Gene Hackman
Hackman in 2008
Eugene Allen Hackman

(1930-01-30) January 30, 1930 (age 94)
Years active1956–2004
  • Faye Maltese
    (m. 1956; div. 1986)
  • Betsy Arakawa
    (m. 1991)
AwardsFull list
Military career
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1946–1951

Eugene Allen Hackman[1][2][3] (born January 30, 1930) is an American retired actor. In a career that spanned more than six decades, he received two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and the Silver Bear. Hackman's two Academy Award wins included one for Best Actor for his role as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in William Friedkin's acclaimed thriller The French Connection (1971) and the other for Best Supporting Actor for his role as "Little" Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood's Western film Unforgiven (1992). His other Oscar-nominated roles were in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), I Never Sang for My Father (1970), and Mississippi Burning (1988).

Hackman gained further fame for his portrayal of Lex Luthor in Superman (1978) and its sequels Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). He also acted in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Conversation (1974), Reds (1981), Hoosiers (1986), No Way Out (1987), The Firm (1993), Get Shorty (1995), Crimson Tide (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Absolute Power (1997), and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

Early life and education

Eugene Allen Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, United States, the son of Eugene Ezra Hackman and Anna Lyda Elizabeth (née Gray).[4] He has a brother named Richard. Hackman has Pennsylvania Dutch, English, and Scottish ancestry. His mother was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.[5] Hackman's family moved frequently, finally settling in Danville, Illinois, where they lived in the house of his English-born maternal grandmother, Beatrice.[6] His father operated the printing press for the Commercial-News, a local newspaper. Hackman decided that he wanted to become an actor at age 10.[7] His parents divorced when he was 13 and his father subsequently left the family.[8][9]

Hackman lived briefly in Storm Lake, Iowa, and spent his sophomore year at Storm Lake High School.[10] He left home at age 16 and lied about his age to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He served four and a half years as a field-radio operator. Hackman was stationed in China (Qingdao and later in Shanghai). When the Communist Revolution conquered the mainland in 1949, he was assigned to Hawaii and Japan. Following his discharge in 1951,[11] Hackman moved to New York City and had several jobs.[12] His mother died in 1962 as a result of a fire she accidentally started while smoking.[13] He began a study of journalism and television production at the University of Illinois under the G.I. Bill, but left and moved back to California.[14]

Acting was something I wanted to do since I was 10 and saw my first movie, I was so captured by the action guys. Jimmy Cagney was my favorite. Without realizing it, I could see he had tremendous timing and vitality.

Gene Hackman[7]


Hackman in the U.S. Marine Corps

Beginnings to the 1960s

In 1956, Hackman began pursuing an acting career. He joined the Pasadena Playhouse in California,[12] where he befriended another aspiring actor, Dustin Hoffman.[12] Already seen as outsiders by their classmates, Hackman and Hoffman were voted "The Least Likely To Succeed",[15][12] and Hackman got the lowest score the Pasadena Playhouse had yet given.[16] Determined to prove them wrong, Hackman moved to New York City. A 2004 article in Vanity Fair described Hackman, Hoffman, and Robert Duvall as struggling California-born actors and close friends, sharing NYC apartments in various two-person combinations in the 1960s.[17][18] To support himself between acting jobs, Hackman was working at a Howard Johnson's restaurant[19] when he encountered an instructor from the Pasadena Playhouse, who said that his job proved that Hackman "wouldn't amount to anything".[20] A Marine officer who saw him as a doorman said "Hackman, you're a sorry son of a bitch". Rejection motivated Hackman, who said:

It was more psychological warfare, because I wasn't going to let those fuckers get me down. I insisted with myself that I would continue to do whatever it took to get a job. It was like me against them, and in some way, unfortunately, I still feel that way. But I think if you're really interested in acting there is a part of you that relishes the struggle. It's a narcotic in the way that you are trained to do this work and nobody will let you do it, so you're a little bit nuts. You lie to people, you cheat, you do whatever it takes to get an audition, get a job.[19]

Hackman got various bit roles, for example in the film Mad Dog Coll and on the TV series Tallahassee 7000, The United States Steel Hour, Route 66, Naked City, The Defenders, The Dupont Show of the Week, East Side/West Side, and Brenner.

