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AARP The Magazine

Dustin Hoffman Steps Behind the Camera

With 'Quartet,' the actor faces his demons and celebrates aging

AARP: What age would you like to be?

DH: I wouldn't trade now for anything. Yes, I'd probably like my body to be less limited. I'm trying to delay that with Pilates and diet but not getting an A yet. Have you ever held up a cellphone and you see yourself? The first few times it happened, I said: "Who is that old fart? That can't — that's me?"

AARP: What about how you feel on the inside?

DH: Internally, I'm fascinated by where I am. I use the analogy of Swiss cheese; I think I have fewer holes now. I think men are the weaker of the genders and live a more limited life than women. For whatever reasons, men run from intimacy. If you run from intimacy, you're running from what life can give you. So I feel less like Swiss cheese — the holes being the days you didn't live as fully as you could.

AARP: Do you ever think about retiring?

DH: I think "retirement" goes hand in hand with people who make a living by having a "job." I don't think we — the .00001 percent of the population who are so fortunate to love passionately what we do — consider it a "job."

AARP: I love what I do but still want to retire.

DH: I don't believe you. I think you're tired of the deadlines. They're awful.

AARP: I think the desire to retire is a desire to get away from the tough stuff to instead enjoy life's simple pleasures.

DH: What we all want is to continually grow and expand. I've discovered that as the body becomes more limited, the soul expands. And there is a full circle. A 2-year-old will pick up a leaf and look at it with fascination. You get to the other end and again are looking at a leaf. I know I am. Birds! I used to wonder, why are these fuddy-duddy old people going around Central Park with their glasses? I get it now. It's finding that thing that the very idea of it just fills you.

AARP: I think it's freedom.

DH: Yes! I'm liking this interview!

AARP: Do you fear death?

DH: My wife says I've been worrying about it since we started going out. But at a certain point your icons change. There's Manoel de Oliveira, who's still directing at 104. And I recently read about a 94-year-old guy who had just run a triathlon. They asked, "Are you going to run anymore?" He says, "Oh, yeah. I got to keep going till I get old."

AARP: Don't you love that?

DH: During filming I was saying to everybody in the cast, "We're all in the same act together." I always think it's a three-act play and we're in the second act — the third act being something that alters you, some infirmity or whatever. And somebody responded, "Maybe it's a Shakespearean play with five acts." I liked that. Maybe I've got three more acts.

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MAKING IT LOOK EASY: With four of the top British actors working today and a supporting cast of distinguished musicians, Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, Quartet, is a sweetly realized chamber piece that avoids mawkishness while providing a compelling view of aging. Visit the 2013 Movies for Grownups Awards home page for all the news of this year's films.

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