one last showstopper performance from the actor in his 2019 smash Knives Out, where he played Harlan Thrombey, the patriarch and only decent person of a wealthy family of backstabbers and potential murderers. Yes, his death is what kicks the plot off, but thanks to the flashback structure he gets to appear quite a bit, clearly enjoying himself in a manner most of us can only dream of at his then age of 88 or 89. The aforementioned All The Money in the World earned him his third Oscar nomination of the decade (he won for Beginners), and he seemingly never stopped working: not counting the asterisk laden 2020, per the IMDb you have to go back to 1972 (!) to find a year without some production benefiting from his talents.
With that in mind it's actually kind of shocking he made so few genre appearances over the years, as his name in the credits could have given several horror movies some much needed class. His most prominent was probably Dracula 2000, where he played the role of Matthew Van Helsing, a descendent of Abraham who was continuing the family tradition by hunting a modern day Dracula (Gerard Butler). It's no one's favorite Dracula movie, I'm sure, but Plummer earned deserved praise for his enjoyable performance, the sort that made you wish he had been cast in a more traditional version of the story. He also appeared in the action/horror hybrid Priest and the notorious Nosferatu in Venice, which means that vampire movies make up nearly half of his entire genre filmography.
He played a few full on villains over the years in some thriller/action films (notably The Silent Partner, a 1978 film that has risen in popularity over the years thanks to its Christmas setting - it pairs well with Die Hard around the holidays!), however it was his dramatic work that earned him the bulk of his acclaim, and rightfully so. He was part of an ever shrinking group of old school character actors who would make every movie that much more appealing; "Oh, if he's in it then I'll see it" has been expressed more than once about his films over the years, where his presence elevated my interest in a movie I'd otherwise probably not see (including the aformentioned Beginners). It's sad to think I'll never again find myself in that position again, but the good news is that thanks to his tireless work ethic I'll probably never run out of older films that I haven't seen yet. RIP, Mr. Plummer, and thanks for classing up the world while you were here.