Throughout a career that has spanned over 60 years, Dustin Hoffman has established himself as one of the world's most celebrated actors. That timeframe saw him win 63 awards alongside 60 additional nominations, including two Academy Awards for Kramer Vs. Kramer and Rain Man. And that career has seen him go from being famously volatile to the funny and charming man he presents himself as today.
And Hoffman has shared much of his journey in the spotlight with someone who's just as accomplished but a little more averse to it. He's been married to his wife Lisa since 1980, but as she told it, they've known each other for longer than she's even been alive.
Dustin Hoffman's life is something he couldn't have forseen
As Hoffman told The Independent, he spent many of his early acting years feeling like an outsider, and this wasn't helped by those around him. For instance, his aunt Pearl used to tell him, "You can't be an actor – you're too ugly."
So when he moved to New York to pursue Broadway under the advice of acting coach Barney Brown, he learned that his insecurities were shared by so many other actors, which built camaraderie between them.
Acting wasn't his first passion
Another factor that made his success in the dramatic world such a surprise for him was that he had initially trained to be a pianist. But as much as he loved playing music, he admitted that he didn't have the aptitude for it that he hoped he would.
As he told The Independent, "I love it more than anything, but I can't play well enough to make a living out of it." As for why, he said that he can't read music "gracefully" and doesn't have a good ear for it.
He still dreams of being a pianist
Even though Hoffman has accomplished so much as an actor, he said that he would still be a pianist if it were possible. In his words, "If God tapped me on the shoulder right now and said 'no more acting, no more directing, but you can be a decent jazz pianist,'" he would do it.
As he told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, the day he realized that he was destined to become an actor was "The day I realized that I was sure to fail in anything else." And while success didn't come immediately once he started making on-screen appearances, it found him by 1967.
The Graduate and the ambitious films that followed
Hoffman told The Independent that he was careful to avoid being pigeonholed as an actor, which led him to take on challenging and even risky parts to establish his versatility. And while The Graduate fit this bill well, it was far from the only iconic role he played during that era.
Although some of the films he acted in after his breakout role were controversial, time has turned fare like Midnight Cowboy, Straw Dogs, and Little Big Man into stone-cold classics. However, his insecurities remained, which ended up causing him more trouble than he realized.
An alienating obsession
As British GQ noted and as Hoffman himself explored in the 1982 comedy Tootsie, he had a tendency to obsess over every aspect of a film he was making, and that obsession went beyond his performance. This would lead to a controlling temperament.
So, while he felt camaraderie with many of his fellow actors, just as many were infuriated by this obsession and found him difficult to work with, and that alienating effect wasn't all that Tootsie taught Hoffman about himself.
An unhelpful fixation on beauty
As he explained to British GQ, that film forced Hoffman to come to terms with the priorities he had uncritically adopted from the world around him when it came to pursuing relationships, namely, that he overemphasized conventional attractiveness to the point of fixation.
As he put it, "I realized that I grew up with a brainwashed attitude, as most men [do], and that is that a woman has to somehow resemble the cover of a magazine because they are trophies. I think, how many interesting women did I avoid because of this?"
A marriage that couldn't have worked out
As he told The Independent, this so-called brainwashed attitude had a profound influence on his relationship with ballerina and fellow actor Anne Byrne. He prized her beauty to the point of referring to her as a trophy wife in the years since what would become his first marriage.
Although he was already becoming one of America's most revered actors when they were together, his star would only rise after the tumultuous period that followed their divorce in 1980. They had been married for 11 years by that point.
A personal and successful story
According to British GQ, Hoffman channeled the angst and loss he felt during his then-ongoing divorce from Byrne into his performance as a divorcing dad in Kramer vs. Kramer. The movie would net Hoffman his first of two Oscars, but it also helped purge the anguish of his real-life divorce, which he compared to losing a limb.
Hoffamn said, "I expected it to be a painful experience, and I realized it was the opposite. It was liberating. If you're a writer, you get up in the morning, and you write what's coming out of you. But an actor is working off someone else's creation. With this, I felt like the author of it."
Moving fast but moving differently
The hard lessons Hoffman learned certainly benefited his professional life thanks to Kramer vs. Kramer, but their positive influence could also be seen in his personal life. That's because the same year in which his divorce was finalized also saw him marry Lisa Gottsegen, who would then take his last name.
