Feature

Christopher Plummer’s lost years

Christopher Plummer, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Tyrone Power—all drank to staggering excess. That was the culture back then.

If Christopher Plummer made a few bad films in his younger days, he knows the reason why. “We were all blind drunk most of the time,” he tells Craig McLean in the London Sunday Telegraph. “All those early ’60s movies, when you look at them now, a lot of them are terribly slow. It’s because we were drunk! We went for two-hour lunches and came back [slurring]: ‘Let’s not shoot for the rest of today, let’s do it tomorrow.’”

But that was the culture back then. Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Tyrone Power—all drank to staggering excess. On one theater tour, Plummer and Power partied so hard they contracted hepatitis. “You proved yourself a man if you stayed up all night, drank 10 gallons of whiskey. And if you were able to play Hamlet the next day without showing any signs of a hangover, then you were in! It was a terrible kind of pressure to be a ne’er-do-well at night and a serious actor the next day.” Plummer finally eased off when his wife, Elaine Taylor, gave him an ultimatum. “Elaine did say: ‘If you don’t stop this stupid overdrinking I’m outta here.’ Thank God. She did save my life.”

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