Amanda Plummer

The daughter of Christopher Plummer and Tammy Grines, Amanda Plummer was born in New York City on 23 March 1957. In 1979, she made her debut on the silver screen in “Little Annie and the Britches” and Pauline Kael, writing about her in that film in “The New Yorker”, said, “The only other actress I’ve seen make a movie debut so excitingly, weirdly lyrical was Katharine Hepburn.” Her breakthrough role came in 1991 when she starred opposite Robin Williams in “The Fisher King”. However, Amanda Plummer may be best remembered in Quentin Tarantino’s cult film “Pulp Fiction” (1994). Tarantino wrote the parts of two robbers who hold up a restaurant specifically for Plummer and her partner-in-screen-crime Tim Roth. Since that stand-out role, she has continued to appear in a wide variety of films such as “The Prophecy” (1995), “Freeway” (1996), or “My Life Without Me” (2003).  Plummer has also often performed onstage. Her highly acclaimed work on Broadway has garnered her a Tony Award and two Tony Award nods, as well as the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award. She was also honored with three Emmy Awards, one Emmy nomination, a Saturn Award and a Golden Globe nomination as well as the Anti-Defamation League Award for Woman of Achievement, among many others. The latest in the above-mentioned list of awards is the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Oldenburg International Film Festival.

 “Fade to Her” caught up with Plummer in Oldenburg.



Congratulations on your award!

Amanda Plummer: Ain’t that nice?!

How do you feel about it?

A.P.: I think that’s so sweet. I think it’s so nice. It means a lot.

You’ve most certainly read Pauline Kael’s review of Cattle Annie and Little Britches. Any comment on that?

A.P.: That was one of the most amazing reviews. It was my first picture. And, Pauline Kael wrote the most amazing review about me. It seemed to go on and on and on and for pages and I was like: “Are you kidding? Wow!” This thing she said, that’s the quotable catchphrase, everything else she said was like: “God! This woman knows actors!” The way she wrote… And, then, I started reading more of her reviews because it seemed like she actually really made a living… she must’ve read and seen so much. She talked like someone who knew what she was talking about. And, she did! And, I’d met her once. And, she was a really cool lady! But, that review was the first film review I had and I was just floored by it. It was out of this world! She just seemed to like everything that I did because everything she reviewed about me, she really liked me, which, I guess, is extraordinary, you know! Extraordinary because I came into the business knowing that I was extremely different, knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy because I have a different feeling than what I see mostly in U.S. Cinema, but with the foreign Cinema, I thought: “This is what I watched a lot of, films from other countries and lands and languages, and I love their works so much” and I knew I was different. So, I was lucky to have one critic in America liking me!

Especially a woman critic!

A.P.: Was she the only?

At that moment, I think she was… She made a difference!

A.P.: Yeah! She did make a difference, didn’t she?! She’s a little scrapper! And, she was a short woman! She was short, like you!

 That must be good!

A.P.: A short woman with great clear eyes!

Do you still read film criticism? How do you react to it?

A.P.: I used to read it a lot more than I do now, because I’m going to be honest, it depends on what film, what country… but, U.S. criticism I don’t read too much anymore because they’re not writing like they used to – I don’t mean to be insulting, what they do is what they want to do and that’s cool – but, I don’t understand what they’re saying! And, I’m not learning anything from their criticism. As an actor or director or painter, you can learn from critics who really know what they’re talking about! But, when they just come out with sound bites, you don’t learn anything. So, why read? If a critic would write something that I can learn about, good or bad, then yes!

Talking about critics, people talk a lot about your work as an actress in the sense that you tend to disappear and change physically, emotionally, even vocally and that you are a different person, for a role.

A.P.: I love that!

They also say that you invented a world and people when you were younger. How did that help you? Did it actually help you in becoming an actress?

A.P.: I think everybody does have a secret life.

People tend to really stress that fact about you, so I wonder why?

A.P.: I wonder why too! Why do they stress it? I don’t understand! Like it’s something unusual! It’s an important point, because it’s not unusual!

It’s your life and I am not going to go poking around that particular fact, but I am particularly interested in it in relation to your acting. Did it help you with it?

