Vicki Parr got a close look at Christopher Plummer at work.
The veteran Canadian actor, who died last Friday at 91, was in Sault Ste. Marie in 2014 to shoot the drama Remember. Atom Egoyan directed.
The mother of four was an extra for two days in the dining room at the former F.J. Davey Home on Great Northern Road. She sat directly behind Plummer and Martin Landau (North by Northwest, Space: 1999).
“It was very exciting,” said Parr in email to The Sault Star.
The grandmother of six, “ecstatic at the way the movie was being made,” spoke with Plummer during a break.
“He said acting is very rewarding, but can be very tiring,” said Parr. She recalls him laughing at the many cuts in the dialogue.
“He was a very pleasant man and was fun for me to meet him,” said Parr.
In Remember, Plummer was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp who wants to kill the man he thinks killed his family.
Remember “sort of hit close to home” for the Sault Ste. Marie woman. Her father and uncle are from Poland. Her uncle was a prisoner-of-war during the Second World War.
“So needless to say, I loved the movie,” said Parr. “The ending blew me away. Did not expect that.”
Toronto International Film Festival featured Remember in a gala screening. The festival nominated Egoyan’s effort for best Canadian feature.
Plummer won a Canadian Screen Award in 2016 for his lead role.
Chris Knight, film critic for the National Post, praised Plummer’s “brilliantly nuanced performance.”
Remember’s cast and crew from Sault Ste. Marie included Mark Fisher, Joey Iachetta, Mandi Knight, Thomas Brandstetter, Frank Palumbo and Dick Hetrick.
Jennifer Barbeau cast extras. Matt Connors stood in for Landau. Jennifer Mathewson, now the city’s film, television and digital media co-ordinator, was an office production assistant.
Principal photography began July 14, 2014 and lasted 20 days. Locations included Sault College, Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Hotel and Conference Centre and a home on Marshall Drive. Filming was also done in Toronto.
Brandstetter wanted to be an extra just so he could be in a scene with Plummer.
“He was a legend of the stage and screen with a career that spanned decades and even generations,” said Brandstetter. “He was never fond of The Sound of Music where he played Captain von Trapp referring to it as the Sound of Mucus. But given my Austrian background it was such an iconic musical that you could sing every song’s lyrics to and he was a huge part of it. The Sault Symphony’s The Sound of Music in 2009 was the first full-stage musical that I produced.”
Brandstetter filmed his scene at Sault College.
“After the scene was shot and they were wrapping up, I was nervous but built up enough courage to ask him if I could take a selfie with him,” said Brandstetter in an email. “He was kind enough to oblige and was known to have a dry sense of humour. After taking the photo I showed it to him and he replied, ‘I look like the Phantom behind you!’ I had a good laugh and off I went.”
Two of Plummer’s films, The Sound of Music and Babes in Toyland, were childhood favourites for Knight.
“I came to love him as an actor,” she said.
Knight was “naturally excited” when she was cast in Remember. She filmed her scene with Plummer at Value Village.
Knight didn’t know until the day of filming that she would be a “prominent” background actor, working directly with Plummer.
“He was standing right there,” she said. “But his professionalism and demeanor helped to calm me immensely.”
Knight was on set for about seven hours. She estimates she worked with Plummer directly for about half that time. Knight appeared in three scenes with Plummer.
“It was one of the best three hours of my life,” she said.
Knight introduced herself to Plummer in-between takes. She shared her enthusiasm for his acting career and “how happy I was to have the opportunity to work with him.
“He actually blushed,” said Knight. “It was so sweet that a man of his talent and fame would blush over my excitement.”
Plummer gave her a hug for the kind words. They got back to work.
“Although I wish I could have worked with him more,” said Knight. “I am absolutely honoured to have had the opportunity to do what I did. I am immensely proud of having been part, albeit a very tiny part, of such an amazing film. Mr. Plummer’s talent, poise, and good-natured humour will be sorely missed by many.”
A second long-time actor also did a film in Algoma District.
Hal Holbrook died Jan. 23. He was 95.
Holbrook starred in Rituals. Peter Carter (The Rowdyman) directed the thriller that was shot in Michipicoten in 1976. Locations included Steep Hill Falls dam, the Magpie River, the Sand River and a treeless area east of Wawa Lake.
Algoma Theatre hosted the world premiere of Rituals in 1977. The film was also screened at the Roxy Theatre in Wawa. Screenwriter Ian Sutherland attended.
On Twitter: @Saultreporter