Gene Hackman

Actor, TV assistant director, TV studio floor manager
One of the most versatile and well-respected actors in American cinema history, Gene Hackman enjoyed a productive career that spanned over six decades, encompassing exquisite performances on stage and in feature films ... Read more »
Born: 01/30/1930 in San Bernardino, California, USA


Actor (109)

Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story 2012 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale 2009 - 2010 (TV Show)


AFI's 100 Years...AFI's 10 Top 10 2007 - 2008 (TV Show)


Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and The Holocaust 2004 - 2005 (TV Show)


Welcome to Mooseport 2004 (Movie)

Monroe Cole (Actor)

Runaway Jury 2003 (Movie)

Rankin Fitch (Actor)

The 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2002 - 2003 (TV Show)


Behind Enemy Lines 2001 (Movie)

Reigart (Actor)

Heartbreakers 2001 (Movie)

William B Tensy (Actor)

Heist 2001 (Movie)

Joe Moore (Actor)

History Vs. Hollywood 2000 - 2001 (TV Show)


Inside the Actors Studio 2001 (Tv Show)


The Royal Tenenbaums 2001 (Movie)

Royal Tenenbaum (Actor)

The Replacements 2000 (Movie)

Jim McGinty (Actor)

Under Suspicion 2000 (Movie)

Henry Hearst (Actor)

Antz 1998 (Movie)

of Mandible (Voice)

Enemy of the State 1998 (Movie)

Brill (Actor)

Twilight 1998 (Movie)

Jack Ames (Actor)

Absolute Power 1997 (Movie)

President Richmond (Actor)

Sports on the Silver Screen 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond 1996 - 1997 (TV Show)


Extreme Measures 1996 (Movie)

Dr Lawrence Myrick (Actor)

The Birdcage 1996 (Movie)

Senator Keeley (Actor)

The Chamber 1996 (Movie)

Sam Cayhall (Actor)

100 Years of the Hollywood Western 1994 - 1995 (TV Show)


Crimson Tide 1995 (Movie)

Captain Ramsey (Actor)

Get Shorty 1995 (Movie)

Harry Zimm (Actor)

The Quick and the Dead 1995 (Movie)

Herod (Actor)

The 66th Annual Academy Awards Presentation 1993 - 1994 (TV Show)


Wyatt Earp 1994 (Movie)

Nicholas Earp (Actor)

50th Annual Golden Globe Awards 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


Clint Eastwood -- The Man From Malpaso 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


Geronimo: An American Legend 1993 (Movie)

Brigadier General George Crook (Actor)

The 65th Annual Academy Awards 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


The Firm 1993 (Movie)

Avery Tolar (Actor)

Champlin on Film 1989 - 1992 (TV Show)


Eastwood & Co. Making "Unforgiven" 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


The 46th Annual Tony Awards 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


Unforgiven 1992 (Movie)

Little Bill Daggett (Actor)

Class Action 1991 (Movie)

Jedediah Tucker Ward (Actor)

Company Business 1991 (Movie)

Sam Boyd (Actor)

Loose Cannons 1990 (Movie)

Mac (Actor)

Narrow Margin 1990 (Movie)

Richard Caulfield (Actor)

Postcards From the Edge 1990 (Movie)

Lowell (Actor)

The 61st Annual Academy Awards Presentation 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)


The Package 1989 (Movie)

Sergeant Johnny Gallagher (Actor)

Another Woman 1988 (Movie)

Larry (Actor)

Bat 21 1988 (Movie)

Lieutenant Colonel Iceal Hambleton (Actor)

Full Moon in Blue Water 1988 (Movie)

Floyd (Actor)

Mississippi Burning 1988 (Movie)

Anderson (Actor)

Split Decisions 1988 (Movie)

Dan McGuinn (Actor)

Charles Bragg: One of a Kind 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)


No Way Out 1987 (Movie)

David Brice (Actor)

Superman IV: the Quest for Peace 1987 (Movie)

Lex Luthor (Actor)

Hoosiers 1986 (Movie)

Coach Norman Dale (Actor)

Power 1986 (Movie)

Wilfred Buckley (Actor)

Target 1985 (Movie)

Walter Lloyd (Actor)

The Night of 100 Stars II 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)


