09:07AM, Friday 25 January 2013
A long-standing member of Maidenhead Operatic Society has spoken about her experiences as a 'support artist' on British film Quartet.
Valerie Barnes appeared in the cinema hit, directed by Dustin Hoffman and filmed at Hedsor House in Taplow, alongside the likes of Dame Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly.
She was selected after the production company contacted the society, which she has been a member of since 1967, asking for retired singers and musicians to apply.
"I was thrilled. It was a real honour," she said.
The 70-year-old applied in August 2011, and received a two-hour visit from the film's costume department.
"They took lots of photos of me in different outfits or of them hanging up," she said.
Valerie spent 21 days on set in total between September and November 2011. Scenes she took part in included Maggie Smith's character's arrival, a salsa dancing scene and the concert finale.
The volunteer at the YMCA shop in the High Street was full of praise for the film's big names.
"Dustin Hoffman was in and out of whatever we were doing," she said.
"He's an amazing pianist and very easy to get on with.
"Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly were very friendly whenever you saw them. Billy Connolly would go out of his way to talk to us.
"We used to hear Dustin say 'Mr Connolly, leave the dames alone'."
But she also enjoyed meeting the other extras, especially the real-life opera singers from Covent Garden, because her cousin used to work with them.
Valerie, who is in the choir at St Mary's Church in town, has seen the film three times, including at a screening for the cast and crew in London.
Mementos she has from it include a script signed by Dustin Hoffman and Sir Tom Courtenay, and a green skirt she was given to wear in her scenes.
She described Hedsor as an 'amazing' location.
"It was marvellous," she said.
"What a place."
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