Hackman began performing in several Off-Broadway plays, starting with The Saintliness of Margery Kempe in 1959 and including Come to the Palace of Sin in 1963.

In 1963 he made his Broadway debut in Children From Their Games which only had a short run as did A Rainy Day in Newark. However Any Wednesday with actress Sandy Dennis was a huge Broadway success in 1964. This opened the door to film work. His first credited role was in Lilith, with Jean Seberg and Warren Beatty in the leading roles.

Hackman returned to Broadway in Poor Richard (1964–65) by Jean Kerr, which ran for over a hundred performances. He continued to do television - The Trials of O'Brien, Hawk, The F.B.I. - and had a small part as Dr. John Whipple in the epic film Hawaii. He had small roles in features like First to Fight (1967), A Covenant with Death (1967) and Banning (1967).

Hackman was originally cast as Mr. Robinson in the 1967 Mike Nichols film The Graduate, but Nichols fired him three weeks into rehearsal for being "too young" for the role; he was replaced by Murray Hamilton.[21]

In 1967 he appeared in an episode of the television series The Invaders entitled "The Spores".

Bonnie and Clyde

Another supporting role, Buck Barrow in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde,[12] earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

A return to Broadway, The Natural Look (1967) only ran for one performance. He did Fragments and The Basement Off Broadway the same year.

Hackman was in episodes of Iron Horse ("Leopards Try, But Leopards Can't") and Insight ("Confrontation"), In 1968, he appeared in an episode of I Spy, in the role of "Hunter", in the episode "Happy Birthday... Everybody". That same year he starred in the CBS Playhouse episode "My Father and My Mother" and the dystopian television film Shadow on the Land.[22]

In 1969 he played a ski coach in Downhill Racer and an astronaut in Marooned. Also that year, he played a member of a barnstorming skydiving team that entertained mostly at county fairs, a film which also inspired many to pursue skydiving and has a cult-like status amongst skydivers as a result: The Gypsy Moths. Hackman supported Jim Brown in two films, The Split (1968) and Riot (1969),

Hackman nearly accepted the role of Mike Brady for the TV series The Brady Bunch,[23] but his agent advised that he decline it in exchange for a more promising role, which he did.

1970s and stardom

Hackman in 1972

Hackman was nominated for a second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in I Never Sang for My Father (1970). He starred in Doctors' Wives (1971), The Hunting Party (1971) then won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as New York City Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection (1971), marking his graduation to stardom.[12]

After The French Connection, Hackman starred in ten films (not including his cameo in Young Frankenstein) over the next three years, making him the most prolific actor in Hollywood during that time frame. He followed The French Connection with leading roles in Cisco Pike (1972), and Prime Cut (1972) then was in the disaster film The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), which was nominated for several Oscars, and won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.[12] That same year, Hackman appeared in what would become one of his most famous comedic roles, as Harold the Blind Man in Young Frankenstein.[24] Hackman also appeared in Scarecrow (1973) alongside Al Pacino, Zandy's Bride (1974) and Night Moves (1975) for director Arthur Penn.

Hackman played one of Teddy Roosevelt's former Rough Riders in the Western horse-race saga Bite the Bullet (1975). He reprised his Oscar-winning role as Doyle in the sequel French Connection II (1975), and co-starred with Burt Reynolds and Liza Minnelli in Lucky Lady (1975), a notorious flop. After making The Domino Principle (1977) for Stanley Kramer, Hackman was part of an all-star cast in the war film A Bridge Too Far (1977), playing Polish General Stanisław Sosabowski, and was an officer in the French Foreign Legion in March or Die (1977.)

Hackman showed a talent for both comedy and the "slow burn" as criminal mastermind Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie (1978), a role he would reprise in its 1980 and 1987 sequels.


Hackman (right) with President Ronald Reagan in 1987

Gene is someone who is a very intuitive and instinctive actor ... The brilliance of Gene Hackman is that he can look at a scene and he can cut through to what is necessary, and he does it with extraordinary economy—he's the quintessential movie actor. He's never showy ever, but he's always right on.

