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Georgia Humphreys finds out more about new thriller Departure

'Airplanes crashing is part of life now... it's terrifying!'

Christopher Plummer and Archie Panjabi in Departure
Christopher Plummer and Archie Panjabi in Departure

By Georgia Humphreys

Incredibly, Christopher Plummer will turn 90 this December - not that you'd have any idea from chatting to him. "I guess, when I was 80, that was a bit shocking and then you forget about it immediately the following day," quips the veteran Canadian actor, whose classic roles include Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (he was 36 at the time).

"I really feel like I'm 60. I'm very grateful, because I'm not ill or anything and I'm not injured and I seem to have the same energy. I've got two huge projects that I'm about to do next year. I hope to God I can get through them, but I'm raring to go."

Plummer won't give any clues as to what those projects are. But a show he will talk about is Universal TV's Departure, in which he plays Howard, the head of the Transport Safety Bureau.

The new, high-octane thriller follows the mystery of Flight 716, a passenger plane which vanishes over the Atlantic Ocean.

Howard calls in a former employee, recently widowed aviation investigator Kendra Malley (Archie Panjabi), to help investigate the crash.

Discussing what drew him to Howard, the charming star notes: "I liked him because he has some sort of eccentricity about him. And I admire Archie, so it was a pleasure to work with her. I'm supposed to be her (character's) mentor.

"I persuade her to take this terrible job in hand and try and find out what motivated this terrible disaster. And she really feels that she isn't capable, after having not done it for a while."

He adds: "Archie has that very strong, bossy personality - and I say it with great affection.

"She is electric, actually. She's so talented and her face can change in a second; it can be glamorous and then harsh."

Back to the plot of Departure; why does Plummer think people find plane crashes so fascinating?

"It's just like watching a snake, isn't it?" suggests the father-of-one, who is married to English actress Elaine Taylor. "You're absolutely fascinated by the horror of it all. And it happens so frequently now that it's become part of our life.

"All my years of flying, we always were told that, 'Come on, it's so easy. If you're driving you have more chance of being killed than being in the air.' Wrong! It's all changed. And the accidents are getting more frequent every day. It's terrifying."

While award-winning Plummer (he bagged a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2012 for comedy drama Beginners) has been part of many high-profile films, there's one in particular which made headlines.

After allegations of sexual misconduct against Kevin Spacey emerged in 2017, director Ridley Scott removed the House of Cards star from the final cut of All The Money In The World and then began last-minute re-shoots.

It was Plummer who was brought in as Spacey's replacement in the crime thriller, as billionaire oil tycoon J Paul Getty (the film is about the kidnapping of Getty's 16-year-old grandson in 1973).

And he's more than happy to reflect candidly on what was undoubtedly a chaotic filming experience. "I thought it was a very good movie. I thought it was terrific and I was a complete stranger to it, because we only had nine days left, as you probably know.

"I thought it was very well-written, so I had no quibble about that. And, indeed, there was no time to have quibbles about anything.

"But I did find that there was a soft spot that gave me an opportunity to play him with a little tiny bit more warmth than the man had, than perhaps he really has.

"The scenes with the very young boy, I tried to make that as pleasant and as warm as I could."

Plummer agrees he chooses his parts wisely nowadays, so that he travels "as little as possible".

"For All The Money In The World, I had to go back to Rome and back to London to shoot the plot and that's fine, but I don't want to do too much of that anymore.

"I'd rather stick to studios that are closer. And you can do things in studios that are faked to look like something else - you don't have to travel to the House of Lords; you can actually recreate the House of Lords."

But for anyone wondering if Plummer will retire anytime soon, he insists "there's lots of parts that I'd still like to do".

"I think I prefer to do them on the screen now, instead of those long runs in the theatre.

"Those are getting less and less, but that's nothing to do with energy - it's sort of sustaining the memory and it's something that we've all got to work at."

Departure, Universal, Wednesday, 9pm

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