Twice in A Lifetime 1985 (Movie)

Harry Mackenzie (Actor)

Eureka 1984 (Movie)

Jack McCann (Actor)

Misunderstood 1984 (Movie)

Ned (Actor)

Two of A Kind 1983 (Movie)

of God (Voice)

Uncommon Valor 1983 (Movie)

Colonel Jason Rhodes (Actor)

Under Fire 1982 (Movie)

Alex Grazier (Actor)

All Night Long 1981 (Movie)

George Dupler (Actor)

Reds 1981 (Movie)

Pete Van Wherry (Actor)

Superman II 1981 (Movie)

Lex Luthor (Actor)

Superman 1978 (Movie)

Lex Luthor (Actor)

March Or Die 1977 (Movie)

Major William Sherman Foster (Actor)

A Bridge Too Far 1976 (Movie)

Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski (Actor)

The Domino Principle 1976 (Movie)

Roy Tucker (Actor)

Bite the Bullet 1975 (Movie)

Sam Clayton (Actor)

Lucky Lady 1975 (Movie)

Kibby (Actor)

Night Moves 1975 (Movie)

Harry Moseby (Actor)

The French Connection II 1975 (Movie)

James "Popeye" Doyle (Actor)

Young Frankenstein 1974 (Movie)

Blindman (Actor)

Zandy's Bride 1974 (Movie)

Zandy Allan (Actor)

Scarecrow 1973 (Movie)

Max (Actor)

The Conversation 1973 (Movie)

Harry Caul (Actor)

Cisco Pike 1972 (Movie)

Corrupt Cop (Actor)

Prime Cut 1972 (Movie)


The Poseidon Adventure 1972 (Movie)

Reverend Frank Scott (Actor)

Doctors' Wives 1971 (Movie)

Dave Randolph (Actor)

The French Connection 1971 (Movie)

Jimmy Doyle (Actor)

I Never Sang For My Father 1970 (Movie)

Gene Garrison (Actor)

The Hunting Party 1970 (Movie)

Brandt Ruger (Actor)

Downhill Racer 1969 (Movie)

Eugene Claire (Actor)

Marooned 1969 (Movie)

Buzz Lloyd (Actor)

The Gypsy Moths 1969 (Movie)

Joe Browdy (Actor)

Riot 1968 (Movie)

Red Fletcher (Actor)

The Split 1968 (Movie)

Lieutenant Walter Brill (Actor)

Banning 1967 (Movie)

Tommy Del Gaddo (Actor)

Bonnie and Clyde 1967 (Movie)

Buck Barrow (Actor)

A Covenant With Death 1966 (Movie)

Harmsworth (Actor)

First to Fight 1966 (Movie)

Sgt Tweed (Actor)

Hawaii 1966 (Movie)

Reverend John Whipple (Actor)

Lilith 1964 (Movie)

Norman (Actor)

Mad Dog Coll 1961 (Movie)

Cop (Actor)

And the Winner Is (TV Show)


Heroes of Iwo Jima (TV Show)


Shadow on the Land (TV Show)


The DuPont Show of the Week (TV Show)

Producer (1)

Under Suspicion 2000 (Movie)

(Executive Producer)


One of the most versatile and well-respected actors in American cinema history, Gene Hackman enjoyed a productive career that spanned over six decades, encompassing exquisite performances on stage and in feature films. Once voted by his acting school classmates as the least likely to succeed, Hackman essayed some of filmdom's most memorable characters, a few of which earned the gruff, but sensitive actor several Academy Award nominations. Beginning as a reliable character player on stage, Hackman emerged as an unlikely hero of the counterculture with a bombastic turn in Arthur Penn's seminal "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967). Just a few years later, he secured himself an Oscar for Best Actor with his tough-guy performance as the unforgettable Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection" (1971). Hackman again delivered the goods in Francis Ford Coppola's paranoid thriller, "The Conversation" (1974) and followed through as the comically maniacal Lex Luther in "Superman: The Movie" (1978). Though he entered a premature retirement brought on by his exhaustive work schedule, Hackman returned to the fore in Warren Beatty's "Reds" (1981) and entered into what proved to be the busiest part of his career, which culminated in an Academy Award nomination for "Mississippi Burning" (1988) and a Best Supporting Actor win for "Unforgiven" (1992). After portraying a sleazy B-movie producer in "Get Shorty" (1995) and the rascally patriarch of a dysfunctional family in "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), Hackman drifted off into an unofficial retirement that allowed him time to nurture his writing career while leaving behind a remarkable legacy.