Alan Parker
director of Mississippi Burning (1988)[25]

Hackman alternated between leading and supporting roles during the 1980s. He appeared opposite Barbra Streisand in All Night Long (1981) and supported Warren Beatty in Reds (1981). He played the lead in Eureka (1983) and a support in Under Fire (1983). Hackman provided the voice of God in Two of a Kind (1983) and starred in Uncommon Valor (1983), Misunderstood (1984), Twice in a Lifetime (1985), Target (1985) for Arthur Penn, and Power (1986). Between 1985 and 1988, he starred in nine films, making him the busiest actor, alongside Steve Guttenberg.[26]

Hackman played a high school basketball coach in Hoosiers (1986), which a 2008 American Film Institute poll named the fourth-greatest sports film of all time.[27] After Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) where Hackman also voiced Nuclear Man (who was portrayed by Mark Pillow), Hackman was in No Way Out (1987), Split Decisions (1988), Bat*21 (1988), Full Moon in Blue Water (1988), and Another Woman (1988) from Woody Allen.

Hackman starred in Mississippi Burning (1988), where he was nominated for a second Best Actor Oscar.[28] After this he was in The Package (1989).


Hackman starred in Loose Cannons (1990) with Dan Aykroyd, and he had a supporting role in Postcards from the Edge (1990). He appeared with Anne Archer in Narrow Margin (1990), a remake of the 1952 film The Narrow Margin.

After Class Action (1991) and Company Business (1991) Hackman played the sadistic sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett in the Western Unforgiven directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples. Hackman had pledged to avoid violent roles, but Eastwood convinced him to take the part, which earned him a second Oscar, this time for Best Supporting Actor. The film also won Best Picture.[12]

In 1993, he appeared in Geronimo: An American Legend as Brigadier General George Crook, and co-starred with Tom Cruise as a corrupt lawyer in The Firm, a legal thriller based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. Hackman would appear in two other films based on John Grisham novels, playing convict Sam Cayhall on death row in The Chamber (1996), and jury consultant Rankin Fitch in Runaway Jury (2003).

Other notable films Hackman appeared in during the 1990s include Wyatt Earp (1994) (as Nicholas Porter Earp, Wyatt Earp's father), The Quick and the Dead (1995) opposite Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and as submarine Captain Frank Ramsey alongside Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide (1995).

Hackman played film director Harry Zimm with John Travolta in the comedy-drama Get Shorty (1995). In 1996, he took a comedic turn as conservative Senator Kevin Keeley in The Birdcage with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.[29] He co-starred with Hugh Grant in Extreme Measures (1996) and reunited with Clint Eastwood in Absolute Power (1997). Hackman did Twilight (1998) with Paul Newman for director Robert Benton, did one of the voices for Antz (1998) and co-starred with Will Smith in Enemy of the State (1998), his character reminiscent of the one he had portrayed in The Conversation.


Hackman co-starred with Morgan Freeman in Under Suspicion (2000), Keanu Reeves in The Replacements (2000), Owen Wilson in Behind Enemy Lines (2001), Sigourney Weaver in Heartbreakers (2001) and appeared in the David Mamet crime thriller Heist (2001),[30] as an aging professional thief of considerable skill who is forced into one final job. He made a cameo in The Mexican (2001).

Hackman gained much critical acclaim playing against type as the head of an eccentric family in Wes Anderson's comedy film The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), for which he received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. In 2003, he also starred in another John Grisham legal drama, Runaway Jury, at long last getting to make a picture with his long-time friend Dustin Hoffman.

In 2004, Hackman appeared alongside Ray Romano in the comedy Welcome to Mooseport, his final film acting role to date.[31]

Hackman was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globe Awards for his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" in 2003.[32]

Retirement from acting

On July 7, 2004, Hackman gave a rare interview to Larry King, where he announced that he had no future film projects lined up and believed his acting career was over.[citation needed] In 2008, while promoting his third novel, he confirmed that he had retired from acting.[33]

Speaking on his retirement in 2020, Hackman said:

"The straw that broke the camel’s back was actually a stress test that I took in New York. The doctor advised me that my heart wasn’t in the kind of shape that I should be putting it under any stress"[34]

When asked during a GQ interview in 2011 if he would ever come out of retirement to do one more film, he said he might consider it "if I could do it in my own house, maybe, without them disturbing anything and just one or two people."[35] He briefly came out of retirement to narrate two documentaries related to the Marine Corps: The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima (2016)[36] and We, the Marines (2017).[37]


Hackman at a book signing in 2008

Together with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan, Hackman has written three historical fiction novels: Wake of the Perdido Star (1999),[38] a sea adventure of the 19th century; Justice for None (2004),[39] a Depression-era tale of murder; and Escape from Andersonville (2008) about a prison escape during the American Civil War.[40] His first solo effort, a story of love and revenge set in the Old West titled Payback at Morning Peak, was released in 2011.[41] His most recent novel Pursuit, a police thriller, followed in 2013.