And this time, it wasn't his status, fixations, or insecurities that motivated this relationship. Instead, the couple united on a stronger foundation of what they had already shared by that point.
There was a connection that predated either of them
As Lisa Hoffman told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, Dustin's mother, Lillian (pictured), became best friends with her grandmother, Blanche Salter. This friendship developed while Lillian was pregnant with her famous son and led the two women to live in the same duplex together.
Hoffman went on to say that her husband essentially grew up with her mother, and he became close with her grandparents as a boy. And that closeness began as soon as the future A-lister had come into the world.
Her family was a big part of his life
As Lisa went on to say, "My grandmother used to change his diapers and babysit him. My grandfather took him fishing for the first time, told him jokes—he couldn't have grown up closer to my family." And that closeness persisted as both Dustin and Lisa's mother came of age.
He was 16 years old at the time of Lisa's parents' wedding, and that event happened to overlap with the period he spent learning to become a concert pianist. And so, he played "Here Comes The Bride" as her mother walked down the aisle.
Technically, it was the first time they met
While Dustin was playing the piano, Lisa's mother was pregnant with her. According to The Daily Mail, the two have since joked that she must have heard him play while in the womb and fell in love before she was even born.
And since their families were just as close in proximity as they were in sentiment, Dustin was there for Lisa's birth. However, it wasn't long afterward that circumstances led them to spend most of their years away from each other.
A period of annual visits
Despite this uncanny connection, Dustin was away for most of Lisa's childhood as she told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle that he had moved to New York City to study acting when she was about three years old. But he came back to Los Angeles each year to visit his family.
And since they lived so close together, a young Lisa would see him during those visits. However, the difference in their ages meant they didn't spend much time together until one particularly hard year for Dustin.
Struggles that weren't helped by family
As Lisa told The Daily Mail, one of these visits particularly stood out in her mind because of the happy moments they shared together, but those moments were borne from unfortunate circumstances. She estimated that Dustin was about 27 at this point, and since The Graduate hadn't happened yet, his career was in a discouraging place.
Indeed, his acting career was in such uncertain straits that his family thought it was over with. Lisa described the prevailing sentiment among the family by saying, "Poor Dustin, it's time for him to give up on his dream and work with his father in the furniture business."
He was desperate for a change in scenery
Dustin was embarrassed to be the subject of this kind of discussion, so he broke from his normal habit of being around the adult members of the two families and spent some time with the kids instead. And that's where it started in Lisa's heart.
As she described the scene to Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, "He was playing the piano, and I put on my leotard and danced around the room to the music he was playing." At that point, Lisa was about 10 years old.
A prophetic promise
Despite her age and the gap between them, Lisa told her grandmother something after that visit that she had to be reminded of. As she relayed, "I hope he waits for me, I want to marry him when I grow up."
Naturally, Dustin would go through an entire marriage before this happened. But there was a definite spark when he returned again after several years. But while the previous meeting happened under unfortunate circumstances for Dustin, this time, Lisa was the one who was going through a struggle.
A meeting amid mourning
Twelve years after the future couple last saw each other, Lisa's grandfather had recently passed away. Naturally, Dustin was close to him as well and had returned home to pay his respects. In this period of mourning, the two families stayed together for days at a time.
Since Dustin and Lisa hadn't seen each other for years by that point, it was like they were meeting for the first time all over again. And their mutual attraction was instant. As Lisa told The Daily Mail, "That first look and I knew."
Finally, some time alone
During this extended visit, Dustin and Lisa went out to get pizza. And while he was still going through his divorce with Byrne, that didn't seem to lessen either of their excitement to get married once all that was dealt with.
As Lisa shared to Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, "Dustin asked me how many children I wanted,d and I said 6. He said, 'I've already got 2; would you settle for 4?'" Apparently, that was a compromise Lisa was perfectly happy to make.
Things worked out pretty much as they planned
Lisa also told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle that this special day also saw them choose the names for their boys. And in the years that followed, little Jake and Max would also have two sisters named Becky and Ali.
But before any of these children arrived, Lisa wanted to finish her law degree. As she told The Daily Mail, "I knew that having a law career wouldn't be possible once I started traveling around with Dustin, but I also knew that I needed to complete this one thing for myself."
