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Veteran Somerset actor David Christian catches Dustin Hoffman's eye in Quartet movie

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 09, 2013

  • Actor David Christian, 80, of Woolavington who was directed by Dustin Hoffman in his film Quartet

  • Billy Connolly, pictured in a still from the movie

  • Dustin Hoffman

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He is a familiar face in the village of Woolavington, but behind his warm smile are tales of Hollywood today’s generation of fame-hungry youngsters yearn for.

Veteran actor David Christian’s latest project has involved working with legendary screen actor-turned director Dustin Hoffman on his new film, Quartet, singing, and learning salsa.

And a conversation with Mr Hoffman at the end of filming suggests it will not be the last time that the 80-year-old works with the American star.

David Christian is the actor’s stage name. To friends and family he is Charles Sibley. Mr Christian, of Woolavington, near Bridgwater in Somerset has appeared in such films as Chocolat and The Duchess, and had a variety of roles in television series including Casualty and Skins.

Also a professional singer, it was his unaccompanied singing of The Impossible Dream on an audition tape that helped win him the unnamed part in the film which is set in a retirement home for opera singers. He plays a resident , alongside Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay. He was filming, near Maidstone, for three months.

Yesterday Mr Christian, who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from the ages of 16 to 18 said: “My agent put me forward for the audition at Ealing Studios in London.

“I originally auditioned for the role of a named character called Harry but I didn’t get the part.

“I sang The Impossible Dream on the audition tape and when Dustin heard it in Los Angeles he asked for me to be included singing in the chorus.

“The singers are putting on a grand gala concert to save the home. Dustin told me that when he decided to do his film he also wanted ‘real’ people involved. He said he could get ten ‘actors’ from an agency but he wanted real people and that’s why he chose me.

“He also gave me a little piece for me to do and it worked, and I learned salsa – well... an elderly man’s salsa.”

At the end of filming, Mr Hoffman, who is making his directorial debut with the film, asked to speak to Mr Christian.

“ I was a bit apprehensive at first because I thought I’d done something wrong,” he recalled, “but he said he was pleased with the work I’d done and that this wouldn’t be the last time I’d work with him.

“It was such a lovely film to work on, such a nice environment in which to work, and I put that down to his influence. He would come along and speak to you, and always shook hands.

“I finished filming on the Friday and then had an invitation to go to the wrap party on the Sunday at the Groucho Club and saw everyone again, and he arranged for us to stay in a hotel and we saw him again at the premiere.

“We had all become friends and it was delightful to see them again. I do recommend the film, it’s beautiful.”

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