A.P.: I’ll tell you what it does! It’s not unusual to do that. It’s not freaky, it’s not abnormal, and I want people to know that. I want kids to know that. I want grown-ups to know that. I want people to know what goes on inside your imagination – it’s as vital as what goes on from day to day and hour to hour, and in survival or in your life. And, I’m just lucky in the sense that I think of myself as a kid because I am able to actualize my imagination. But, everybody has it. Everybody has different stories in their head and different people in their head. They’re alive! It’s not empty up there! *Points to her head* They just don’t talk about it everyday. And, I don’t have to talk about it. I write it down. Maybe there are other actors, too. I don’t know! Maybe not too many actors say that. They picked up on it, they harped on it a lot.

Who’s your favorite imagination?

A.P.: Well, when you’re a kid, you know, growing up, and I was a writer, you know, I’m not a professional writer, but I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote and they thought I’d be a writer, so there’s no favorite or anything; it just comes out on paper. It’s like what’s on the paper surprises you, like: “Ha! Where did you come from? Who are you?” You don’t know these people, but they’re having their voice and you’re talking to them. That’s what writers do.

Another thing journalists seem to cling to a lot is the fact that you once said that you didn’t like being Amanda Plummer and I’d like to know your take on that.

A.P.: That’s interesting. I say a lot of things. Let’s say, if I’m asked a silly question or if I’m asked a very good question, but I’m in a very silly mood, it comes out and there it is… But, if you break it down, anything silly about your life that comes out out of your mouth to somebody, is based on some core inside you, unconscious or so deep, important or unimportant, but it’s true. I love the phrase from Don Quixote: “What is a lie, but a sort of a myth and what is a myth, but a sort of a truth” I love that! I apply this to the whole world.

That’s a wonderful way of going about it! I wonder how you see yourself as an actress. You read and hear what people say, but what’s your opinion?

A.P.: As an actress, I don’t look. An actress to me is very simple. It’s really simple. Act. It’s an action. And that’s it.

Pauline Kael wrote the most amazing review about me.

Do you watch yourself onscreen? Do you like seeing yourself onscreen?

A.P.: Sometimes I do. I will go and I will look at it, usually in an audience of people just coming off the street and then I can be more objective. And, I can enjoy myself.

Are you critical towards yourself and your performances?

A.P.: When I watch it alone, if I do, which is very rare – each film I’ve done I’ve watched twice when I was alone – and then, I’m extremely critical. Yes, of course, because I want to be better.

You don’t have to answer this but, I’m wondering about your relationship with your parents, their legacy and how this influenced your own independence as an actress.

A.P.: It’s a convoluted thing. I always felt separate from them and I knew I was very different from them and I didn’t know them growing up, either of them. So, I lived with different families. Sometimes, I’d see them, but not for long stretches of time. So, I was already very independent as a child – I’ll use that word for lack of a better one. I think, starting very young, it was already a muscle that was activated at an early age, so it was rather easy not to feel any pressure. It was so weird, you know, like going to a coffee shop to get my morning coffee or tea, eat my breakfast, and somebody would come up to me and go: “You’re better than your mother, but not your father yet” and I remember looking up at them and thinking: “Wow! People really do this competition thing!” But, I don’t. Some people have a competition built into them and for better or for worse, I don’t. I basically compete with myself.

That’s good! Did your parents being actors influence your choice to become an actress?

A.P.: No. I think it influences other people. It gets into their heads and their feelings and they’re trying to piece it all together. It affects them, not me. It’s not part of my life. It’s weird, ha?

I agree completely with your philosophy. Have they ever told you: “No, don’t be an actress!”?

A.P.: No, because I wouldn’t have cared one way or the other! And, they didn’t care one way or the other. I met my father when I was eighteen and it was fantastic! And, we were both extremely nervous. But, we clicked with our imaginations. We had a blast hanging out together. So, that took the edge off of all the nervousness, because you go: “Oh my God, this is my father!”, “Oh my God, this is my daughter!” We’re just two human beings and, luckily, we could connect through our imagination and we talked about Moby Dick, all the stuff that we read, we would just fly off and into a surreal dialogue and we both had that in common. And so, I told him. By then he knew, before that conversation… I said: “You might’ve put a gun to your head,” which I tell everyone.

Do you watch each other’s work?

A.P.: Sure! He comes to mine now. After I met him, he started coming to any play when he wasn’t working. And, he watches the films. And vice-versa.

What do you prefer, stage or screen?

A.P.: Both! I love both! Crave both! I lust after both!

