Eugene Allen Hackman
January 30, 1930
|Years active||1956–2004, 2016–2017 (actor) |
Eugene Allen Hackman (born January 30, 1930) is an American retired actor and novelist. In a career that has spanned more than six decades, Hackman has won two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, one Screen Actors Guild Award, two BAFTAs and one Silver Bear.
Nominated for five Academy Awards, Hackman won Best Actor for his role as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in the critically acclaimed thriller The French Connection (1971) and Best Supporting Actor as "Little" Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood's Western film Unforgiven (1992). His other nominations for Best Supporting Actor came with the films Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970), with a second Best Actor nomination for Mississippi Burning (1988).
Hackman's other major film roles included The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Conversation (1974), French Connection II (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Superman (1978) and its sequels Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), Hoosiers (1986), No Way Out (1987), Bat*21 (1988), The Firm (1993), The Quick and the Dead (1995), Get Shorty (1995), Crimson Tide (1995), Enemy of the State (1998), Antz (1998), The Replacements (2000), Behind Enemy Lines (2001), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Runaway Jury (2003) and Welcome to Mooseport (2004)—his final film role before retirement.
Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, the son of Eugene Ezra Hackman and Anna Lyda Elizabeth (née Gray). He has one brother, Richard. He has Pennsylvania Dutch, English, and Scottish ancestry; his mother was Canadian, and was born in Lambton, Ontario. His family moved frequently, finally settling in Danville, Illinois, where they lived in the house of his English-born maternal grandmother, Beatrice. Hackman's father operated the printing press for the Commercial-News, a local paper. His parents divorced when he was 13 and his father subsequently left the family. Hackman decided that he wanted to become an actor when he was ten years old.
Hackman lived briefly in Storm Lake, Iowa, and spent his sophomore year at Storm Lake High School. 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. He was stationed in China (Qingdao and later in Shanghai). When the Communist Revolution conquered the mainland in 1949, Hackman was assigned to Hawaii and Japan. Following his discharge in 1951, he moved to New York City and had several jobs. His mother died in 1962 as a result of a fire she accidentally started while smoking. 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.
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.
In 1956, Hackman began pursuing an acting career. He joined the Pasadena Playhouse in California, where he befriended another aspiring actor, Dustin Hoffman. Already seen as outsiders by their classmates, Hackman and Hoffman were voted "The Least Likely To Succeed", and Hackman got the lowest score the Pasadena Playhouse had yet given. 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. To support himself between acting jobs, Hackman was working at a Howard Johnson's restaurant when he encountered an instructor from the Pasadena Playhouse, who said that his job proved that Hackman "wouldn't amount to anything". 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.
Hackman got various bit roles, for example on the TV series Route 66 in 1963, and began performing in several Off-Broadway plays. In 1964 he had an offer to co-star in the play Any Wednesday with actress Sandy Dennis. This opened the door to film work. His first role was in Lilith, with Jean Seberg and Warren Beatty in the leading roles. In 1966 he played a small part as Dr. John Whipple in the epic film Hawaii. In 1967 he appeared in an episode of the television series The Invaders entitled "The Spores". Another supporting role, Buck Barrow in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. 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. 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 movie which also inspired many to pursue skydiving and has a cult-like status amongst skydivers as a result: The Gypsy Moths. He nearly accepted the role of Mike Brady for the TV series The Brady Bunch, but his agent advised that he decline it in exchange for a more promising role, which he did.
Hackman was nominated for a second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in I Never Sang for My Father (1970). The next year, he 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 leading-man status.
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 the disaster film The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), which was nominated for several Oscars. That same year, Hackman appeared, in what would become one of his most famous comedic roles, as Harold the Blind Man in Young Frankenstein.
He appeared as 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 was part of an all-star cast in the war film A Bridge Too Far (1977), playing Polish General Stanisław Sosabowski. 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.
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.
Hackman alternated between leading and supporting roles during the 1980s, with prominent roles in Reds (1981)—directed by and starring Warren Beatty—Under Fire (1983), Hoosiers (1986) (which an American Film Institute poll in 2008 voted the fourth-greatest film of all time in the sports genre), No Way Out (1987) and Mississippi Burning (1988), where he was nominated for a second Best Actor Oscar. Between 1985 and 1988, he starred in nine films, making him the busiest actor, alongside Steve Guttenberg.
Hackman appeared with Anne Archer in Narrow Margin (1990), a remake of the 1952 film The Narrow Margin. In 1992, he 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.
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 movie director Harry Zimm with John Travolta in the comedy-drama Get Shorty (1995). He reunited with Clint Eastwood in Absolute Power (1997), and co-starred with Will Smith in Enemy of the State (1998), his character reminiscent of the one he had portrayed in The Conversation.
