American Airlines Gala
Dustin Hoffman teams up with award-winning screenwriter Ronald Harwood to deliver this charming and insightful film about four ageing opera singers.
Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.
- Director Dustin Hoffman
- Producer Finola Dwyer, Stewart Mackinnon
- Screenwriter Ronald Harwood
- With Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly
- UK 2012
- 90 mins
- UK distribution Momentum Pictures
Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this charming, funny and insightful film in which four ageing opera singers are reunited in a specialist retirement home. Long-term residents Reggie (Tom Courtenay), Wilfred (Billy Connolly) and the ever-forgetful Cecily (Pauline Collins) are regular participants in an annual concert that celebrates Verdi’s birthday (Michael Gambon, in top form, plays the insufferable concert director). When Reggie’s old beau Jean (Maggie Smith) arrives on the scene, the already tenuous equilibrium of the group is threatened by unresolved historical tensions and Jean’s unforgiving diva-like disposition which sees her reluctant to sing. Ronald Harwood, the award-winning screenwriter of The Pianist and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, has penned a perceptive and highly entertaining script that illuminates the fragile and enduring play between blustering self-confidence and deep insecurity in the lives of these elderly artists. Hoffman immediately proves himself as an actors’ director, extracting great performances from the ensemble cast and allowing their real-life iconic status to spill into the film just enough to give an extra-layer of veracity to its themes about ageing and creativity. Finally, Dario Marinelli’s score dovetails effortlessly with the musical heart of the film – ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ – Verdi’s quartet from Rigoletto.
Someone once said, ‘old age ain’t no fun’. As your body gets older, you become more vulnerable, but I’ve always believed that your soul can expand. I’m nearly 75, and I think three things can happen if you’re lucky enough to survive this long: you grow, you regress or you stay the same, which I think is the same as regressing. But it is possible to grow.
Born in Los Angeles in 1937, he enrolled at Santa Monica College with the intention of studying medicine, but left after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse, alongside Gene Hackman, who he followed to New York a couple of years later. After bit parts in theatre, he joined the Actors Studio, and better work opportunities ensued, including roles in episodic TV. His first feature picture was The Tiger Makes Out in 1967, but he hit paydirt with his next big-screen outing, Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, which saw him Oscar-nominated. As did Midnight Cowboy in 1969, Lenny and Tootsie; he actually took the statuette for each of Kramer vs Kramer and Rain Man. He makes his directorial bow with Quartet.