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Amanda Plummer GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Sunday, 19 June 2011

Some time ago Marcel Damen talked to Amanda Plummer, who had a small guest role as the Oracle Selloi on Season 3 of the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. This great actress that always seems to play the off parts talks about her father -- the great actor Christopher Plummer --, her childhood and growing up on moviesets, how she got into the business, her role on Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and much more.

First of all I'd like to thank you for granting me this interview. I'm really honored to do this interview and talk about your work on the show and other things you did as an actress, because I'm a great fan of your work.

Wow. Thank you! I should move to the Netherlands!

You should come to a convention once.

I know! A convention or a film festival; that would be really cool. I love film festivals, but I've never been to the Netherlands.

You're the daughter of actors Tammy Grimes and Christopher Plummer. Though your parents were divorced and you rarely saw your father, how was it to grow up for you in that scene since I can imagine you still got to meet a lot of great actors when you were growing up?

Yes, it was magnificent. I was thrown around like a football. I love the sensation of flying, ever since I was a little child. Grown-ups that caught on to that, like Richard Burton, would toss me around, like I was a gymnast - had me walk my footprints on the ceiling. It was great, because I had dirty, bare feet. It made my mother kind of happy. (laughing)

I've met some very kind, warm-hearted, wonderful actors and actresses. It was just wonderful to hang out with them. Actors tend to gravitate towards children, so I got to play and hang out with them.

Did you attend a lot of film sets?

No, I didn't. Well, I kind of did, but I wouldn't say a lot ...though some might say it was a lot. (laughing) I'd go to Rome and visit a film set there. I was also went to Venice when I was five. Cortina... It was cruel that it was kind of a gypsy existence, but for a kid, for me, that was a lot of fun.

I've read you used to watch your father's movies. Which was your favorite?

Yes, I did, growing up. Of course. I also saw my dad on stage a lot, growing up. I sort of slipped in there, even though my mom and dad were divorced and didn't want to see each other. I slipped through the crack of that and was able to see a lot of his theatre. I did a lot of things solo, by myself. Mom was a working actor, so I was pretty much the wild child, which was great. I could go and see stuff on my own. I would somehow manage. I saw dad as Cyrano de Bergerac. What stood out for me was a movie (The Royal Hunt of the Sun) he did with Robert Shaw, who I adore. It's a very talky kind of film and not very filmic, but just to see those two together was exciting for me. I remember had extremely long hair and looked exactly like me. (laughing) He said: "We both look like drag queens!" It was marvelous and amazing how much we looked alike!

I haven't seen a lot of his films. There were so many. Another one that really knocked my socks off was The Silent Partner. He was wonderful in that. There were some great actors working with him on that one.

 

Amanda Plummer and her father Christopher Plummer

Amanda Plummer and her father Christopher Plummer

 

Was there ever any doubt you wouldn't also become an actress?

I fought the inclination. It was in me, because I was performing since a child to music. I was creating stories to some sonic creations, movie scores and even rock n' roll music. I did so with my best friend Lesley, in grade school. We would create improv stories from an early age. We would time travel in our imagination and create stuff. Some of the stories lasted a full year so it was out of control. (laughing) We were playing two different characters non-stop throughout the school year and into the summer. I never thought of doing it as a job. I exercised race horses. I wanted to move up in the ranks and become a jockey.

Didn't you work as a jockey at Belmont Downs?

I wasn't a jockey. I was auditioning on Belmont for a job at the racing stables. It was at the Sagamore Farm in Maryland which was run by Mr. Vanderbilt and the home of -- this really excited me -- Native Dancer. I was 14 and Chip took me around the Belmont track at five or six in the morning. The other riders were warming up the horses and Vanderbilt sat there watching me. I was in heaven. I was hired and I thought: "Here we go. Here goes my racing career!" I loved bees and flying and when you're on a horse you're flying. But I couldn't stop this urge, this inner life. If I didn't become an actor, I would be propitiously silent.

Was their a particular moment you can pinpoint that made you say that acting is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

I realized that I wanted to leave home and strike out on my own, because I was so independent. I realized I had to make a choice of the livelihood. I knew that, even though I continued with the horses, that I couldn't wed the business side with my joy in riding these animals and caring for them. It's quite brutal in America -- the racing. I trained five yearlings -- I was the person that was put on the horse and did what the trainer told me to do. Basically it was to get thrown off and climb back on. (laughing) I helped to train these five and in my head I thought that was way too young, because they're not grown until they're three. I didn't think it was a good idea. Some of the racing stables I worked at didn't get on the horses until they were three. Which makes sense, since their bones are grown, they had a life and a childhood.

So I got out of that line of work and that hurt me a great deal. I was facing businesses in my head and had to figure out what to do. (laughing) Work. I love physical stuff and I was already creating stories so I thought: I'll try the circus. I'd start at the bottom, but there was no bottom, because bottom is top and top is bottom in everything. I thought I'd muck stalls and watch people do their routine and see where I belong, what I could do or how I could help. You do the very same thing in the world of acting, but because my parents were in the business I didn't want any help. I was too rebellious and too independent. I still ended up going into acting, because it was less complicated at the time. I was then 17 year old -- green.