She was willing to work around his busy life
As Lisa told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, "Understanding the reality of making movies, Dustin and I agreed from the beginning we would make every effort to keep our family together." This meant that whenever Dustin was shooting a movie, she and the kids would travel to wherever it was filming.
And she was committed to this decision regardless of where in the world the set was. And while their 1980 wedding date provides a hint to the whirlwind of their romance, a lot happened between the couple over the few years that followed.
A stressful couple of years
According to The Daily Mail, Dustin would win his Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer in the same year of their marriage. The following year, Lisa graduated from law school at the age of 25. And just three weeks after she took the bar exam, she gave birth to their first son, Jake.
However, the baby was in a vulnerable state upon arrival. As Lisa explained, "Jake was a month premature and born critically ill with Hyaline membrane disease, so mothering became my focus." Hyaline membrane disease occurs when a newborn's lungs aren't fully formed.
They were family-oriented
Whenever possible, Dustin's two daughters with Byrne — who are named Karina and Jenna — would accompany their growing family as the actor maintained a tight schedule of filming at least one movie a year. As the children followed the resulting travels, The Daily Mail reported that they would either go to local schools or be set up with private tutors.
As Lisa said, "Our priority was to be with the kids. Even if we had a social obligation later, we would have dinner with the children first and go out afterwards. We still all love being 'round the table together."
A daunting change in lifestyle
The quick and dramatic succession of events in their lives during the early years of Dustin and Lisa's marriage would be a lot for any couple to deal with. But it was even more overwhelming for Lisa because she now had to share Dustin's fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle.
At that point, stepping into what Lisa called the "Dustin Hoffman world" was a seriously daunting prospect. And that was doubly true for someone who wasn't as comfortable in the spotlight as her world-famous husband.
She found comfort in those around her
According to The Daily Mail, Lisa coped with the stress that came with Dustin's fame by maintaining a private lifestyle and leaving the public eye to him. Her public appearances were occasional and usually in support of either one of Dustin's film premieres or charity events.
Indeed, she wouldn't appear on television with him until 2006, when they both visited The Graham Norton Show. The time Lisa spent with her family kept her grounded, and both she and Dustin still cherish the time they can spend at home.
She grew to see the perks
Although Lisa told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle that patience was the secret to the success of her marriage and her transition into the "Dustin Hoffman world," she started to see some meaningful benefits to all of their travels.
In her words, "One of the most enriching aspects of traveling the world, for all of us, was living in diverse cultures. I was fascinated with the various beauty rituals and unique fragrances specific to each locale." This growing fascination would end up helping Lisa discover one of her life's passions.
The kids would join dad on set
The couple also made a point to bring their kids on set, which they believed would help instill a strong work ethic in them. As Lisa told The Daily Mail, "We had them around for that reason – it was about going to work with your parents."
That emphasis on appreciating hard work was part of what Lisa described as her and Dustin's traditional values. As she said, "It was important to Dustin that we were together as a family. For both of us, that was the point of being married."
The kids loved it more the older they got
As those children grew, they went from observing what was going on when their father went on location to participate in it themselves. Once they were old enough to take direction, their parents would let them serve as extras.
As Lisa told The Daily Mail, "They could dress up and be in the background for two or three days. They loved it." And once these children came of age, many of them made it clear exactly how much they loved those days.
Some followed in their dad's footsteps
Although Closer Weekly reported that Dustin's daughter Karina has largely kept her life private, the magazine also noted that Jenna had caught the acting bug. She has appeared in Wag The Dog alongside her father, as well as Outbreak and The Wedding Singer on her own.
Meanwhile, The Daily Mail reported that Jake has since become an actor and director, while his brother Max and sister Ali are also acting. For her part, Becky found her calling as an artist rather than an actor.
A new sense of freedom
Although Lisa is qualified to practice law, she had mentioned that this pursuit wouldn't be feasible with her family's jet-setting schedule. She also focused heavily on parenting over the decades since her marriage began. But, as she put it to The Daily Mail, "Today they all pay their own way while they pursue their careers."
When Ali went off to college, Lisa saw a new opportunity to make her own mark. In her words, "I wasn't able to work when I was raising the kids as my life was about them. So this is a really interesting time to get to know myself in a different way."
An old interest reignited by her travels
As she told The Daily Mail, Lisa has had a long history of mixing and matching her skincare and beauty products into concoctions that work for her. And among her social circle, she became quite known for this.
