NEW YORK – Dustin Hoffman is not exactly sure how he is. In the last week he’s flown from Los Angeles to London to Berlin to New York then back to L.A. again, so forgive him if he’s a little jet lagged. The flurry of activity is due to" Quartet," a gentle comedy about a group of elderly classical musicians at a retirement home, which also happens to be the first film Hoffman has ever directed.
The movie, which features an all-star lineup of English actors including Dame Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon, has been getting rave reviews, and is the number one film across the pond. Hoffman spoke to FOX411 about "Quartet," his legendary career, and the shock he felt when his HBO series "Luck" was abruptly cancelled last year due to allegations of animal abuse on set.
FOX411: Were you disappointed when HBO cancelled 'Luck'?
Dustin Hoffman: Beyond disappointed. It was a shock to the system for everyone, for over 400 people that were involved in that production. My son and I had just finished a scene, we went to have lunch, and we got a phone call during lunch that HBO cancelled us. I thought it meant we were not going for a third season. They said, ‘No, now.’ We didn’t even go back to work that day. Crew people had moved their families from other parts of the country.
FOX411: So what happened?
Hoffman: If you Google Paulick Report, it’s a site for horse racing, and in that report is the real reason why the show was cancelled. It was a collaboration between PETA and TMZ. It’s interesting, sites like TMZ, they’re mistaken for news. We did "All The President’s Men" and you had to have two sources and they don’t need any sources, they’re gossip, but the general public believes what they say.
It still deeply wounds me, not for myself, not for the show, but the pain they caused 400 crew people to have and I don’t think they lost a moment’s sleep. It’s completely distorted. Anyone who raises horses know they break their legs. The accusations they made were distorted. Every time we’d race the horses we’d rest them. They’d race 20 seconds, then we’d rest them for an hour.
I think they (PETA) were looking to get contributions. Somebody ought to do a movie about them.
FOX411: There’s your next directing gig!
Hoffman: I don’t want to be involved with the subject matter!
FOX411: So getting to "Quartet," what took you so long to direct?
Hoffman: I worked on a lot of stuff like people do but you get a good script to act in and you drop everything you’re working on. I started developing stuff in my 30’s, then 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and then I suddenly realized, ‘Hey! I better do it or it ain’t never going to happen.’
FOX411: Did the movie’s themes of aging and friendship resonate with you?
Hoffman: I certainly was moved to it. I said to the principal actors, ‘We’re all in the same boat, we’re all in our third act. Can we put that on screen? What that feels like? And that’s what we tried to do.
FOX411: You’ve starred in so many great movies. Do you have a favorite?
Hoffman: I don’t. I have movies that I think altered me and that’s always what you want. You want to try and learn something you didn’t know before, and I guess I would say "Tootsie." The crew started bringing people to the set, and I could really get away with being a woman. They would look at me for like two seconds and then look away and say, ‘Where’s Jessica Lange?’ And I realized how brutal men are when a woman does not fit the trophy model, and it had a very strong effect on me. Men lose any subtleness, they erase you with such abruptness, and I had not experienced that before. They’re ruthless.
FOX411: So did it make you nicer to less attractive women?
Hoffman: Actually, I can remember in junior high we had dance class, and the guys picked the girls and the girls picked the guys. I would ask the least attractive girl to dance. It made me feel good.
FOX411: But you were quite the Romeo when you were older.
Hoffman: (Laughs) Is that a statement or question? I took acting classes in college, and attractive girls asked me to do scenes with them. That was a first.
FOX411: Do you ever think that you were lucky with your career. You became a big star in the 70’s when the old Hollywood system had ended.
Hoffman: I think that started with Mike Nichols and "The Graduate." That part was written for Robert Redford and he’s (Nichols) the one who altered the casting. I found out years later they would be showing the film to people in Beverly Hills and they would say, "You would have had a great movie if you hadn’t of miscast the lead." That was the older generation, and I think it was the kids who were responsive.
FOX411: So are you going to focus on directing now?
Hoffman: It’s very hard to find good material. It’s always been that way. Many movies come out just in America, 300 to 400 a year. How many are good? I always think when I start a movie it’s probably going to fail because of the statistics. Most material doesn’t deserve to go into production.