Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey gave a wild, rollicking and heartfelt tribute to Christopher Plummer at Monday night's gala for Waterford's Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Plummer, 83, received the Monte Cristo Award at the New York-held event.
Spacey downed two triples of Jack Daniels in Plummer's honor as he told anecdotes and kidded the actor, including sharing one tale of an alcohol-inspired night that Jason Robards and Plummer brought a policeman's horse into the Palace Bar and Grill on Broadway "and having a much more difficult time getting horse out of the bar." Spacey also said he also shared a role with Plummer -- "That's right. I played Captain Von Trapp in my high school production of 'The Sound of Music' co-starring the wonderful Mare Winngham as Maria. This is true."
Spacey also kidded the physical award. "Although it is one of the most beautifully designed awards, it is also one of the most [expletive] heaviest awards you'll ever see in your life.You'll need a [expletive] fokr-lift to get it home."
More seriously he said: "There's no finer recipient of the award. You and your spirit define the spirit of Eugene O'Neill and this award. You re-invent classic roles into fresh, exciting, dangerous and riveting portrayals. And you instantly make a new play a classic when you originate a role. As an audience [member] I have been astounded and as an actor I have learned so goddamn much because, as you know, us theater rats, we never stop learning.'
Also paying tribute to the actor was Tony Award-winner Nikki James, who played opposite him on "Caesar and Cleopatra" in 2008, pianist Inon Barnatan, documentarian Ric Burns, actor Daniel Breaker, O'Neill executive director Preston Whiteway and producer and O'Neill board chairman Thomas Viertel.
Zoe Caldwell was also at the event and paid tribute to Plummer: " "I have known Christopher Plummer for a very long time. I mean. I've known him longer than I've known Eugene O'Neill...or the Gelbs [biographers of O'Neill]. I have played with him as an actor, I've been directed by him and I have directed him and watched him like a hawk in every medium and he never ceases to amaze me. Now he's gone too far. He doesn't get older like the rest of us. He gets better. Simpler. More powerful and more capable of removing his armor. That's a great actor. What do you think of that, Eugene?"
When it came time for Plummer to speak, he was charming, gracious and touched. "The cause is so worthy and it makes me feel young again like I'm starting over. I hope to god it postpones a little of my own long day's journey into night...i am humbled and proud and grateful, to all of you for such a lovely night and making the whole thing go to my head. And grateful, too, that in the arts there is always some summit to attain, to conquer, a summit far higher than Everest, perilously inviting, if only we could reach it. Well, I guess we'll just have to try."
Off stage, I asked him if there was any possibility of him plying James Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" on stage. "A long run in as Tyrone would be suicidal," he said, laughing. When asked if he might do it on film, he deferred answering , saying "It's a wonderful work. We'll see."
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