Born on Jan. 30, 1930 in San Bernardino, CA, Hackman endured a nomadic childhood with his father, Eugene, and his mother, Lyda, before finally settling in Illinois, where he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Beatrice. Unchallenged by school, he dropped out at age 16 and lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Marines. Trained as a radio operator, Hackman served in China where his radio background helped land him work as a disc jockey. While suffering from two broken legs following a 1950 motorcycle accident, Hackman decided to pursue a career in radio, moving to New York City after his discharge to study at the School of Radio Technique. Throughout the early part of the decade, he worked his way across America's heartland, developing his resonant vocal abilities as a radio announcer at various stations. Fast approaching 30, Hackman decided to translate his radio experience into an acting career, enrolling at the famed Pasadena Playhouse, where he was dubbed by an instructor "least likely to succeed," an honor he shared with fellow classmate Dustin Hoffman. Despite making his stage debut with a supporting role in "The Curious Miss Caraway" (1958), Hackman was asked to leave the Pasadena Playhouse.

With nowhere else to turn, Hackman moved back to New York City, where he struggled alongside Hoffman and Robert Duvall to try to succeed despite assurances of failure from his old classmates and instructors. He flourished under the tutelage of George Morrison, a former instructor at the Lee Strasberg Institute, who trained the aspiring performer in the famed 'Method' approach to acting. Meanwhile, Hackman made his stage debut in "Chaparral" (1958) and began finding employment in various small screen productions like the "U.S. Steel Hour" (ABC/CBS, 1953-1963) and the premiere episode of the courtroom drama, "The Defenders" (CBS, 1961-65). A few years after joining the improvisational troupe, The Premise, Hackman truly arrived as a stage actor with a supporting performance opposite Sandy Dennis in a Broadway production of "Any Wednesday" (1964). That same year, he had his first substantial film role, playing the romantic rival for an occupational therapist (Warren Beatty) who falls for a wealthy mental patient (Jean Seberg) in the downer psychological drama, "Lilith" (1964).

When it came time to cast the role of Buck, the older brother of outlaw Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), in the seminal counterculture crime drama "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), Beatty remembered Hackman from "Lilith" and offered him the role. Bringing a Brandoesque spin to the role, Hackman turned what could have been just a murderous rube into a character infused with a righteous innocence, which helped earn the actor who was once voted least likely to succeed his first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He was excellent as the driven Olympic coach in the documentary-like "Downhill Racer" (1969) and picked up a second Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod as he mined the autobiographical parallels of a son who cannot communicate with his dad in "I Never Sang for My Father" (1970). The following year brought him a once-in-a-lifetime role, playing the tough, uncompromising New York City narcotics cop Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection" (1971). While the film was perhaps best remembered for a brilliantly staged car chase with Doyle going after a runaway subway, Hackman managed not to be overshadowed, skillfully crafting a warts-and-all portrait of a vulgar sadist. Accolades rained on Hackman, who capped a banner year with an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Now firmly established as a leading man, Hackman began to undertake a series of roles that further demonstrated his range and versatility. He proved effective as a crusading preacher and de facto leader of a group of survivors of a sea disaster in the enjoyably cheesy adventure yarn, "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), and effectively partnered with Al Pacino in the buddy road movie "Scarecrow" (1973). Meanwhile, director Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" (1974) offered one of the richest characterizations of his long career, in which he played a surveillance expert whose personal involvement in one of his cases leads to a plunge into paranoia and suspicion. Hackman next delivered a short, but well-remembered cameo role as a blind hermit who fumbles his efforts to provide aid and comfort to the misunderstood monster (Peter Doyle) in Mel Brooks' horror spoof, "Young Frankenstein" (1974), starring Gene Wilder and Teri Garr. For the first time, audiences were able to see Hackman's sharp comic abilities, which to that point were woefully unexplored. Following starring roles in the Western "Zandy's Bride" (1974) and the noir crime drama "Night Moves" (1975), Hackman reprised Popeye Doyle, who tracks down the escaped Frog One (Fernando Rey) to Marseilles, in the mediocre, but still well-acted sequel, "The French Connection II" (1975).

