Hollywood has its living legends. Off the top we can count Clint Eastwood, Betty White, Jack Nicholson, Sean Connery, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman amongst those. Some continue to work, some have faded off into the sunset, enjoying life and retirement. One such living legend is actor Gene Hackman.
The now 90-year old actor was last seen in the 2004 movie Welcome To Mooseport and while the movie wasn’t a big hit, it certainly was not the reason Gene Hackman decided to stop acting.
WHERE GENE HACKMAN STARTED
Gene Hackman’s career spans six decades. He was first seen on TV in the 1959 show The United States Steel Hour, a drama series that revolved around performing plays live on TV. Early on, many stars trying to make their mark first tried it on the TV screen. Hackman was no different.
In the 60s Gene Hackman appeared on TV shows that included Tallahassee 7000, Naked City, The Defenders, Brenner, Hawk, and The F.B.I. He was very active, building his resume.
As the 60s wore on, Gene Hackman found himself crossing over onto the big screen, grabbing parts in movies such as Hawaii, First to Fight, A Covenant with Death, and Banning. But the movie that really began to push Hackman into the limelight was his role as Buck Barrow in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the lead roles. His turn as Clyde Barrow’s older brother earned him the first of his Oscar nominations, this one for Best Supporting Actor, which he did not take home.
Even though Gene Hackman gained major recognition with Bonnie and Clyde, he continued to work the small screen for much of the remainder of the 60s. He was seen on The Invaders, Iron Horse, I Spy, and CBS Playhouse. His final TV appearance came on the series Insight. It was shortly after this that Hackman moved over to the big screen for good.
FIVE NOMINATIONS, TWO WINS
Gene Hackman went full bore into feature films starting in 1969 when he starred in five movies including Downhill Racer. In 1970, Hackman received his second Oscar nomination for the movie I Never Sang for My Father. Again, he was the bridesmaid and not the bride.
But in 1971, the third time was the charm. That year he was nominated for his third Oscar, this time taking home the prize as Best Actor when he played Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in the movie The French Connection. He would return to that character in 1975 in the French Connection II but not to as much fanfare as the first. The remainder of the 70s saw Hackman in some memorable roles. He famously played Reverend Scott in the original The Poseidon Adventure and the Blindman in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. He was Kibby Womack in Lucky Lady and Maj. Gen. Sosabowski in the star-filled WW II movie A Bridge Too Far. And, of course, he famously played the first Lex Luthor in the 1978 hit Superman, a role which he would reprise two more times in Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
The 80s saw Gene Hackman continue to grab big movies. Uncommon Valor, Hoosiers, No Way Out, Bat* 21, Split Decisions, and the movie in which he received his second Best Actor nomination, Mississippi Burning. Unfortunately, he didn’t go home with that one either.
Hackman’s final Academy Award nomination came in 1992, when he starred in the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven. The film won four Oscars, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing and yes, Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman for his portrayal as Little Bill Daggett.
WINDING DOWN HIS CAREER
Little did we, or possibly even he, know that the 90s would be the beginning of Gene Hackman’s twilight. And he was going out in style. He was seen in many big movies that included his Oscar-winning performance in Unforgiven. The 90s gave us Hackman in Class Action, The Firm, the vastly underrated The Quick and the Dead, Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, The Birdcage, Absolute Power, and Enemy of the State. All great movies, all rewatchable.
The 2000s brought on Hackman’s retirement but before he would finish his acting career, Hackman was seen in The Replacements, The Mexican, The Royal Tenenbaums, Behind Enemy Lines, and his final role, Welcome to Mooseport. His retirement came at age 74, though he didn’t officially announce it until four years later.
GENE HACKMAN NOVELIST
In 1999, Gene Hackman, along with Daniel Lenihan, published his first novel. It was of the western genre called Wake of the Perdido Star. He would go on to publish two more novels with Lenihan, in 2004 Justice for None, and 2008s Escape from Andersonville: A Novel of the Civil War.
Gene Hackman finally went out on his own with his last two novels, the 2011 Payback at Morning Peak: A Novel of the American West and his final novel, 2013s Pursuit.
GENE HACKMAN NOW
The last time we would hear from Gene Hackman on a professional level was in 2016 and 2017 when he was the narrator for two military documentaries: The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima and We, the Marines.
Since then Hackman has escaped to a quiet and private life after a long and illustrious career. You haven’t seen Gene Hackman since 2004 for the simple reason that he is happily and officially retired. He’s living out the remainder of his days at a home he owns in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he is still occasionally spotted running around town on his e-bike.
Gene Hackman is and always will be a legend. He has been part of many of the greatest movies ever made, as evidenced by his Academy Award nominations and wins, but also just by his selected material. Check out his catalog, rent some of his movies. You won’t be disappointed.