Christopher Plummer spoke at fall convocation last week where he received an honorary doctorate.

Photo: Allan Woods

The sound of Plummer

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By Nisean Lorde

Ryerson Theatre was alive with the sound of Christopher Plummer’s voice last Friday, as the famous actor offered advice and inspiration to Ryerson’s graduating students.

“If any of you haven’t got a clue with what you’re going to do with your lives, may I offer my profession as a last resort,” Plummer lightheartedly advised the 800 members of Ryerson’s graduating class who attended convocation.

The film and stage actor, who is most famous for his role in The Sound of Music, visited Ryerson to address this fall’s graduating class and receive an honorary doctorate of letters, the university’s highest award.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever had an honorary doctorate of any kind in my own country, which is very nice,” said Plummer at a press conference before the convocation ceremony. “I’m very surprised and certainly didn’t expect it.”

The internationally renowned actor joins celebrities such as Shirley Douglas, Roger Moore and James Cameron as recent Ryerson honourees.

Plummer, who the New York Times recently dubbed the most accomplished classical actor in North America, attributes his success to long-lasting arrogance and audacity.

“There’s so many obstacles that are thrown in your way and so many rejections thrown at you over your lifetime, that if you could survive it, you’re okay,” said Plummer, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Montreal.

“I think it’s very important that you must run away from home, run away to other countries. When you come back take that experience with you.”

The two-time Emmy Award winner has appeared in over 100 films, including The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Insider (1999), and A Beautiful Mind (2001). He has performed the lead in MacBeth, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cyrano de Bergerac at the Stratford Festival.

“I want at least another 25 years before I give up, before I croak,” he said.

Despite Plummer’s recent success in King Lear at the Stratford Festival, he doesn’t expect to be back at Stratford for a while.

“I’m not going to come back for such a long time. I think four weeks is a long time at Stratford, and I’ve been there since July,” joked Plummer. “I don’t want to outstay my welcome, but I will come back one day.”

As for Plummer’s future goals, the 75-year-old teasingly suggested, “I want to do a pornographic movie. Hopefully it’d be shot in Italy, my favourite country.”

Plummer told the graduates they had a lot of opportunities ahead of them.

“You are going to become architects, scientists, engineers, philanthropists, heads of states, tycoons, panhandlers,” he said, receiving a roar of approval from the audience.

Plummer said that theatre taught him about life before he had even lived it.

“It even taught me about love,” he said. “It took me to the four far corners of the Earth and allowed me to meet with kings, princes, prime ministers, presidents, rock stars, bums, derelicts, and best of all, girls.”

Asked what would be one message he wants the graduates to part with, Plummer responded, “Have a wonderful and daring and risky life. Take risks at all costs.”

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