By the mid- to late-1970s, Hackman's career went into a bit of a slide, following starring turns in such underwhelming movies like "March or Die" (1977) and "The Domino Principle" (1977). By the time he was showcasing his high camp villain Lex Luthor in "Superman" (1978), Hackman had prematurely announced his retirement after nearly non-stop work that had left him physically and emotionally drained. Spending his time painting in a West Los Angeles apartment, Hackman was eventually pulled back into the game by old friend Warren Beatty, who convinced the actor to play magazine editor Peter Van Wherry in the epic historical drama "Reds" (1981). While he was miscast opposite Barbra Streisand in the triangular romantic comedy "All Night Long" (1981), he was right at home in the action-adventure "Uncommon Valor" (1983) and the gripping political thriller "Under Fire" (1983). Hackman brought depth and conviction to his performance as a straying husband undergoing a mid-life crisis in "Twice in a Lifetime" (1985), perhaps in part inspired by his 1982 divorce from first wife, Faye Maltese. Re-energized after his self-imposed exile, Hackman went on to etch several memorable characterizations in the 1980s, including a small-town high school basketball coach in "Hoosiers" (1986) and a cold-hearted Secretary of Defense in the thriller "No Way Out" (1987).

Following a reprisal of Lex Luther in the unnecessary "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987), Hackman delivered a searing performance as a good ole boy FBI agent investigating the murders of civil rights workers in the 1960s-era drama, "Mississippi Burning" (1988), for which he picked up another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. As he entered the 1990s, Hackman remained exceptionally busy, churning out a wide variety of roles. After playing a practical-minded cop who teams up with a partner (Dan Aykroyd) suffering from multiple personality disorder in the miserable "Loose Cannons" (1990), he was a lawyer who enters the courtroom opposite his attorney daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) in Michael Apted's "Class Action" (1991). Though surgery in 1990 for heart problems provoked another hiatus, Hackman roared back with another fascinating role, playing sadistic, but smiling sheriff Little Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood's revisionist Western "Unforgiven" (1992). Infusing the effective lawman with a streak of decency, the actor sketched a character that was profoundly ambiguous; one that could be either heroic or villainous. Critics and audiences embraced the film and Hackman's character and he earned not only stellar reviews but numerous prizes, all of which was capped by a second Oscar, this time as the year's Best Supporting Actor.

Healthy and in-demand, Hackman embarked on another round of seemingly non-stop roles. While Sydney Pollack cast him as the burnt-out lawyer and mentor to Tom Cruise who is powerless to help his protégé in "The Firm" (1993), the actor displayed a sudden fondness for Westerns. He was a sympathetic general in "Geronimo: An American Legend" (1993), the moral compass of "Wyatt Earp" (1994) as the family's patriarch, and in an almost-spoof of Little Bill, played a gunslinger in the loopy "The Quick and the Dead" (1995). Loosening up a bit, Hackman displayed his assured comedic gifts as a schlock horror filmmaker who runs afoul of a Mafia boss (Dennis Farina) tracking down a loan collector (John Travolta) who embarks on a movie career in "Get Shorty" (1995). After a turn as a conservative politician who plays straight man - on more than one level - to Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in "The Birdcage" (1996), Hackman began to display a darker side, playing a sinister surgeon in "Extreme Measures" (1996) and a racist killer on death row in "The Chamber" (1996). He excelled in his next two performances, playing a U.S. President embroiled in a murder investigation in "Absolute Power" (1997) and a renegade NSA agent in the thriller "Enemy of the State" (1998), a role that was an overt nod to his performance in "The Conversation."

