A decade later, while playing a divorcing father in Kramer vs. Kramer, the actor realized his own marriage was falling apart. The couple divorced in 1980, and Hoffman got remarried to attorney Lisa Gottsegen, now 54, with whom he has four more children—Jake, 28; Rebecca, 26; Max, 24; and Alexandra, 21. "There is something unnatural about marriage," Hoffman admits. "These two people are not going to be the same people in a few years." Recognizing that, he says, has been key to the success of his second marriage. "The trick is to live your own life while sharing the same space."
Lisa launched a line of skin-care products in 2007 and has met with considerable success. "I can brag about her. She's in stores in New York, London, Paris, and Hong Kong. I'm still the focus," he notes with a wry smile, "but I'm losing ground rapidly."
By all appearances, that's unlikely. It was Lisa who persuaded Hoffman to be treated for his depression and to get back into acting in 2001. "My wife finally said to me, 'Do you realize you have been wearing a cardigan sweater for more than two years and you are not an old man?' " Hoffman remembers. "That's when I went into therapy, and it was the best move I ever made." Seven years later, at a Hollywood party for the studio producing Last Chance Harvey, Lisa is still standing behind—or beside—her man. Hoffman arrives quietly, sipping a paper cup of hot tea. "I have strep throat," he explains. Next to him, Lisa, also nursing a steaming cup, is not sick. "I just wanted to be in solidarity with him," she says.
The older he gets, the more Hoffman reminds his wife that their time together is too short. "There is not a moment that I take any of my life for granted," he says.
"If life is a three-act play, I am chronologically in my third act," says the actor. "But I am in the first act of my life in terms of the feeling I now have about my own worth, my talent, my gift." These days Hoffman is ready to do what he's been putting off for years: finish the screenplay he's been writing—he won't reveal what it's about—and direct it.
And after that? Master the game of tennis? Read all those books he's got in his library? Learn to speak Spanish, then French, and make films speaking those languages? They are all on his bucket list. As for that dream of becoming a jazz pianist, he says, "I may just have that talk with God."
West Coast editor Meg Grant wrote about actress Glenn Close in the January & February issue of AARP The Magazine.