The morning of the Oscar nominations, I got a surprise. None of the nominations themselves were very surprising, but when I was going through and counting the past number of nominations for each nominee, I was surprised to learn that Christopher Plummer, at age 80, and a full fifty years after his motion picture debut in Sidney Lumet's Stage Struck, received his very first one. And frankly, he has thrown a monkey wrench in all my predictions and prognostications. It's his first nomination, he's 80 and he's playing a real-life person -- Leo Tolstoy, no less -- in The Last Station (352 screens). It doesn't even matter that the movie isn't very good and that Helen Mirren steals the movie away from him as Tolstoy's long-suffering wife. Plummer has become a serious contender.
Plummer has enjoyed one of those amazing careers as a supporting actor, having appeared in a broad range of interesting movies, but never stealing anyone else's thunder. In his early days, he worked with Nicholas Ray and Anthony Mann. Both Spike Lee and Terry Gilliam have worked with him twice. He was in The Sound of Music, even if everybody remembers Julie Andrews. He was in The Man Who Would Be King as Rudyard Kipling, even if everybody remembers Michael Caine and Sean Connery. He was Hamlet, Cyrano de Bergerac, Sherlock Holmes, Santa Claus, and Mike Wallace (in The Insider). He can appear in movies as disparate as The Return of the Pink Panther, Dragnet (1987), or Oliver Stone's Alexander, and come away unscathed, still distinguished enough for casting consideration the next year.