Happy Birthday Gene Hackman!
Eugene Allen "Gene" Hackman, born January 30th, 1930 is an American film actor known for appearing in a wide spectrum of genres. Some of Hackman's most recognized roles are from the films The French Connection (1971), The Conversation (1974), Superman: The Movie (1978), Get Shorty (1995), Enemy of the State (1998) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Between his first appearance in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and his retirement in 2008, Gene Hackman won two Oscars and another thirty-four awards, making him one of Hollywood's most prominent stars.
Hackman was born in San Bernadino, California but his family moved around until deciding to stay in Danville, Illinois. Hackman's father left the family when his son was only thirteen. Gene set off on his own adventure when he reached sixteen, and joined the US Marine Corps. Hackman served for four and a half years before deciding to try his hand at acting. He enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.
Perhaps the most unwarranted statement in history, Hackman and his close friend Dustin Hoffman were voted "least likely to succeed" at the Playhouse. The declaration sparked a fire under Hackman, causing him to get on a bus to New York City to prove them wrong. He worked odd jobs to sustain the seeds of a new life in the City, including working as a doorman. An ironic anecdote claims that a former teacher of Hackman's ran into him in the building he worked at and chuckled, reaffirming his belief that Hackman wouldn't amount to anything. Hackman, Hoffman and Robert Duvall were all friends in the city and each struggled to survive in New York while waiting to land the right part.
Hackman performed in Off-Broadway plays in a determined effort to keep at his acting ambitions. When he landed a role alongside Sandy Dennis in 1964, his luck started changing. His performance opened the door to film roles, and he starred in Lilith in 1967. Hackman appeared in some television show episodes but his minor role in Bonnie and Cycle (1967) won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued to star in a range of parts in both film and TV. When he was offered the role of Mike Brady in the upcoming show The Brady Bunch, he took the advice of his agent and declined.
Trailer for The French Connection
Trailer for The Conversation
In 1971, Gene Hackman became a leading man in The French Connection and then continued to stay at the top of the cast lists. Hackman proved his aptitude for both drama and comedy, performing in films from disaster hit The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) and Superman: The Movie (1978) in which he played Lex Luthor. Hackman continued to have his pick of roles, from lead to supporting, serious to humorous. In the 1980s and 1990s, Hackman starred in many unforgettable roles. He received an Oscar nomination for Mississippi Burning (1988), starred in hit sports comedy Hoosiers (1986) and in Clint Eastwood's western Unforgiven (1992). The latter role won him his second Oscar and the film won Best Picture. Despite taking a break while recovering from an angioplasty operation, Hackman remained in the limelight.
Stills from The Conversation
Hackman aged gracefully and used his experience to play older roles with poise and wisdom. He starred in David Mamet's Heist (2001) and romantic comedy Heartbreakers (2001) where be played a fiesty tobacco mogul. Hackman starred as the head of the family in Wes Anderson's cult classic The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). At the Golden Globes in 2003, Hackman received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry.
Clip from The Royal Tenenbaums
Footage (c) American Empirical Pictures
After his well-earned retirement, Hackman turned his interest to books and wrote four historical fiction novels: Wake of the Perdido Star (1999), Justice for None (2004), Escape from Andersonville (2008) and Payback at Morning Peak (2011). His final film performance was playing the President of the United States in Welcome to Mooseport (2004) - an apt role for this Hollywood hero. Hackman lives in Santa Fe with his family. He truly proved that he was anything but the least likely to succeed.
- Birthday Date: Thursday, 30 January 2014