AT THE age of 70, and with a career spanning six decades, Billy Connolly can hardly be described as a young pup.
But on the set of Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut Quartet, the Scottish comic was, as he declares, "the baby of it all".
Connolly plays Wilf, a former opera singer with an eye for the ladies, in the gentle comedy about a retirement home for classical musicians.
When casting, Hoffman was concerned that the star – who holds his own among veterans such as Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Tom Courtenay – would look too youthful.
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"As you notice I'm not wrinkly and I have this going on," Connolly explains, motioning to his long hair and goatee beard.
"But they thought they could make me look older and they did. They cut my hair and aged me up a little."
The New York-based star rails against the notion of growing old.
"I think disgraceful is the way to do it. Be a nuisance, stay alive," he says.
"You're constantly told to grow up. 'Grow up, it's time you grew up, you've got some growing up to do boy'.
"What they really mean is, get boring, stop being angry, stop being interesting, stop being a nuisance.
"I would say don't grow up. By all means grow old, but don't grow up. Don't be beige."
The funny man, known to his fans as The Big Yin, has come a long way since his early days as a Glasgow shipyard welder.
After achieving global success in stand-up comedy, his breakthrough film role came in 1997 alongside Dame Judi Dench in the drama Mrs Brown, in which he played Queen Victoria's favourite servant John Brown.
The performance earned Connolly a Bafta nomination, and parts in Hollywood blockbusters followed.
But the star was still unsure about signing up for Quartet, in which he, Smith, Courtenay and Pauline Collins play former singing partners.
"Before I did it I thought, 'Oh my God, I can't act with them, they'll be acting all over me and I'll be standing like a fool not knowing what to do', but it wasn't like that," he recalls.
"I should've remembered that from my experience with Judi, it was so good. And as a comedian, working with other comedians, when you work with good ones, or musicians, it makes you good."
Connolly says Hoffman encouraged the actors to improvise.
"Dustin gave us loads of freedom. Not only that, we would do these 14-hour days and then he would go off and work at night on the script.
"Then he'd come back in the morning looking a little tired but behaving like 100 per cent, having changed a lot of things. It kept the whole thing alive and well."
Connolly has no shortage of work. He can also be seen this year in Peter Jackson's big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, in which he plays dwarf warrior Dain Ironfoot.
Connolly is not a fan of the JRR Tolkien novel, though. "I never read it, and I probably never will" he admits.
"Youthful society when I was younger was divided into Tolkien and non-Tolkien. I was a non-Tolkien and I didn't like the Tolkien people. They were all corduroy and limp wrists, and we were string-band people, banjos and bluegrass players, chasing women."