Sunday, 16 September 2012

Billy Connolly: 'Quartet' premiere in Toronto

Dustin Hoffman's 'Quartet' debuts at Toronto Film Fest
On Sunday September 9, “Quartet” had its première at The Elgin at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Quartet” is the directorial début of Dustin Hoffman, and stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Billy Connolly.

Gracing the red carpet première were Director Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Aaron Paul, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Lisa Gottsegen, Eline Powell, Jake Hoffman and Max Hoffman.

In “Quartet,” Cecily, Reggie and Wilfred are in a home for retired opera singers. Every year, on October 10, there is a concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday and they take part. Jean, who used to be married to Reggie, arrives at the home and disrupts their equilibrium. She still acts like a diva, but she refuses to sing. Still, the show must go on... and it does.

This is the début of the film and it is slated to be released in the U.S. on Friday, January 4, 2013.

Read more at (includes video clip and red carpet photo gallery)

Billy Connolly talks aging in 'Quartet'
In the Dustin Hoffman-directed Quartet - about a retirement home for Brit musicians and opera singers - one of the characters repeatedly quotes the supposed Bette Davis line, "Growing old is not for sissies."

Billy Connolly, who plays a member of the title operatic quartet -- and who turns 70 in November, takes issue with the line. 

Old age, the bawdy Scottish comedian/actor says, "is lovely as long as you don't pay any attention to it. Don't let a number control your life. People make decisions based on what number you've become, which I think is quite baffling. It's like acting your street number. Because you've become 57 or 58 you should wear beige or wear wide trousers with a saggy ass. 

"And I find it a lot when I go home to Glasgow and I meet people I went to school with. Some of them are in great shape, but some of them have voluntarily become old men. They've gone for the old-guy haircut and the old-guy sports jacket and that terrifying little half a raincoat that they wear. 

"And of course, they call ME Peter Pan," Connolly adds with a smirk, dressed in black jeans, shirt and jacket. (He still cuts a solid enough figure to be cast an axe-wielding dwarf Dane Ironfoot in Peter Jackson's three-picture adaptation of the Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit.)

His character in Quartet, a charmer named Wilf, cheerfully says whatever sarcastic thing pops into his head - attributed in the script to a stroke. Given that it is Billy Connolly in a nutshell, we ask him if he had this stroke when he was 12, which elicits a hearty laugh. 

"Wilf was perfect to play, I understood him, which is a great benefit. I could relax within him." But it was his "other half," quartet member and lifelong best friend Reggie (Tom Courtenay) that completed the chemistry. 

"Tom's character is my pal, and his stiffness, and his fear of the future and his fear of Maggie (Smith, who plays Reggie's diva ex-wife), just encouraged me in my silliness." 

I mention the irony of Hoffman directing a movie about British opera singers, given the ancient tale of Lord Laurence Olivier telling him "Dear boy, why don't you try acting?" while filming The Marathon Man

"I've always hated that story," Connolly says, "because in my opinion Dustin could act Olivier off the map. And he's a great director because he's a great listener. If there's a line that's redundant, you could say 'Dustin, I think I've said this before,' and he'd say, 'Yeah, throw it away.'
"He liked economy. He said this lovely thing to me, 'Americans make movies, and the British make talkies. You say too much. It's a visual medium.' " 

And with that, how about a "method" question. How did Connolly put himself in the mindset of being in a retirement home? "I thought about school," he says. "There's school and jail. Old folks homes are all pretty much the damn same. I'm against them. There's a mindset of getting rid of the old because they're old." 

Meanwhile, he was surprised to find out his highly regarded fellow "retirees" were all longtime fans of his comedy, particularly Dame Maggie Smith. 

"Maggie Smith is very funny. She does a brilliant Glasgow accent. She'd say little Glasgow sayings to me in Glaswegian, and it blew me sideways laughing." 

Source: Toronto Sun

From Maclean's:
TIFF 2012 video: Most fun ever on a red carpet, pretty sure
Jessica Allen with Billy Connolly, Dustin Hoffman, and an up-and-coming actress named Maggie Smith 


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