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Uploaded on Oct 5, 2011

TORONTO 26 Sept 2011 — He's won two Tony Awards, two Emmys and been nominated for an Oscar — among many other accolades — but legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer says being honoured by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is special because of its origins.

"This is sweet and delightful because I always consider Stratford a sort of second home," Plummer, 81, said before receiving the festival's newly created lifetime achievement award at a gala celebration at the Four Seasons Hotel Monday.

"I've been (performing there) since 1956 and it's like a prize saying, 'Hello, why don't you come home?' It's a very sweet prize."

Several luminaries attended Monday's splashy soiree in honour of Plummer, who has homes in Palm Beach, Fla., and Connecticut.

Among them were actors Cynthia Dale, Brian Dennehy and Gordon Pinsent, who was slated to give Plummer his award at the swank event, which included performances by Stratford festival stars. Proceeds from the gala, for which individual tickets were priced at $1,000 each, will support several of the festival's key initiatives.

"He's masterful, he really is," said Pinsent, 81, a fellow Stratford festival alum who first met Plummer in 1962 and with whom he did a speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada earlier this year.

"He certainly doesn't believe in anything called 'retirement,' neither do I and neither do a good many of us. The man is extraordinary. He's got so many sides to him. He's quite remarkable, and when you share a stage with him it's magic."

Des McAnuff, the Tony-winning artistic director of the festival in southwestern Ontario, said it was a "no-brainer" to give the inaugural lifetime achievement award to Plummer.

"He is without question a national treasure and I think he's quintessentially a Stratford Shakespeare Festival product," said McAnuff, who's directed Plummer several times at the festival.

"His work in England and London and on the screen and around the world, it all really started, it blossomed under Michael Langham's direction (at the festival) in the 1950s. It all started there."

Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Plummer — whose great-grandfather was prime minister John Abbott — has appeared in dozens of films and starred on stages from Broadway to Stratford and London.

He made his debut at the Stratford festival in a 1956 production of Henry V.

Plummer has performed at the Stratford festival several times since, including his 1996 starring turn in Barrymore, for which he later earned a Tony Award when it moved to Broadway. His recent Stratford festival credits include his 2008 tour-de-force role in Caesar and Cleopatra and his critically heralded 2010 turn in The Tempest.

Next year, Plummer is scheduled to present his one-man show A Word or Two at the festival.

Of course, Plummer has also had a distinguished film career. One of his best-known big-screen roles is Capt. Georg von Trapp in the 1965 musical The Sound of Music.

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