Christopher Plummer, 88, was drafted in to replace Kevin Spacey in Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World, a dramatisation of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty
The ‘black dress’ protest by scores of actresses at the Golden Globes this week is already being described as a watershed moment that will redefine the way powerful men in Hollywood behave.
The ‘Time’s Up’ movement was sparked, of course, by allegations of serial abuse by producer Harvey Weinstein. But the other name to have fuelled this hysteria was Kevin Spacey, who stands accused of being a sexual predator who made advances to at least 15 young men.
Such has been the moral panic that Spacey was rapidly airbrushed out of Tinseltown by a jumpy entertainment industry.
One Spacey movie, however, was already in the can — and that posed a significant problem. British director Ridley Scott had just finished filming All The Money In The World, a dramatisation of the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty. The latter was played by Spacey.
Although trailers were already playing in cinemas, Sir Ridley judged that he couldn’t possibly release a film with such a cloud hanging over its head, and decided to re-shoot all of Spacey’s 22 scenes using another actor. It was both a ‘commercial’ and ‘moral’ decision to replace him with 88-year-old Christopher Plummer, he insisted.
But there’s a certain irony in the fact that Spacey has been replaced by an actor whose own sexual peccadilloes in the past would now be regarded as beyond the pale.
Tough re-shoots: Spacey was cut from the film based on his sexual misconduct and Plummer was recast in the main role. Despite the fact he had faced criticisms about his behaviour in the past too
Plummer controversially said that he found it ‘sad’ that Spacey had been ousted as a sexual predator and cut from the film
Plummer may be one of the finest actors of his generation. But critics say there’s a reason he had to wait until he was 80 to earn an Oscar nomination, let alone win one two years later.
His monumental arrogance and foul temper earned him many enemies in the industry, while his rapacious womanising would hardly pass muster with today’s moral guardians in Hollywood. The repeated salivating descriptions of teenage girls I found this week in Plummer’s 656-page memoirs — published only nine years ago — are deeply seedy, and would surely give any director pause for thought. At one point, he talks of how he would ‘rape with [his] eyes’ young girls he saw in the street.
Although he recalls his bad old days as a serial philanderer and boozing partner of Peter O’Toole and Rex Harrison with unconcealed relish, Plummer insists he has mellowed. He cites the calming influence of his third and current wife Elaine Taylor.
Kevin, who played J.Paul Getty in the movie, was ousted from the film just six weeks before the its release date after at least 15 people came forward to say he made advances on young men
Father-of-one Plummer, (pictured above) with Julie Andrews in 1965 in the Sound of Music, was said to be a womaniser who boasted of ‘raping’ young girls with his eyes in his memoirs
The bellowing bar-room braggart has even softened his tone about The Sound Of Music, a film he long referred to sneeringly as ‘S&M’ or The Sound Of Mucus. He nowadays praises its ‘family spirit’ and celebration of an ‘innocence that is no longer with us’.
Not that he behaved entirely innocently when he made it. Plummer was 35 and married to his second wife, British journalist Pat Lewis, when he played the von Trapp family patriarch. He has admitted he lusted after 20-year-old actress Charmian Carr, who played his eldest daughter, Liesl.
Carr, who was cast because she looked like a teenager (Liesl is supposed to be 16), spent many alcohol-soaked evenings with the much older star as he would belt out tunes on the hotel piano, pour her brandies and was, she recalled, ‘as flirtatious with me as I was with him’.
It’s claimed Plummer (right) flirted with his on-screen daughter, 20-year-old Charmian Carr on The Sound of Music set
Plummer insists nothing happened between them. If that is the case, he must have been losing his touch.
The wolfish actor had his first amorous experience aged 11, when he claims to have exchanged a lingering kiss with his French au pair.
Although he insists he became a reformed character after marrying his third wife, Plummer clearly spent years as a younger man leering at and seducing women.