In 1996, he took a comedic turn as conservative Senator Kevin Keeley in The Birdcage with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
Hackman co-starred with Owen Wilson in Behind Enemy Lines (2001), and appeared in the David Mamet crime thriller Heist (2001), as an aging professional thief of considerable skill who is forced into one final job. He also 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.
Hackman was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globe Awards for his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" in 2003.
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. In 2008, while promoting his third novel, he confirmed that he had retired from acting. 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." He briefly came out of retirement to narrate two documentaries related to the Marine Corps: The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima (2016) and We, The Marines (2017).
Together with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan, Hackman has written three historical fiction novels: Wake of the Perdido Star (1999), a sea adventure of the 19th century; Justice for None (2004), a Depression-era tale of murder; and Escape from Andersonville (2008) about a prison escape during the American Civil War. His first solo effort, a story of love and revenge set in the Old West titled Payback at Morning Peak, was released in 2011. A police thriller, Pursuit, followed in 2013.
In 2011, he 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.
Hackman's first marriage was to Faye Maltese. They had three children: Christopher Allen, Elizabeth Jean, and Leslie Anne Hackman. The couple divorced in 1986 after three decades of marriage. In 1991 he married classical pianist Betsy Arakawa; they have a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the late 1970s, Hackman competed in Sports Car Club of America races, driving an open-wheeled Formula Ford. In 1983, he drove a Dan Gurney Team Toyota in the 24 Hours of Daytona Endurance Race. He also won the Long Beach Grand Prix Celebrity Race.
Hackman underwent an angioplasty in 1990.
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.
Hackman is an avid fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and regularly attended Jaguars games as a guest of then head coach Jack Del Rio. Their friendship goes back to Del Rio's playing days at the University of Southern California.
In January 2012, the then 81-year-old Hackman was riding a bicycle in the Florida Keys when he was struck by a pickup truck. He made a full recovery, and was still an active cyclist as of 2018, at the age of 88.
|1961||Mad Dog Coll||Policeman||Uncredited|
|1967||Banning||Tommy Del Gaddo|
|Community Shelter Planning||Donald Ross, Regional Civil Defense Officer|
|A Covenant with Death||Harmsworth|
|First to Fight||Sergeant Tweed|
|Bonnie and Clyde||Buck Barrow||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1968||Shadow on the Land||Reverend Thomas Davis||Television Film - ABC|
|The Split||Lieutenant Walter Brill|
|The Gypsy Moths||Joe Browdy|
|Downhill Racer||Eugene Claire|
|1970||I Never Sang for My Father||Gene Garrison||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1971||Doctors' Wives||Dave Randolph|
|The Hunting Party||Brandt Ruger|
|The French Connection||NYPD Detective Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle||Academy Award for Best Actor|
BAFTA Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
|1972||Prime Cut||Mary Ann|
|The Poseidon Adventure||Reverend Frank Scott|
|Cisco Pike||Sergeant Leo Holland|
|1974||The Conversation||Harry Caul||National Board of Review Award for Best Actor|
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
2nd Place – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
|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|
|1981||All Night Long||George Dupler||2nd Place – National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor|
|Reds||Pete Van Wherry|
|1983||Under Fire||Alex Grazier|
|Two of a Kind||God (voice)||Uncredited|
|Uncommon Valor||Colonel Jason Rhodes, USMC (Ret.)|
|1985||Twice in a Lifetime||Harry MacKenzie|
|Target||Walter Lloyd / Duncan 'Duke' Potter|
|Hoosiers||Coach Norman Dale|
|1987||No Way Out||Defense Secretary David Brice|
|Superman IV: The Quest for Peace||Lex Luthor
Nuclear Man (voice)
|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||National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor|
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
|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||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
|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|
|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|
|Behind Enemy Lines||Admiral Leslie Reigart|
|The Royal Tenenbaums||Royal Tenenbaum||Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor|
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
3rd Place – Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
|2003||Runaway Jury||Rankin Fitch|
|2004||Welcome to Mooseport||Monroe 'Eagle' Cole|
|2016||The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima||Narrator (voice)||TV documentary film|
|2017||We, the Marines|
|1961||Tallahassee 7000||Joe Lawson||Episode: "The Fugitive"|
|1963||Route 66||Motorist||Episode: "Who Will Cheer My Bonny Bride?"|
|1967||The FBI||Herb Kenyon||Episode: "The Courier"|
|The Invaders||Tom Jessup||Episode: "The Spores"|
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. The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on May 18, 2019 (M.P.C. 114954).