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We experimentally and theoretically study the controlled coupling between localized and delocalized surface plasmon modes supported by a multilayer metallic photonic crystal slab. The model system to visualize the interaction phenomena consists of a gold nanowire grating and a spatially separated homogeneous silver film. We show that plasmon-plasmon coupling leads to drastic modification of the optical properties in dependence on the chosen geometrical parameters. Strong coupling and plasmon hybridization can be clearly observed. The numerical calculations reveal excellent agreement with the experiments. (c) 2006 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGa-A, Weinheim.