While filming The Sound Of Music, he relates how he was briefly laid up in bed, unable to move with an injured back. He made the most of his position with a ‘local beauty of astonishing looks’ and proved that ‘at least one part of me was alive’.
His rambling autobiography, In Spite Of Myself, is full of such smutty confessions.
For all the rollicking stories of drunken actorish hedonism — including the one in which he persuaded a New York mounted policeman to bring his horse into a bar with him for a drink — it’s difficult to read about his panting fascination for young women, often mere teenagers, and not feel queasy.
The spoilt only child of a distinguished political family (his great-grandfather was Canadian prime minister Sir John Abbott), Plummer was raised by his mother and grew up largely surrounded by women after his parents divorced shortly after he was born.
The 88-year-old played the lead charactor in All The Money In The World when Kevin Spacey’s sexual inappropriateness came to light
He was taking alcohol with his meals when he was 12 and was soon a heavy drinker. At high school in Montreal he recalled how he would walk down the street and ‘rape with my eyes’ every girl he passed, ‘positive that whatever she was wearing would instantly fall from her like lead and there she would stand, for all the world to see — Ha! Ha! without a stitch!’.
He recalled ‘ogling’ a female pupil who ‘at once began sinuously to spread her legs, lifting her skirt ever so casually at the same time’.
As a 23-year-old actor just starting out in the profession — and performing with a repertory company in Bermuda — he worked with a ‘merry, sexy 15-year-old apprentice named Waverly’.
The step-daughter of novelist John Steinbeck and daughter of film star Zachary Scott, she ‘had blossomed considerably’, he drooled. ‘The slight crush I already had was growing rapidly by the moment.’ But a fellow cast member ‘wagged a “don’t touch” finger at me and I was forced to play possum’.
The fact that Waverly’s father had arrived to be the new “star” made any sort of tryst all the more unlikely, he added.
He instead ‘transferred my attentions to the voluptuous young assistant stage manager with great boobs who made it her constant practice to sit on everyone’s lap’.
He described visiting a San Francisco strip bar a few years later and watching a teenage stripper who was, he rhapsodised, ‘the very picture of a tiny angel untouched, unsullied’.
The waiters assured him she was 16. ‘This nymph who seemed so pure and innocent would not have recognised an inhibition had she met one head-on . . . she had to have been triple-jointed for she was able to do amazing and unprintable things.’
The great hell-raiser was nearly 40 when he went to Greece to play the starring role in the film Oedipus The King. The producers, perhaps knowing his lascivious tastes, had, ‘to pamper me, given me an assistant to be at my beck and call’.
The actor, now 88, (above) with co-star Natalie Wood in Inside Dalsy Clover in 1966
She was around 20 and named Bambi, he said. ‘She had a very sexy face and her long, thin legs seemed never to end — that illusion further enhanced by the shortest of miniskirts. When she would stand over me at breakfast awaiting instructions for the day, it left nothing to the imagination.’
Not that Plummer needed to imagine for long. He and Bambi later rented a cottage on Corfu and ‘we indulged our days, mostly nude, swimming and guzzling crayfish’.
Plummer married three times, but had no respect for the institution. He gloatingly recalled his ‘first real serious love affair’ with the leading lady of the repertory company where he got his first taste of the theatre.
She was married, but that appeared to only add to the attraction: ‘We “did it” anywhere we could — in the dressing rooms, backstage, in public conveniences, at the back of cinemas and cars, even at parties.’ One night, her husband walked in on them at a soiree, her evening dress spread out and concealing what was happening as she sat on Plummer’s lap.
‘We stayed where we were, having the pleasantest of chats, the three of us, he none the wiser, while she and I slowly, gently, carefully moved our imperceptible way toward an absolutely expressionless, silent but nonetheless blinding climax!’ wrote Plummer.
Another time, he and a female companion took a bath together — at someone else’s party. Clearly proud of his irresistibility to women, Plummer cut a swathe through the female populations of New York in the boozy Fifties, and of London in the Swinging Sixties.
