QuartetIn December, the actor Dustin Hoffman sat in a box seat at the Kennedy Center as his old friend, Robert De Niro, saluted him at a celebration marking one of the highest accolades for an artist in the United States: a Kennedy Center Honor.
It was a recognition of Hoffman’s decades-long career as an actor, during which he has played some of the silver screen’s most memorable characters: Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie, Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man, Carl Bernstein in All The President’s Men. And the list goes on.
Now, at age 75, Hoffman has added “director” to his resume. His directorial debut, Quartet, opens in wide release on Jan. 25. The film, which stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly, tells the story of a quartet of aging opera singers who put on a concert in honor of Verdi’s birthday at the retirement home where they live.
The film explores the lives of older artists — the way memory wanes and the high notes may recede into the distance — and Hoffman says the point is to remember the value of those memories, the friendships and the time remaining.
“If we can put on the screen those feelings we have, the ups the downs,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, “that’s what I’m looking for.”
Howard Suber is the Yoda of all filmmaking teachers. He taught more than 65 courses in 40 years at UCLAs celebrated film school. He has been a consultant to every major film studio. His former students are now the most accomplished writers, directors and producers in the industry. He is the author of “The Power of Film” (2006). His book examines the principles that make films popular and memorable and will be of interest whether you want to make films or just appreciate films.
The Graduate screenplay by Buck Henry [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
For a previously unknown actor named Dustin Hoffman, the success of The Graduate was a “happy accident,” according to CBC interviewer Moses Znaimer. Sudden fame means Hoffman has been careful not to be trapped into playing Benjamin Braddock for the rest of his career. In this conversation with Znaimer, a slightly guarded Hoffman describes his latest role, as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, and ruminates on acting, fame and selling out.