Having done all he could do in Hollywood, Hackman entered the world of publishing with his first novel, Wake of the Perdido Star (1999), which he co-wrote with author Daniel Lenihan. While 1999 marked the first year he failed to appear in a single feature film, Hackman returned the following year with a turn in "The Replacements" (2000), playing the NFL coach of a rag-tag group of players filling in for a striking team. Later he was featured in "Under Suspicion," Stephen Hopkins' nervy reworking of the French film "Garde a vu" (1982), playing a wealthy attorney suspected of rape and murder. After an uncredited cameo in "The Mexican" (2001), he had a charming role as a billionaire reeled in by mother-daughter beauties (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt) in the unremarkable con-women comedy "Heartbreakers" (2001). Next he headed the impressive cast of David Mamet's low-key thriller, "Heist" (2001), with a note-perfect and effortless performance that was tinged with both bravado and vulnerability as an almost untouchable veteran master thief. Hackman followed up with a role as a steely admiral who risks his career when he puts people over politics in an effort to save a maverick navigator (Owen Wilson) shot down in Bosnia in "Behind Enemy Lines" (2001).

Though he was a steady presence on the big screen, Hackman's career began to show signs of slowing down. While at the time most were unaware, the veteran actor was on his way to retirement. He did, however, have one more great performance in him, which he delivered in Wes Anderson's droll family dramedy, "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), in which he played the titular patriarch of a dysfunctional family of geniuses (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson). Anderson admitted to creating the funny, but ultimately endearing role for Hackman, though the actor had vocally opposed such endeavors in the past. Any objections were quickly silenced when the actor won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. After receiving a special Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes ceremony in 2003, Hackman was next seen on screen in "Runaway Jury" (2003), playing Rankin Fitch, a high-priced and morally bankrupt jury consultant who stops at nothing to control the outcome of a crucial trail verdict. For the first time in his career, Hackman played opposite his friend and fellow actor voted least likely to succeed, Dustin Hoffman.

In the political satire "Welcome to Mooseport" (2004), Hackman played a former U.S. president who runs for mayor of a small Maine town against a local hardware store owner and plumber (Ray Romano). Not his best work by any stretch, "Mooseport" wound up being the final film Hackman appeared in to date, marking the start to his unofficial retirement. Hackman confirmed on a 2004 airing of "Larry King Live" (CNN, 1985-2010) that he had no projects lined up and believed that his acting career was indeed over. Meanwhile, he continued to co-author novels with Daniel Lenihan, including Justice for None (2006) and Escape from Andersonville (2009), which dramatized a prison break from Fort Sumter during the Civil War.

By Shawn Dwyer


Betsy Arakawa

Met when she was working at a health club at which Hackman was a member Began dating in 1984 Married in December 1991

Beatrice Gray

British; maternal grandmother; raised Hackman

Eugene Hackman

Walked out on family when Hackman was 13 Reunited with son in 1970

Lyda Hackman

Was an alcoholic; died in bed at age 59 on Dec. 30, 1962 in a fire she accidentally set while smoking

Elizabeth Hackman


Leslie Hackman


Christopher Hackman

Born c. 1960; mother, Faye Maltese

Richard Hackman

Born in 1942

Faye Maltese

Met in 1953 Married on Jan. 1, 1956; mother of Hackman's three children Separated in 1982 Divorced in 1986


University of Illinois

Urbana , Illinois
attended for six months

Art Students League of New York

New York , New York

quit high school at age 16

Pasadena Playhouse

Pasadena , California 1958
with classmate Dustin Hoffman, dubbed the two "least likely to succeed"; asked to leave after three months

University of Illinois

Urbana , Illinois
attended for six months

studied acting under George Morrison, a former teacher with the Lee Strasberg Institute in NYC

School of Radio Technique

New York , New York 1952



Played a former president who runs for mayor of a small town against a local candidate in "Welcome to Mooseport"


Played a ruthless jury consultant in the thriller feature "Runaway Jury"


Played the rascally patriarch of a dysfunctional family of geniuses in "The Royal Tenenbaums"; Owen Wilson co-wrote script with director Wes Anderson


Landed featured role in "Heartbreakers," a comedy about a mother-daughter con artist team


Appeared opposite Owen Wilson in the war drama "Behind Enemy Lines"


Appeared in "The Mexican" in an uncredited cameo


Starred as a football coach in "The Replacements"


Executive produced and starred in the crime drama "Under Suspicion"


Published first novel Wake of the Perdido Star, co-written with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan; duo co-authored three more novels: Justice for None (2004), Escape from Andersonville (2008) and Payback at Morning Peak (20


Voiced the character of the fascistic General Mandible in the animated feature "Antz"


