Dustin Hoffman may have Oscars and iconic roles in movies like The Graduate, Tootsie, Rain Man and Wag the Dog under his belt, but it took him decades to move forward with his directorial debut.

Though he directed some theatre in his 30s, he quipped that his "demons" prevented him from directing a feature film.

"You're absolutely out of your gourd... if you think you're gonna make a hit. C'mon, how many good movies do you see in a year?" he told Jian Ghomeshi on Q, where his film Quartet debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"The truth is: I wanted to look back and say 'I couldn't have tried harder...I did not compromise. I fought them tooth and nail to stay there until we got it.'"

Based on a play by author, playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, Quartet explores the tale of retired opera singers and stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins.

Hoffman, who got to know some opera singers through a roommate when he was a young, called them "a different breed [of artist]" because they often aren't considered mature and in their prime until later in life.

Exploring life's 'third act'

The idea of exploring aging appeals to Hoffman, now 75.


Quartet director Dustin Hoffman and actress Maggie Smith arrive at the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, 2012. (Jag Gundu/Getty Images)

"Somehow, we become invisible at a certain point," he said, despite the fact that with improvements in nutrition and health care people are living longer than ever.

"There is a third act. Or, if not, there's a fourth act," he said, noting that 103-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira continues to make films, while a 94-year-old American man is renowned as a champion in the multisport (triathlon, dualthlon) community.

Despite the success of films focused on older characters, like the recent British comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, major Hollywood studios won't stick their necks out for these types of films, Hoffman said.

"They're kind of a reactive community and they always have been. It has to work first, before anybody does it," he said, leaving it up to independent production companies to pursue these stories.

Passion remains

Still, one thing that aging doesn't affect is passion for one's interests, Hoffman says.

"Isn't it wonderful that the older you get there are certain constants that don't vary?" he said.

"I thank God that when I decided this was what I wanted to do, that I have never varied from the hunger of the love of doing it... That's the important thing. Do you love what you're doing? Not 'Do you make a name for yourself?' Not 'Do you make money?'

"When you meet [passionate] people like that, in whatever field they're in, it's a blessing to be near them."

Quartet opens in theatres worldwide gradually, beginning in late December through January.