In 2011, Hackman appeared on the Fox Sports Radio show The Loose Cannons, where he discussed his career and his novels with Pat O'Brien, Steve Hartman, and Vic "The Brick" Jacobs.

Personal life

Marriages and family

Hackman has been married twice. He has three children from his first marriage.

In 1956, Hackman married Faye Maltese (1929–2017),[42][43] with whom he had one son and two daughters: Christopher Allen, Elizabeth Jean, and Leslie Anne Hackman.[44] He was often out on location making films while the children were growing up.[45] The couple divorced in 1986, after three decades of marriage.[46]

In 1991, he married classical pianist Betsy Arakawa (b. 1961).[47] They share a Santa Fe, New Mexico home,[48] which Architectural Digest featured in 1990. At the time, the home blended Southwestern styles and crested a twelve-acre hilltop, with a 360-degree view that stretched to the Colorado mountains. As of 2022, Hackman continues to attend Santa Fe cultural events.[49]

Political views

Hackman is a supporter of the Democratic Party, and was "proud" to be included on Nixon's Enemies List. However, he has spoken fondly of Republican president Ronald Reagan.[50]


In the late 1970s, Hackman competed in Sports Car Club of America races, driving an open-wheeled Formula Ford.[51][52] In 1983, he drove a Dan Gurney Team Toyota in the 24 Hours of Daytona Endurance Race.[53] He also won the Long Beach Grand Prix Celebrity Race.[54]

Hackman is a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and regularly attended Jaguars games as a guest of former head coach Jack Del Rio.[55][56] Their friendship goes back to Del Rio's playing days at the University of Southern California.[57]

Architecture and design are another of Hackman's interests. As of 1990, he had created ten homes, two of which were featured in Architectural Digest. After a period of time, he moves onto another house restoration. "I don't know what's wrong with me," he remarked, "I guess I like the process, and when it's over, it's over."[48][58]

As of 2018, Hackman remains an active cyclist.[59]


In 1990, Hackman underwent an angioplasty.[60] In 2012, 82-year-old Hackman was struck by a pickup truck while bicycling in the Florida Keys. Although it was initially reported that he had suffered serious head trauma, his publicist stated that his injury was nothing more than "bumps and bruises".[61]