In a nod to "The Conversation," played a surveillance expert who assists Will Smith in "Enemy of the State"


Cast as a dignified movie star married to Susan Sarandon in "Twilight," also starring Paul Newman as a retired detective


Portrayed the U.S. President possibly caught up in murder in "Absolute Power"


Played the straight man as a conservative U.S .senator in "The Birdcage," directed by Mike Nichols


Second appearance in a film based on a John Grisham novel, "The Chamber"; played a white supremacist defended by his grandson (Chris O'Donnell)


Provided formidable opposition to Denzel Washington as the captain of a submarine in the taut thriller "Crimson Tide"


Showed comic side as a hack director in "Get Shorty"


Cast as the patriarch of the family in "Wyatt Earp"


Portrayed a burnt-out lawyer in "The Firm," based on the John Grisham novel


Returned to Broadway in "Death and the Maiden" alongside Richard Dreyfuss and Glenn Close


Delivered fine villainous turn as a corrupt sheriff in Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven"; received Best Supporting Actor Oscar


Played a film director in Mike Nichols' "Postcards From the Edge," adapted from Carrie Fisher's roman-a-clef


Underwent surgery for angina, provoking a two-year hiatus from acting


Starred opposite Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as father-daughter lawyers on opposite sides of a case in "Class Action"


Earned Best Actor Academy Award nomination as an FBI agent investigating the murders of civil rights workers in "Mississippi Burning"


Acted opposite Gena Rowlands in Woody Allen's "Another Woman"


Reprised role of Lex Luthor in the disappointing "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace"


Played the coach of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team in "Hoosiers"


Played a middle-aged man going through a midlife crisis resulting in an affair in the underrated "Twice in a Lifetime"


Delivered fine turn as a news anchorman in "Under Fire"


Returned to features after "retirement" in supporting role of editor Peter Van Wherry in Beatty's epic "Reds"


Had misfire as comic lead opposite Barbra Streisand in "All Night Long"


Offered deliciously sly turn as the villainous Lex Luthor in "Superman"; reprised role in 1980's "Superman II" (shot simultaneously with the first)


Appeared as part of the all-star cast of Richard Attenborough's WWII epic "A Bridge Too Far"


"Retired" from acting for four years


Reprised role of Popeye Doyle in "French Connection II"


Reteamed with director Arthur Penn for "Night Moves"


Portrayed a specialist in planting bugging devices in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation"


Offered hilarious cameo as the blind hermit in Mel Brooks' horror spoof "Young Frankenstein"


Headed the all-star cast of "The Poseidon Adventure" as a defrocked minister who becomes the de facto leader of those who survived the underwater disaster


Breakthrough screen role, NYC detective Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection"; reportedly almost quit film over its violent content; earned Best Actor Oscar


Earned second Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for "I Never Sang for My Father"


Appeared as one of the astronauts trapped in space in "Marooned"


TV-movie debut, "Shadow on the Land" (ABC)


Hired by Beatty to play Buck Barrow in "Bonnie and Clyde"; received first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor; also initial collaboration with Arthur Penn


Rose to prominence in Broadway production of "Any Wednesday" opposite Sandy Dennis


First major film role, "Lilith"; also first screen collaboration with Warren Beatty


Broadway debut, "Children at Their Games"


Feature film acting debut, small role as a cop in "Mad Dog Coll"


Appeared with the improvisational troupe The Premise in Greenwich Village


Made impression with guest appearance on the debut episode of the CBS series "The Defenders"


TV acting debut on the episode "Little Tin God" of CBS' "U.S. Steel Hour"; later appeared on several other installments of the show


Made stage debut opposite ZaSu Pitts in "The Curious Miss Caraway" at the Pasadena Playhouse


New York stage debut in "Chaparral"


Broke both legs in a motorcycle accident


Joined the Marines at age 16 after quitting school

Moved to California to attend the Pasadena Playhouse acting school; voted "Least Likely to Succeed" along with classmate Dustin Hoffman

Asked to leave Playhouse school; returned to NYC

While serving in China, worked as a disc jockey for U.S. Armed Forces Radio

In the 1950s, worked throughout the Midwest as a radio announcer and in NYC at various jobs

Settled in Danville, IL; raised by maternal grandmother

Family moved frequently in his early childhood

Bonus Trivia


When he was in New York, Hackman taught at the New Actors Workshop, a two-year professional actor training program.


