Dustin Hoffman Picks A Quartet

He's directin' here!

Dustin Hoffman has brought his talents to the screen and stage for nearly five decades but, unlike many A-listers, he's bided his time before trying this hand on the other side of the camera. The biding, however, is at an end. Hoffman gets the cameras rolling on *Quartet, his debut feature, this week in Buckinghamshire.

The actor-turned-helmer has assembled a terrific cast of British acting talent - many of whose careers span those five same decades - including Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins.

Courtenay, Connolly and Collins play three ex-opera stars who live together in Beecham House, a home for retired opera singers. Every year they throw a party to celebrate the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi. This year, however, their plans are thrown into flux by the arrival of Jean Horton (Smith), a former grande dame of the opera who's run into hard times. Cue a resurfacing of historic grudges, a unsentimental look at ageing, and, we'd assume, a fair amount of warbling. Maggie Smith, for one, has a fair set of lungs on her, as anyone who's seen Oh! What A Lovely War will testify.

Ronald Harwood, an Oscar winner for his adaptation of The Pianist, has adapted his own stage play for the screen.

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