Year Title Role Notes
1961 Mad Dog Coll Policeman Uncredited
1964 Lilith Norman
1966 Hawaii John Whipple
1967 Banning Tommy Del Gaddo
Community Shelter Planning Donald Ross, Regional Civil Defense Officer Short film
A Covenant with Death Alfred Harmsworth
First to Fight Sergeant Tweed
Bonnie and Clyde Buck Barrow
1968 The Split Lieutenant Walter Brill
1969 Riot 'Red' Fraker
The Gypsy Moths Joe Browdy
Downhill Racer Eugene Claire
Marooned 'Buzz' Lloyd
1970 I Never Sang for My Father Gene Garrison
1971 Doctors' Wives Dave Randolph
The Hunting Party Brandt Ruger
The French Connection NYPD Detective Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle
1972 Prime Cut Mary Ann
The Poseidon Adventure Reverend Frank Scott
Cisco Pike Sergeant Leo Holland
1973 Scarecrow Max Millan
1974 The Conversation Harry Caul
Young Frankenstein Harold, The Blind Man
Zandy's Bride Zandy Allan
1975 French Connection II NYPD Detective Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle
Lucky Lady Kibby Womack
Night Moves Harry Moseby
Bite the Bullet Sam Clayton
1977 The Domino Principle Roy Tucker
A Bridge Too Far Major General Stanisław Sosabowski
March or Die Major William Sherman Foster
1978 Superman Lex Luthor
1980 Superman II
1981 All Night Long George Dupler
Reds Pete Van Wherry
1983 Under Fire Alex Grazier
Two of a Kind God Voice, uncredited
Uncommon Valor Colonel Jason Rhodes, USMC (Ret.)
Eureka Jack McCann
1984 Misunderstood Ned Rawley
1985 Twice in a Lifetime Harry MacKenzie
Target Walter Lloyd / Duncan 'Duke' Potter
1986 Power Wilfred Buckley
Hoosiers Coach Norman Dale
1987 No Way Out Defense Secretary David Brice
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Lex Luthor, Voice of Nuclear Man
1988 Bat*21 Lieutenant Colonel Iceal Hambleton, USAF
Split Decisions Danny McGuinn
Another Woman Larry Lewis
Full Moon in Blue Water Floyd
Mississippi Burning FBI Special Agent Rupert Anderson
1989 The Package Sergeant Johnny Gallagher
1990 Loose Cannons Detective MacArthur 'Mac' Stern
Postcards from the Edge Lowell Kolchek
Narrow Margin Robert Caulfield
1991 Class Action Jedediah Tucker Ward
Company Business Sam Boyd
1992 Unforgiven Sheriff Bill 'Little Bill' Daggett
1993 The Firm Avery Tolar
Geronimo: An American Legend Brigadier General George Crook
1994 Wyatt Earp Nicholas Earp
1995 The Quick and the Dead John Herod
Crimson Tide Captain Frank Ramsey
Get Shorty Harry Zimm
1996 The Birdcage Senator Kevin Keeley
Extreme Measures Dr. Lawrence Myrick
The Chamber Sam Cayhall
1997 Absolute Power President Allen Richmond
1998 Twilight Jack Ames
Antz General Mandible Voice
Enemy of the State Edward 'Brill' Lyle
2000 Under Suspicion Henry Hearst Also executive producer
The Replacements Coach Jimmy McGinty
2001 The Mexican Arnold Margolese
Heartbreakers William B. Tensy
Heist Joe Moore
Behind Enemy Lines Admiral Leslie Reigart
The Royal Tenenbaums Royal Tenenbaum
2003 Runaway Jury Rankin Fitch
2004 Welcome to Mooseport Monroe 'Eagle' Cole


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Tallahassee 7000 Joe Lawson Episode: "The Fugitive"
1963 Route 66 Motorist Episode: "Who Will Cheer My Bonny Bride?"
1967 The F.B.I. Herb Kenyon Episode: "The Courier"
The Invaders Tom Jessup Episode: "The Spores"
1968 Shadow on the Land Reverend Thomas Davis Television film
2008 Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Self Episode: "Big Breakfast"
2016 The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima Narrator Voice, documentary
2017 We, the Marines


Year Title Role Notes
1960–1961 The Premise Various roles The Premise, Bleecker Street
1963 Children From Their Games Charles Widgin Rochambeau Morosco Theatre, Broadway
1963 A Rainy Day in Newark Sidney Rice Belasco Theatre, Broadway
1963 Come to the Palace of Sin Performer Lucille Lortel Theatre, Off-Broadway
1964–1965 Any Wednesday Cass Henderson Music Box Theatre / George Abbott Theatre
1964–1965 Poor Richard Sydney Caroll Helen Hayes Theatre, Broadway[62]
1967 The Natural Look Dr. Barney Harris Longacre Theatre, Broadway
1967 Fragments / The Basement Baxter / Zach Cherry Lane Theatre, Off-Broadway
1992 Death and the Maiden Roberto Miranda Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway


Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Gene Hackman

Asteroid 55397 Hackman, discovered by Roy Tucker in 2001, was named in his honor.[63] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on May 18, 2019 (M.P.C. 114954).[64]



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Achievements Preceded byGeorge C. ScottDeclined Oscar Academy Award for Best Actor 1971 Succeeded byMarlon BrandoDeclined Oscar Acting roles N/AFirst actor Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle actor 1971–1975 Succeeded byEd O'Neill Preceded byLyle Talbot1950for Atom Man vs. Superman Actors portraying Lex Luthor 1978–1987for Superman, Superman II and Superman IV Succeeded byScott James Wells1988–1989for Superboy (TV series)