By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist September 12, 2011 at 7:15AM
Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins & Michael Gambon Join Maggie Smith & Tom Courtenay In Cast
It's somewhat surprising, given that most actors give it a shot at one point or another in their career, even if they never go back to it, that Dustin Hoffman has never stepped behind the camera to direct a film. He has, after all, won awards a-plenty, and been a fully-fledged, albeit unorthodox, giant movie star, for most of his career. The closest Hoffman came to helming a picture was 1978's Straight Time, a project that eventually ended up in the hands of Ulu Grosbard (1995's Georgia) - that is, until now.
Early last year, it was announced that Hoffman would make his directorial debut on an adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play "Quartet," which follows four opera singers in a retirement home who decide to hold a concert in celebration of the great composer Verdi, but find their relationships getting in the way. And, as you might expect, he's assembled a cast so impressive that it's becoming a sort of "The Expendables" for elderly British thesps.
Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins ("Shirley Valentine") and comic Billy Connolly will take the four lead roles, the latter taking over from Peter O'Toole, who himself was replacing the originally-cast Albert Finney. Michael Gambon will also take a role, as will youthful British stage actress Sheridan Smith, who recently won an Olivier award for her turn in the West End version of "Legally Blonde," and who will help to bring the average age of the cast down to a mere 94.7 years.
All in all, it's a fearsome collection of actors, and with Hoffman at the helm, it's got to be a force to be reckoned with performance-wise, although whether he's got any filmmaking chops is yet to be seen, but having worked with greats from Mike Nichols to the guy who made "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," he must have picked up a few tricks along the way. Filming started today, so expect to see this targeting the 2012 awards season. [EW]