And, what about TV? The writing is better, everyone is moving to TV…

A.P.: TV? It depends! The writing is getting better and better, isn’t it? Yeah, for television! For television, it’s amazing! If you look at it in just a little narrow box and compare it to television forty years ago, there was some cool television as well, but not as as much or not as often.

Do you watch TV?

A.P.: Not really. I’ll watch something if a friend says: “This is cool” and I’ll stream it. I love reading audiobooks too. I did radio plays. It’s so much fun! It’s so cool! I’ll do anything…

If you weren’t an actress, would you have been a writer?

A.P.: Oh listen! I’m unpublishable! I wrote a play where the characters were animals. And, they had songs and they’d sing. But, they were animals. They weren’t people dressed up as animals.

I don’t see why it’s unpublishable.

A.P.: I tend to throw away everything I write. Every five years I go: “Oh, OK!” Otherwise, my place would be full of stuff.

Your role in Fisher King brought you to mainstream stardom. Can you comment on that?

A.P.: Because I had been a Terry Gilliam fan, I’d watched movies like crazy, so for example, when Kim Jiun’s Bittersweet Life came out on DVD, and I got my hands on it, I watched it maybe fifty times or forty-five –somewhere in there – back to back to back, just to give you an idea how obsessive I am when I want to see something great and this I would do with Terry Gilliam films… So, to get a chance to work with him, I screamed, I howled when I got it! I shocked myself! I was so happy it brings tears to my eyes.

How was it to work with Robin Williams?

A.P.: I had worked with him before, in The World According to Garp, which shows you how crazy I am. I went from lead in Riders to the Sea to a cameo. Usually people start with the cameo, but I just loved this cameo! And so, I had this scene with Robin Williams. He was just so extraordinary a man to work with. He went like this: he took his finger before we shot and ran it down my arm just as slow as I am doing now… No words…

Let’s move on to Pulp Fiction. It brought you a cult following. Can you talk about it and what it represents for you?

A.P.: That was Tim Roth’s doing! Tim Roth! We did a film together for a student in a school. Nobody’s seen it, unfortunately, but we had such a blast playing with each other. Soon after that, Tim had already worked with Quentin Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs and they had a relationship and Tim took me to the premiere of Fisher King to make sure that I go, because I’m stupidly ridiculous that I have no sense of time! I was taking a nap in the afternoon, which is very dangerous, because I tend to sleep too long – my naps are too long – and he came and woke me up, and we went to the premiere together. And, due to him, I met Tarantino. It was Tim’s idea, I think, to have us play together again and he didn’t say this, but by bringing my personage for Tarantino to see how we interacted, because we cared for each other a great deal, we had fun together. There’s a certain energy between people that changes from person to person, and our energy together is interesting. And, Tarantino saw and went: “Hold on a minute! OK!” So, Tim’s really, really an extraordinary mind! Extraordinary! A f*$#ing brilliant actor! I f*$#ing amazing actor! Did you see him in Metamorphosis that he did for the BBC? Oh! If you could get your hands on that, watch it! He’s the ultimate actor! Like the greats that I love, like in women Anna Magnani, Irene Papas, Marina Mercuri…

Are they your inspiration?

A.P.: These women floor me! When I saw Irene Papas’ work when I was eight, I thought: “OK! That is it!” Vanessa Redgrave is another one… So, I watch their work a lot. Then there are the male counterparts, like Oskar Werner, in Jules et Jim by Truffaut, he’s the blond! I still have a crush on him! He’s dead, and God damn it! I never got to meet him! And so, Tim Roth, to me, is like that!

And, among directors, who inspires you?

A.P.: Robert Bresson with La Mouchette. I’m a Bresson fan! I love him! And, he gives me reason to live. And, Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa, Sam Peckinpah… And living, Kim Ki-duk… I went to Korea to meet him! Also, Lee Chang-dong, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wong Kar-Wai… It goes on… Alfonso Gómez Rejón, Alfonso Cuarón, Lee Isaac Chung… He’s a young guy and he’s a genius!

Are you an Asian Cinema buff?

A.P.: Since I was a child… Asian, French, Italian, Russian… There are some great directors from every country. And, actors too!

What is your favorite role?

A.P.: There isn’t. It’s like a life.

 Is there anything in the pipeline for you now?

A.P.: Don’t know. I just got a beautiful offer, but I can’t say what it is!


This interview was conducted at the 2016 Oldenburg International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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