I gave myself a maximum of five years. If I wasn't actually acting at that time I would join the circus. (both laughing) I'd take care of the elephants and muck stalls. I went into acting and started with prop making. I worked with lights, hanging lights. I was making props and running shows prop wise and couldn't make a dress to save my life. I didn't sow, though I was a dresser for a few actors. I could dress people and I enjoyed that very much. Those fast changes are exciting, so I started of in the theatre.

Next to being an award wining stage actress, you often played the odd parts in movies. The waifish office worker in The Fisher King, a mute rape victim in The World According to Garp, a bisexual self-mutilating serial killer in Butterfly Kiss... How come you so often played the odd parts?

(laughing) The off part?

....the odd part.

Oh, the odd part ...or the off part, as in off the main road? (laughing) I guess it kind of goes in with my karma. You kind of follow your destiny and then you try to change it a bit, so you're a player and not just being played. I always loved the secret lanes in all the countries I was brought up in for a short period of time and the different people that I lived with as a child. I lived with different families growing up and I got to see different styles of living and had to adapt - different religions, different eating habits, different curfews, different chores... Every family had a different thing.

That was really interesting to me, growing up. I think it became part of my pre-destination, pre-inclination. I'm just curious. I like to do more work that is not only living the film experience, but discovering life through film as it is lived by people. That that becomes more of a liveable journey and that alone is off the main road. That kind of longing for America and Canadian -- I'm Canadian-American. Since a I was a child I've also been drawn to European film making. I was brought up on them, because I didn't go to school, because I went to the racetrack and the movies (laughing). To this day I'm drawn to Asian work -- what they're doing now as well as what they did back then. I'm still discovering what I've missed by people like [Akira] Kurosawa and the great Kiyoshi Kurosawa today, that is no relation to Akira Kurosawa. I like a lot of the new French and Dutch film makers.

There seems to be a great renaissance happening in some countries, like America experienced in the 70s, France had with Truffaut and Italy with Fellini. It's great how in some countries... I always get so excited that my tongue gets tied up. (laughing) It is exciting. They're rediscovering film and life -- true living. I don't like films that don't have any psychology to them and that aren't psychologically based. Once psychology is numb, it's kind of boring. You have to discover things and then also throw it away. Only then you've got something that is actually alive. I'm sorry, I'm rambling... (laughing)

That's a long winded answer for your question! My roles were odd or off the main road as much as they could be under the umbrella of the time. I would only go so far. They're odd because they're in comparison to something else within the film -- in comparison to something that is straight. Therefore it's creating another world that is completely believable and not up for judgement. They're odd also because they're strong roles in a sense if you play a serial killer. I never saw her as a serial killer. I saw her as a human being.

One of my personal favorites of you is the very small role as the robber, Honey Bunny in Pulp Fiction.

Pulp Fiction is a good example of a film that had nothing straight to compare things too.

 

Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction

Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction

 

If I give Tim Roth's lead in can you do the follow up line in the movie?

Say that again? (laughing) Okay, give me the lead and I'll see if I can...

"All right, everybody be cool, this is a robbery!"

[Follow up, in her typical high pitched voice: "Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!"]

Oh, I remember that! (laughing out loud) You mean "I'll execute every motherfucking one of you." (laughing) "...all of you mother everything to one of you move and execute yourselves!" (laughing) I can't remember it exactly, but it was a brilliant line. I loved that script.

How was it to work on that movie and in particular with Samuel Jackson and John Travolta in that pivotal opening/closing scene of the movie?

Fucking amazing! Can you imagine that? I'd not known Sam or John before. I did know Tim [Roth]. We were buddies and still are. I adore that man. They all are great actors and it was so beautiful to work on that. It was like being soulmates in the bringing together of it -- the crew, the director, the actors. A good director will cast soulmates or people that become soulmates in such a short period of time.

Did you know it was going to become such a cult classic?

Yes, definitely. I sometimes read scripts and I know they'll become classics. It's rare when you're reading it that you know it's going to be great. Often reading has nothing to do with film, because it's the director's and cinematographer's interpretation of the script that either makes it great or sink. Once and a while you can tell by just reading the script that you know that this has never been seen before or the energy of it makes your imagination go to places that it has not gone before. Or that your imagination has gone to but it has never been realized.

Any anecdotes from working on Pulp Fiction?

What is an anecdote? Some people are really good at telling anecdotes. I love to listen to other actors telling stories of them sharing a car to work or something. You're talking to a person that has no memory (laughing) -- uncontrolled memory rather. I can't seem to last through it. I can only say that it is kind of like a painting when you work with such wonderful people. Memory becomes for me kind of like a painting that lives in my brain. It's got all the colors on it. When you work on something that doesn't jive or doesn't have groove, there's no painting in my memory. So I'm sorry, but I can't come up with anything specific. I probably will in like two days. (both laughing)

What role were you most proud of? Because either you thought that was your best performance or because you were working opposite a certain actor?

Hasn't happened yet.

I'm looking forward to it then!

