EXCLUSIVE: The Weinstein Company is negotiating to acquire U.S. and Latin America distribution rights to Quartet, the Dustin Hoffman-directed comedy that stars Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon and Pauline Collins. The script was written by Ronald Harwood. The deal is upwards of $3 million, I’m hearing.

This was a stealth pursuit by TWC’s Harvey Weinstein and David Glasser, but that cover was blown when an acquisition screening scheduled for this evening was abruptly scrapped, with rumors that a buyer paid $4 million for the film. I expected this film to surface closer to Cannes, but TWC doesn’t like to wait, something that worked out when Weinstein acquired Best Picture winner The Artist on the eve of 2011 Cannes. In Quartet, Cecily, Reggie and Wilfred reside in a home for retired opera singers and each year they stage a concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. Reggie’s ex-wife Jean arrives at the home and creates massive disharmony, playing the diva part but refusing to sing.

The deal is being closed by WME Global’s Graham Taylor. TWC is planning a qualifying run in awards season. The acquisition was done based on reading the script, and viewing a trailer for the film. TWC’s London-based Negen Yazdi and business affairs exec Talia Houminer are tying up the deal right now.  The film marks the directorial debut of Hoffman, who though uncredited had a hand in helming the Ulu Grosbard-directed 1978 pic Straight Time.