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With his tall frame, strong nose and pleasant mid-Atlantic tones, actor Christopher Plummer is typecast as upper crust. For one generation, his most famous role will always be the rigid aristocrat Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music; another now remembers him as billionaire John Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, a performance that won him an Oscar nomination this year after he stepped in as an 11th-hour replacement for the disgraced Kevin Spacey. He’s also recently played Scrooge (The Man Who Invented Christmas) and Kaiser Wilhelm II (The Exception).

So, at 88, he thought it was time for a change:

“I love seedy roles, I don’t get enough of them,” he said in a recent phone interview. “One wants to join the human race eventually; the Kaiser, Scrooge, they are all a little bit beyond me.”

In Shana Feste’s new film Boundaries, Plummer plays a scruffy old drug dealer who wears adult diapers. The film is a small road movie about an exasperated animal lover (Vera Farmiga) who must drive down the West Coast with various dogs, her teenage son and her aging father after he gets kicked out of a nursing home for his criminal activity.

“I found it very comfortable, almost sinisterly comfortable. I should do more of these,” Plummer said.

Christopher Plummer as Jack and Halldor Bjarnason as Jed in the new movie Boundaries.Sony Pictures Classics

He praises Feste’s direction for its confidence and her writing for its lack of sentimentality: Jack Jaconi ropes his own grandson into selling his dope. “The old man himself doesn’t know much more than to lead people astray. I think he rather enjoys it, diabolically.”

Plummer doesn’t judge: he thinks legalization is only sensible. “I’m all for it. I’m not a marijuana taker myself, I am still happy with booze, but for those who want it, go ahead, good luck.”

The drug-dealing character is partly based on Feste’s own father who turned up on set halfway through the shoot: “I thought, my God, what am I going to do? Am I going to hide?” Plummer said. “He turned out to be such a sweet old man, he was adorable. He just bummed a cigarette off me.”

Plummer observes that an actor doesn’t want the real versions of his characters hovering around watching his performance – any more than he wants to observe a colleague’s take on a character he’s reprising. He did not watch the footage of Spacey as Getty before the nine-day shoot for All the Money in the World in which director Ridley Scott redid all the scenes featuring the tight-fisted billionaire.

“I try very hard to search for some humanity, and I think every now and then there’s a tiny bit,” he said of his take on Getty, who refused to ransom his kidnapped grandson. “I mean he is quite right about his warning that if he gave the million or whatever it is, he will have 14 less grandchildren.”

Scott has said the older actor was actually his original choice for the role, but if that was the case, it was the first Plummer had ever heard of it – until that surprising offer came through.

“It was a wonderful exciting risk to take. I couldn’t refuse. I’ve always wanted to work with Ridley Scott,” he said. “I said yes, and then had my nervous heart attack and went to England two days later and we were shooting.”

Nervous at first, he soon recovered his calm: “Ridley made it very easy; he made it very comfortable. … He loves risks; he’s got a great sense of humour; it was a joyous experience as it turned out.”

The role has brought him an odd kind of fame, as the internet’s go-to understudy: when ABC fired Roseanne Barr from her own show in May after a racist tweet, memes of Plummer as the new star of Roseanne multiplied.

With that best-supporting-actor nomination under his belt for Getty, the actor can simply laugh at what he considers a wonderful joke.

As for retirement, don’t even mention it: “Never, never, never, please. I’m terrified to retire. ... [Work] just keeps me going.”

Boundaries opens July 6 in Toronto and Vancouver, and July 13 in Montreal