Me too! (laughing)

Coming to Battlestar Galactica. Had you ever seen the original in 1978?

No, did you?

It's when I became a fan already. Had you seen the new series before you got on it?

I hadn't seen a single episode. Is that like "bad"? I lived in a place for 5 years where there wasn't any television. I could only watch movies on DVD. I'm a visual addict, so I have to watch out for television. I'd would totally suck me in. I normally watch like 10 movies/week. Even then I need a leave blowing in the wind in front of my eye to know I'm alive or something. I'd just tremble a little and then again perfectly still. So no television. It's one of the reasons why I hadn't see Battlestar Galactica.

 

Amanda Plummer as the Oracle Selloi in Battlestar Galactica

Amanda Plummer as the Oracle Selloi in Battlestar Galactica

 

You play the Oracle Selloi on Battlestar Galactica, again an odd part. A chamalla licking oracle on New Caprica.

That's a great line! (laughing) ...chamalla licking. You know, I used to eat... Wait, I'm not going to tell you that! (laughing)

How did you get this part?

I got a call from my Canadian agent that they had invited me to come on the show.

They had an odd part and they called you?

(laughing) Yeah!

How was your experience working on that show?

I loved it. I loved the whole world that they had created. Coming in and out was actually too quick. You never want to leave. You're invited into this world and before you know it you're already out. I would have loved to have stayed there for a few more days or weeks longer, because it's so much fun. Everybody was so delightful and fun to be with.

If heard they asked you to reprise your role but weren't available anymore?

I don't know. I haven't heard that.

They got Georgia Craig to play an oracle on another episode on the show.

Oh, that's cool. Sorry, I didn't get that information, but that sometimes happens.

How was it to work with Lucy Lawless in particular?

She was a dear, sweet and patient with me. I enjoyed working with her.

What always amazed me, is the amount of work you're doing. Often as much as 4-5 different parts/year. How do keep up with that?

I enjoy that. I'm mentoring and producing as well. I'm always looking for material and scripts. Not for movies that I'm in, but for kind of filmmaking that I want to see and that I see being done in other countries. So I'm producing foreign films. It's baby steps right now. I'm helping out with casting on another film and working on two films that I'm acting in. It all goes kind of back to back to each other. I find it very inspiring to work on many things at the same time.

Do you still have time to do horseback riding?

Noooo! (both laughing) No, I miss it. I haven't had time. I haven't made time for quite some time now.

Any time for any hobbies?

No, I only do a hobby when I'm like "unhappy". (both laughing) I start painting and I paint badly. (laughing) It would help focus me off when I'm not working.

 

actress Amanda Plummer

actress Amanda Plummer

 

I've read you also you do audio books?

I've done a few, but they weren't worth reading. (laughing) Don't buy them!

Were they that bad? Why did they hire you then?

(laughing) I don't know. Frankly, I've never listened to them myself. I'm kind of self critical on the stop word "audio". I did love to do the live radio plays. I miss those so much in this country. When I was like 18, those were a gas to do. I love them and that I could do.

There were the guys doing all the sounds, right there in the same room. The actors would have their scripts in hand and there was this long old fashioned mic right in the middle of us and wed all share the same mic and back on and off. It was brilliant and fun. I could do that again and again.

You won 3 Emmy's, were nominated for a Golden Globe. On stage, several Tony nominations and you also won one for Agnes of God. Which award you felt was the best recognition for your work because you yourself were also proud of your performance?

Within the confined of that question, I would say... (ponders the question) It's amazing to get anything from my point of view, but I'd go for the Tony nomination for A Taste of Honey.

You also feel there was a performance that wasn't awarded but should have?

No, I'd be too egotistical and I'm not... (laughing) I should get awards for everything! (both laughing out loud). "Hello?!?" No, that would be a little extreme. I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I'd be crazy.

Your dad never won an Oscar and fans are now holding a petition to get him the Lifetime Achievement Award. Did you know that?

No, I didn't. That would be great! Really? I wonder if he knows? I'll keep my mouth shut. I won't tell. (laughing) Oh my god! Your bringing tears to my eyes.

On the other hand: He's still doing a lot movies. A Lifetime Achievement Award is also like a crown on his work, somehow saying: you can quit now.

I love when Peter O'Toole got up on the stage to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award and said: "Thanks for this award. Give me a job! I want work." I thought that was right on. (laughing) The best place for an actor to die, in my point of view, is right on set or on stage. I had a very dear, Dick Shawn, a comedian. He died right on stage during the second act of something that he had devised. The second act rises with him beneath a billion piles of newspapers -- the whole stage is a wreck of all torn up newspapers. It's empty, you don't see anything else and he comes up underneath this pile of newspapers. On this particular evening he did not come up from this pile of newspapers -- he had died.

The audience was laughing hysterically as it went on and on and nothing happened. They were watching this stage full of three feet high piles of newspapers. Then the curtain came down it was discovered that he was dead. But he went out with an audience going hysterical.

It also surprised me you yourself were never nominated for best supporting role or something for an Academy Award.

Oh, that's sweet.

I'd like thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

Marcel, it was a joy to talk to you. Have a wonderful night!

 
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