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Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman - 1972.jpg
Hackman in 1972
Eugene Allen Hackman

(1930-01-30) January 30, 1930 (age 93)
Occupation Actor, novelist
Years active 1956–2004, 2016–2017 (actor)
1999–2013 (novelist) 1946–1950 (Military service)
Political party Democratic
  • Faye Maltese
    (m. 1956; div. 1986)
  • Betsy Arakawa
    (m. 1991)
Children 3
Awards Full list

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.

Early life and education

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.


Beginnings to the 1960s

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". ..... Rejection motivated Hackman, who said, .....

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, and won the Palme d'Or in Cannes. 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.


President Ronald Reagan with Gene Hackman (cropped)
Hackman (right) with President Ronald Reagan in 1987

Hackman alternated between leading and supporting roles during the 1980s, with prominent roles in Reds (1981)—directed by and starring Warren BeattyUnder 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. ..... 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.

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. 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).

Career as a novelist

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), 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.

Personal life

Marriages and family

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

In 1956 Hackman married Faye Maltese (b.1929 - d.2017) with whom he had one son and two daughters: Christopher Allen, Elizabeth Jean, and Leslie Anne Hackman. He was often out on location making films while their children were growing up. The couple divorced in 1986 after three decades of marriage.

In 1991 he married classical pianist Betsy Arakawa (b. Hawaii 1961). They share a Santa Fe, New Mexico home 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. The couple is active, and at age 92 Hackman continues to attend Santa Fe cultural events.


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.


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 is a 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.

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.”

Hackman is an active cyclist as of 2018 when he was 88-years old. This is after a 2012 accident, when the then 81-year old Hackman, bicycling in the Florida Keys, was struck by a pickup truck. He made a full recovery.


Hackman underwent an angioplasty in 1990.

Theatre credits



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
Covenant with Death, AA 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
Split, TheThe Split Lieutenant Walter Brill
1969 Riot 'Red' Fraker
Gypsy Moths, TheThe Gypsy Moths Joe Browdy
Downhill Racer Eugene Claire
Marooned 'Buzz' Lloyd
1970 I Never Sang for My Father Gene Garrison Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1971 Doctors' Wives Dave Randolph
Hunting Party, TheThe Hunting Party Brandt Ruger
French Connection, TheThe 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
Poseidon Adventure, TheThe Poseidon Adventure Reverend Frank Scott
Cisco Pike Sergeant Leo Holland
1973 Scarecrow Max Millan
1974 Conversation, TheThe 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 Domino Principle, TheThe Domino Principle Roy Tucker
Bridge Too Far, AA 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 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.)
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
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 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 Package, TheThe 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
National Society of Film Critics 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 Firm, TheThe Firm Avery Tolar
Geronimo: An American Legend Brigadier General George Crook
1994 Wyatt Earp Nicholas Earp
1995 Quick and the Dead, TheThe Quick and the Dead John Herod
Crimson Tide Captain Frank Ramsey
Get Shorty Harry Zimm
1996 Birdcage, TheThe Birdcage Senator Kevin Keeley
Extreme Measures Dr. Lawrence Myrick
Chamber, TheThe 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
Replacements, TheThe Replacements Coach Jimmy McGinty
2001 Mexican, TheThe Mexican Arnold Margolese
Heartbreakers William B. Tensy
Heist Joe Moore
Behind Enemy Lines Admiral Leslie Reigart
Royal Tenenbaums, TheThe 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


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 FBI Herb Kenyon Episode: "The Courier"
The Invaders Tom Jessup Episode: "The Spores"
2008 Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives Self Episode: "Big Breakfast"


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).

Works or publications

  • Hackman, Gene, and Daniel Lenihan. Wake of the Perdido Star. New York: Newmarket Press, 1999. ISBN: 978-1-557-04398-6.
  • Hackman, Gene, and Daniel Lenihan. Justice for None. New York: St. Martins Press, 2004. ISBN: 978-0-312-32425-4.
  • Hackman, Gene, and Daniel Lenihan. Escape from Andersonville: A Novel of the Civil War. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-312-36373-4.
  • Hackman, Gene. Payback at Morning Peak: A Novel of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-451-62356-7.
  • Hackman, Gene. Pursuit. New York: Pocket Books, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-451-62357-4.

See also

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