Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hoffman Does Divas in Directing Debut 'Quartet'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hoffman Does Divas in Directing Debut 'Quartet'

Article excerpt

TORONTO -- At least Dustin Hoffman is honest when asked why it took him so long to make his directing debut.

"I don't know," Mr. Hoffman said.

The 75-year-old Mr. Hoffman went behind the camera for "Quartet," starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins as aging British opera divas at a retirement home for musicians who put aside past differences for a reunion concert.

"Quartet," which premiered at September's Toronto International Film Festival, landed in a handful of theaters Jan. 11 and expands to wider release this week. (It opens at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill on Friday. Look for a review in Friday's Mag & Movies section.)

Mr. Hoffman always wanted to direct, optioning stories, working on scripts, developing projects. He even started out to direct the 1978 ex-convict drama "Straight Time," in which he also was starring.

Mr. Hoffman cast the film, worked on the script with several writers and said he "even got myself secreted into San Quentin -- which is another story -- in a convict's outfit for about five hours before I got found out."

Clearly, it was Mr. Hoffman's passion project, but as he began watching dailies of the footage he had shot, he lost confidence and "fired myself" as director.

Mr. Hoffman turned to old friend Ulu Grosbard, who had directed him in "Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?," to finish "Straight Time," but it wound up being an acrimonious shoot as Mr. Hoffman continued to try to co-direct and their friendship chilled.

"Between that one and now, I don't know. I worked on stuff, I've developed stuff and talked myself out of it for whatever reason," Mr. Hoffman said in an interview at the Toronto festival.

"People will say, 'Well, you didn't do too badly, but nevertheless, we all would like to go back. I mean, it just goes under the heading of, I should have done this a long time ago. ...

"I should have, should have, should have. I should not have gone into acting. I should have stayed and become a jazz pianist and worked at it until I was good enough. That's the thing I most regret."

After "Straight Time," it took more than 30 years for Mr. …

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