The secret life of Mrs Dustin Hoffman (2024)

After three decades of living in her Oscar-winning husband's world, Lisa Hoffman has created something for herself — a skincare system for women on the go.

Lisa Hoffman's life sounds rather like a work of Hollywood fiction.

Married to Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman (whom she has known all her life), she is a qualified lawyer, a mother, stepmother and grandmother of two, and now, at 52, head of her own skincare company.

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The secret life of Mrs Dustin Hoffman (1)

Slender and publicity-shy, with a mane of tight curls that she has straightened for our photo shoot, Lisa has none of the diva traits you might expect of a woman married to one of the most famous actors of our generation.

She has a penchant for simple Prada knits and metallic ballet pumps, and the warmth she exudes makes her feel more like a good friend than an A-lister.

She and Dustin were both born and raised in Los Angeles, where his mother and Lisa's grandmother were friends, living in the same apartment block.

"Dustin was studying to be a classical pianist before he became an actor, and when he was 16 he was the pianist at my parents' wedding, when my mother was pregnant with me," she says.

They joke now that she must have heard him playing and fallen in love right then.

After Dustin left for drama school in New York, Lisa used to see him every year or so when he came back to LA to visit his family.

"One particular year," she recalls, "he must have been about 27 and had been studying acting for a number of years with little success, the family feeling was, 'Poor Dustin, it's time for him to give up on his dream and work with his father in the furniture business.'

"He felt embarrassed about being around the adults at the party, so he hung out with us instead," she says ('us' being Lisa, ten, and her eight-year-old brother).

"Dustin was telling us jokes, playing the piano and encouraging me to dance around the living room. After we got together, my grandmother reminded me that later that day I had said, 'I hope he waits for me because I want to marry him.'

In fact Lisa had to wait about 12 years – until she was 22 and Dustin was 38 and in the process of divorcing from his first wife, the actress Anne Byrne.

By now he was well on his way to becoming the star he is today. Marathon Man, in which he worked alongside Laurence Olivier, had been released in the autumn of 1976, confirming

the promise of his 60s hits The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy.

"My grandfather had recently passed away and Dustin came to pay his condolences," Lisa remembers. They'd not seen each other for several years, and the attraction was instant.

"That first look and I knew," she says now. From their very first date they knew they were going to get married.

"Dustin asked how many children I wanted. I said six, and he said he had two already, so would four be OK. And that's exactly the way it has played out," she says.

Lisa had just started law school, having previously graduated in psychology at Colorado University, and decided to finish her degree regardless.

"I knew that having a law career wouldn't be possible once I started travelling around with Dustin, but I also knew that I needed to complete this one thing for myself," she says.

They married in 1980 (the year Dustin won his Academy Award for Kramer vs Kramer) and Lisa graduated a year later, at 25. She gave birth to their first son, Jake (now 26, an actor and aspiring director) three weeks after she took the bar exam.

"Jake was a month premature and born critically ill with Hyaline membrane disease [where a baby's lungs need urgent treatment because they aren't fully formed], so mothering became my focus," she explains.

Three more children followed (Becky, now 24, an artist, Max, 22, an actor, and Alexandra, 19, who is studying at Brown University in Rhode Island) and for the next two decades, the family travelled the world, accompanying Dustin wherever he went on location, often with his daughters from his previous marriage, Karina and Jenna, also in tow.

"Our values are traditional," Lisa says. "It was important to Dustin that we were together as a family. For both of us, that was the point of being married."

Fortunately, his success meant that by this time he could afford to take the family with him, placing the children in local schools or hiring a tutor while he clocked up at least one movie a year.

"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."

Being part of what Lisa calls "Dustin Hoffman world" was initially daunting.

She has coped with her husband's fame by staying out of the limelight, making only occasional public appearances to support him at a film premiere or charity event (the night before our photo shoot she made her first-ever TV appearance with him on The Graham Norton Show), and spending time with her family has kept her grounded.

Being on set also taught their children a strong work ethic. "We had them around for that reason – it was about going to work with your parents," says Lisa.

"When they were a bit older, we would let them be extras in a movie. They could dress up and be in the background for two or three days. They loved it," she says.

"Today they all pay their own way while they pursue their careers."

And now that her brood has flown the coop, Lisa has the chance to do something for herself.

"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," she says.

For Lisa, that excitement has been the launch of her own skincare range – inspired by the many years she and the family spent travelling.

The idea of creating a collection packaged in one-use pouches and numbered to help you apply the cleanser, moisturising serum or toner, moisturiser, eye cream and lip cream in the right order, first came to her in a dream.

"I used to do such a lot of packing," she says, "so I came up with this idea to make my life easier."

This was never just a question of Lisa rubber-stamping a collection of lotions and potions with her name. "I've always loved mixing and matching my own skincare and beauty products," she says.

"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."

With the help of a beauty-industry consultant introduced to her by friends, she found a leading US skincare specialist to help bring her ideas to life.

"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," she says.

The result is her Night & Day skincare system: one five-step sequence for day and another for night (which come in full-size bottles as well as the travel ampoules).

The sequential element is key. "You can put on a cream but not get the benefits because what you've applied underneath blocks absorption," she explains, "so it was important that the formulas worked together. I created this range for me," she adds, "but then I found that I was similar to women everywhere – we're all time-stressed, but don't want to compromise on quality.

"All women are on the go and need to simplify their lives without compromising – that is what this collection is all about," she says.

The collections are infused with the latest scientific ingredients, such as anti-ageing peptides, as well as natural essences, such as jojoba oil ("It protects and softens your skin," says Lisa), cucumber, rose and lavender.

The ampoule and air-pump packaging ensure the formulations remain "lab-fresh", as she puts it, so that the ingredients perform at their best and don't deteriorate through exposure to the air.

Despite her Hollywood kudos, for the moment Lisa is happy keeping things small and personal. "I'm careful with every penny; I want to spend money on the product itself as opposed to splurging on a big photo shoot.

"If I'm on Lisa Hoffman business, believe me, I'm flying economy." She admits she's never been very good at delegating. "I'm very hands on – I always have been, as a student, as a mother – and so I am with this company, too" she says.

"I'm involved every inch of the way – nothing happens without me, which is daunting but rewarding."

Today the Hoffmans spend most of their time at their home in LA, but they also have homes in New York and London – Dustin loves to come over for the theatre. It's clear that they still share a very special bond.

As Dustin has said, "We've been together for almost 30 years and the scary part is, it feels like we've been together just a week."

For Lisa, the comfort lies in their families' connections. "Dustin is always recalling stories about my family – the jokes my grandfather told, the fishing trips they took before I was born.

"I get so much insight into my grandparents' and my mother's lives – and, in turn, I knew Dustin's mother [who died in 1980] my whole life. I still have the charm she gave me when I was born."

There are certainly no thoughts of slowing down for either of them. "It's so odd to be living my dream," she confesses. "When I'm packing to go travelling, and I can say, 'Oh, there's my skincare range. No need for measuring or decanting – it's done.'

"I still can't quite believe it," she says.

"If I can help to make women's lives that little bit easier without having to sacrifice what's important, then I'll be happy. I'm just going to take it one step, one ampoule, at a time."

Lisa Hoffman Night & Day is available at Harvey Nichols stores throughout the UK (tel: 020 7235 5000, For more info, visit Prices start at £14 for a one-day kit.

The secret life of Mrs Dustin Hoffman (2024)


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