He admits at least one woman did turn him down. While filming the 1965 drama Inside Daisy Clover, he couldn’t hide his infatuation with co-star Natalie Wood, even though he knew she was about to get married. Wood mocked him mercilessly, whispering: ‘Will we ever?’ just to taunt him. (They didn’t, although she called off the marriage.)
Director Ridley Scott (right) cast Plummer as a replacement for disgraced Spacey
Jane Fonda was another one who got away. Plummer described ‘ogling’ the ‘young, fresh-faced, boyishly sexy’ starlet across a bar, but nothing appeared to come of it.
Although he rails against ‘bigots’ in his memoir, he mocks homosexuals several times in anecdotes dating back to the Sixties. He recalled a ‘mincing’ hospital orderly who ministered to him after he was struck down by a kidney stone. Claiming he was ‘not sure’ if he was a man, he insisted on calling him an ‘it’ when writing of the encounter.
He also recounted sitting next to Princess Margaret at a dinner, and whispering to her: ‘Who’s the raving poofter?’ when an effeminate-looking man arrived. She responded icily that it was her cousin, society photographer Patrick Lichfield.
In three marriages, Plummer produced only one child, which may have been just as well. He admits he barely saw Amanda, his daughter by his first wife, Tammy Grimes. ‘I was a lousy husband and an even worse father,’ he once said.
While reviewers praised his autobiography for being refreshingly frank and self-effacing, what’s largely absent is any hint of his notorious rudeness and temper.
His conceit was ingrained from an early age. Plummer described rebuffing a girl who tried to kiss him while they were watching his favourite film. When she called him a ‘selfish ****’ and accused him of thinking only of himself, he replied: ‘I find no other subject so worthy of my attention.’ (The line was lifted from the film they were watching.)
Plummer was equally dismissive of fellow actors. He refused to let Laurence Olivier direct him in Coriolanus at the National Theatre, insisting he wasn’t a good enough director. He then alienated the rest of the cast by turning up to rehearsals in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce Corniche.
When it became clear his German directors intended to use playwright Berthold Brecht’s version of Coriolanus, diminishing Plummer’s role, he reportedly stormed to the front of the stage in rehearsal and screamed: ‘This is where I should be. I’m the star.’
Above, Spacey poses for photographs with his honorary CBE in London in 2010
On the first night of another play for the National, Danton’s Death, Plummer called his fellow cast members a ‘bunch of repertory a***holes’.
Such an actor was bound to resent appearing in anything so frivolous as The Sound Of Music.
He insisted his character was re-written to make him less one-dimensional. Waking up one morning to find he had not been left a call-sheet detailing the day’s filming, the thin-skinned Plummer took it as a deliberate slight. He raged through the streets of Salzburg, bursting in on Julie Andrews and the child actors busy filming a scene.
His foul-mouthed diatribe was cut short when he was informed that he hadn’t been given a call-sheet because he wasn’t filming that day.
The self-regarding behaviour continued. Playing a Klingon general in the 1991 film Star Trek VI, he refused to succumb to the indignity of wearing all the ‘phony make-up’ like the other Klingons. He also insisted his lines were rewritten to give him more lines from Shakespeare as — astonishingly — his Klingon character was an admirer of the Bard.
Thankfully, Plummer needed little make-up to play J. Paul Getty — who was 80 when his grandson was kidnapped — in the new film. However, he did raise eyebrows when he told Vanity Fair magazine recently that it was ‘very sad what happened to’ Kevin Spacey. ‘Kevin is such a talented and a terrifically gifted actor, and it’s so sad. It’s such a shame,’ he said.
It was pointed out by observers in the media in no uncertain terms that the predatory Spacey was hardly the one anyone should be feeling sorry for. But perhaps it’s not surprising that a fellow star who’s so shameless about his own vices can see the tragedy for the priapic Mr Spacey.