In addition to writing novels, Hackman also painted landscapes.


"It becomes tougher and tougher for me to be directed. It isn't that I feel I know everything. I just find myself being frustrated. I'm kind of impossible." – Hackman to The New York Times Magazine, March 19, 1989


"He is Everyman on the one hand, and yet, he's an Übermensch. He has a broad spectrum of gifts, a combination of sensitivity and toughness. That's why he's done what he's done." – Warren Beatty to Premiere, February 1991


Hackman had heart surgery in June 1990 after which he slowed down his work load. "The illness left the actor and sometime sketch artist determined to move to the marble quarries of Carrera, Italy, to become a sculptor. But 'Unforgiven' changed things ... " – from "Tough Guys Don't Talk" in Newsday, June 19, 1994


"Gene is not your run-of-the-mill actor. He's really special, and right now he's at the top of his form – almost a Zen-like place in his acting, where you don't see the effort." – Sydney Pollack to Newsday, June 19, 1994


"When you start having a little more confidence in what you do as an actor, that starts to show, and then people start giving you more and more confident characters to play, and then you become typed with that. I'm not a tough guy at all – but I'm capable of playing some of those guys." – Hackman quoted in Us, March 1996


"I like to work. But I don't like the business. All the backstabbing. The uncomfortable atmosphere on some sets. But it's a trade-off." – Hackman quoted in USA Today, Oct. 11, 1996


"Gene charges a lot of money for what he does. And he gives you your money's worth. And that's the most you can say about anyone, whether they're a waiter or an actor." – Clint Eastwood to USA Today, Oct. 11, 1996


"I'm not saying he's the only great American actor, but there's no better American actor alive today." – director Robert Benton (who guided Hackman in "Twilight") quoted by Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press, March 11, 1998


On his status as an "Everyman", Hackman told the Associated Press (March 11, 1998): "One would like to think of oneself as being special, as being artistic or romantic. Not common. I mean, Everyman means common in some kind of way. And common doesn't denote any kind of artistic talent or artistic intent. So, in some ways, it sounds to me like a put-down. But I don't think people necessarily mean it that way."


"Things haven't always gone the way I've wanted, but look, I know I've been very lucky. I've had more than my fair share of success, and the audiences are still good to me." – Hackman on being considered a character actor, to The Daily Telegraph, July 20, 2000


"When I'm acting I really feel that I'm doing what I was set on Earth to do, the only thing that I really know how to do well." – Hackman


Hackman provided the voiceovers for numerous TV commercials, perhaps most notably for United Airlines.


"The Royal Tenenbaums" director Wes Anderson on Hackman to the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 16, 2001): "There's something very charismatic in him, even when he's being his worst. There is something about him that gives him a kind of gravity that is pretty rare. When they are playing a scene where there is sadness or something gentle, he can be extremely sad and gentle. When they are playing a scene where they need to turn on the rage, he can be scary at the drop of a hat. That is the way he will attack a scene – with everything he's got."


"Three movies is slowing down for me. I have that old thing in me from the early days when you couldn't get a job and you want to take everything that's offered to you. I don't know if I've ever had a moment when I 'made it' in Hollywood. I don't think about that." – Hackman on "Heist," "Behind Enemy Lines," and "The Royal Tenenbaums" released in quick succession in November and December of 2001, quoted in Boston Herald, Dec. 21, 2001


"I just knew I could; I really did. Every Saturday if I could get a quarter to go [to the movies], I'd go, and when I'd leave, I'd look in the mirror and be stunned that I didn't look like James Cagney. I'd be so in tune with what he was doing – I'd become that guy – that a real period of depression would follow. [I'd think], 'How am I gonna be that guy if I don't look like that guy?' I finally realized that I could just be me, and if I was good enough, that would work." – Hackman to Premiere magazine on how he always knew he could act


On Jan. 13, 2012, Hackman was riding a bicycle in Key West, FL, when he was reportedly struck by a car. He suffered bumps and bruises, and was airlifted to a hospital in Miami. Hackman was in stable condition and released the same day.