As she said, "I'd make them up at home using kitchen ingredients or take a particular cream and add a bit of jojoba oil. A couple of my girlfriends used to call me Little Estée." And this interest only deepened as she traveled the world.
A wealth of knowledge and a chance to shine
Throughout those travels, Lisa told Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, "I started collecting essential oils, rare herbs, and making notes about beauty secrets." But since she was so busy with her family, it took 25 years before this became more than an elaborate hobby for Lisa.
As she said, "I wanted to share what I learned with women everywhere." And how she intended to do that was to turn the encyclopedia in her head into her own skincare business that she has named after herself.
A fortuitous introduction
According to The Daily Mail, Lisa's friends introduced her to a beauty industry consultant, who then got her in touch with a leading skincare specialist. Together with the help of some chemists, they were able to turn Lisa's collection and knowledge into actual products.
And from the sound of it, it's a passion project she dove into headfirst. In her words, "I did a lot of my own research so that I could get a good sense of what I was looking for. I still spend a lot of time with the chemist; I want to understand what every ingredient does, how they work together."
Inspiration came from a dream
Perhaps the flagship concept from her line is her Night & Day skincare system, which involves a five-step sequence meant to be undertaken during the day and another five-step sequence for nighttime applications. This system comes in full-size bottles for the home and a collection of travel ampoules.
The travel version is particularly significant for her because the concept of a one-use sequential system came to her in a dream. As she told The Daily Mail, "I used to do such a lot of packing, so I came up with this idea to make my life easier."
Lisa figured her experiences weren't too unique
Although most people don't travel the world in the company of one of its biggest stars, Lisa realized that much about her experiences rang true with other women, namely, that they're always short on time but not willing to cut corners in certain areas.
As she told The Daily Mail, "All women are on the go and need to simplify their lives without compromising – that is what this collection is all about." And the system she developed aims to scratch these practical itches.
The sequence is the key
If two five-step sequences sound like overkill, Lisa explained that each step is important to ensure each of the products involved works together effectively. While she initially developed these sequences for her own personal use, she found reason to believe they could be helpful to others.
In her words, "You can put on a cream but not get the benefits because what you've applied underneath blocks absorption. So it was important that the formulas worked together." And from the sounds of it, that mission has been accomplished.
An impressive debut
When Lisa Hoffman Skincare launched, it made a huge splash in the beauty industry. According to Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, Lisa's products earned her two nominations at the Fragrance Foundation Awards. And those weren't the only accolades her debut netted.
That's because two of her fragrances were nominated for Top Five Fragrance of the Year. This put her in the same company as Chanel, Tom Ford, and Karl Lagerfeld. Certainly not bad for a new face in that bustling, crowded scene.
She'd be happy even if they didn't pay attention
Although this recognition is certainly something to be proud of, Lisa said that it pleases her more when customers tell her about what her products did for them. She also characterized her business as a new chapter in her life.
As she put it to Westlake Malibu Lifestyle, "Developing products and creating fragrances has inspired my creativity and given me so much satisfaction." And it wouldn't have been possible without what she learned from all of the women she met around the world.
This project couldn't be more personal
However Lisa measures success, she's earned it with how deeply she's involved herself in every step of her brand's production and promotion. As The Daily Mail described it, Lisa's intimate involvement comes from the difficulty she has in delegating tasks.
In her words, "I'm very hands-on – I always have been, as a student, as a mother – and so I am with this company, too. I'm involved every inch of the way – nothing happens without me, which is daunting but rewarding."
She's not a wasteful person either
Lisa's vision for Lisa Hoffman Skincare is small and personal compared to the usual flash of that industry, and it shows in how she invests in the business. As she described it to The Daily Mail, she's "careful with every penny."
As she sees it, any serious money she has to spend on the business should go into ensuring the quality of the products rather than big promotional photo shoots. As she said, "If I'm on Lisa Hoffman business, believe me, I'm flying economy."
A one-of-a-kind bond
As Lisa told The Daily Mail, the intimate connections between their families that started before either of them was even born provided a solid foundation for their relationship. And it's allowed both to fill in the blanks of what they knew about their dearly departed relatives.
And for Dustin, their marriage has sounded like a dream come true. In his words, "We've been together for almost 30 years, and the scary part is, it feels like we've been together just a week."