Dustin Hoffman is so good at playing outsiders because, he says, he is one. Like Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man or any of the other misfits he's portrayed, he has had "this feeling of being on the periphery looking in" since he was a boy. "It's difficult for me to go to celebrity functions," he says. "My wife knows better than anyone."
Hoffman has been married to Lisa Gottsegen, a lawyer, for 27 years. He dotes on his six grown children, and, at 70, says he's still thrilled to be an actor. Reader's Digest tracked him down to talk about the new animated film Kung Fu Panda, to which he contributes the voice of a small red martial arts master.
Q. You've said before that you never felt you belonged in Hollywood.
A. In school, I was not in the "in" group. For a long time, I carried that with me. My success was thrust on me - I always called it a freak accident because I entered acting with no thought of fame or fortune.
Q. Can you say what the secret of a long marriage is?
A. There's so much about marriage that's unnatural. I don't think it's natural to be monogamous, to be as in love as you were the day before. But does fidelity make sense? Yes. And I don't think that you can substitute honesty in any relationship.
Q. So are you absolutely honest with your wife?
A.That's the aim. If you're both working to be honest, the marriage gets better and better. Love becomes deeper.
It's because you know the game - meaning life - is limited. I say to my wife, "I don't have enough time. There's not going to be enough time with you."
Q. In the movie, your kung fu student's father runs a noodle shop and he tells his son that he uses a secret ingredient to make his delicious soups. Do you know what it is?
A. I'm going to reveal a family secret. When I was a little boy, there was a woman who worked for us on occasion. I loved her dearly and kept the relationship even after I grew up. I didn't like to eat when I was a kid, but she had her tricks. She would put together a dish, and I would taste it and say, "This is really good. What's in it?" She'd answer, "Hubba hubba." She never told me what that was, but I suspect it was love. So the secret ingredient is probably hubba hubba.