TODAY

TODAY   |  December 05, 2012

Dustin Hoffman goes from actor to director

After a distinguished acting career more than four decades long, Dustin Hoffman talks about taking his talents behind the camera for his directorial debut on a new film, “Quartet,” which already has people talking about a possible best director Oscar nomination.

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>>> has dazzled us for more than four decades and now he's taking his talents behind the camera, making his directorial debut with the romantic comedy "quartet" and it already has people talking a potential best director nomination. dustin hoffman , welcome back. you are a i go who in a interview i read recently described yourself as the least remarkable guy in the room. yes.

>> so when you look at your directorial debut , rate yourself. how did you do?

>> i put on the screen what i wanted to do. it wound up on the screen, but in terms of least remarkable guy in the room, not this room, because i'm looking at the crew.

>> a bit of a standout in this room.

>> pan the crew, i may --

>> why haven't you directed before now? i'm sure you had opportunities.

>> yes, i am. i always talk my way out of it. i would always say the script is not ready. you should start, even if the script is not ready, because the script is never ready.

>> and the story line , called "quartet,".

>> yes.

>> home for retired musicians.

>> and opera singers .

>> and there actually is a place like this. a documentary called "tosca's kiss" made in 1983 , verdi was rich and famous and before he died he built this mansion for himself and because he knows opera singers , 30 years later can't pay their rent and you can get the documentary called "tosca's kiss" and it's quite moving.

>> as someone who has worked with so many directors in your career, is there someone you wanted to emulate, not style in terms of what you shot, but in terms of demeanor on set and in working with actors?

>> yes, i would say barry levenson comes to mind on "rain man" because every day we went to work and every day he'd come to work and he'd be telling a story. we're ready and he's like i'm not done with my story. he created relaxation and brought the film in under budget and mike nichols , he took me aside, and said this is the only time for you to do this scene and it will be up there froefrt and feel like you've given it your all.

>> maggie smith said it's, quote, a new territory for him but a delight for hip. billy connolly in the move said dustin always knew how to keep his cast in good spirits. he jokes all the time in gest and has fun at your expense.

>> oh, yes.

>> is it all about keeping a light hearted atmosphere?

>> yes. i've never understood -- i've been doing this for 45 years. i mean, you guys, you noticed, there's such an amiablity, five seconds, step seconds and you go and never understood on move sets where there's kind of a natural behavior and then they yell quiet, action, and they take the life right out of room and everybody winds up like this. i think the idea is to feel loose and to feel basically like you're not shooting. you're just, you know, you're rehearsing basically.

>> superlatives are being used to describe the move, and i know there's talk, and it sounds tired after a while because we say it with a lot of movies and actors and directors.

>> yes.

>> but there is talk that you would get a nod for academy award director. what would it mean to you?

>> nothing unless i win.

>> not an honor to be nominated. it would be a big deal .

>> yes.

>> you were honored recently. what was that like?

>> extraordinary, i was able to bring my whole family including my grandchildren who are 6 and 8. they met the president and the first lady. that the most thrilling aspect of it, and then we're sitting up in the box of the kennedy center , and the first lady sitting next to me and president obama is sitting to my left, and, you know, there's other artists that are being celebrated, you know, led zeppelin and sometimes the music would come on and i'd see him go to the beat and very affectionate with the first lady, and i'm like they are people. they are normal people. fooling around a little bit.

>> what's it like to sit there and watch your professional life flash in front of your face?

>> quite depressing.

>> why?

>> i would think it would be incredibly thrilling.

>> it feels like a you'll.

>> narrator: i mean, it's the next best thing to being alive at your own funeral because everyone is saying only nice things about you and your life is there, and there's a sense of it being, you know, oh, that's just the first act, you know. you're surprised?

>> i think if i had your highlight reel, i think it would be one of the great things in my life.

>> oh, no, it wouldn't.

>> well, i'm in the middle of this movie, i've been watching it on dvd and i can't wait to get back to. it called "quartet." masterful job.

>> thank you, matt.

>> thank you. we're back after your local news.