Gene Hackman’s Life in Photos Best known for his rough and tumble roles, the two-time Oscar winner turns 92 on Jan.30
By Janine Henni January 30, 2022 08:30 AM Skip gallery slides FB Tweet More View All Next Slide 1 of 23 FB Gene Hackman Grows Up in Illinois Gene Hackman life in photos Credit: Icon and Image/Getty Images
Gene Hackman was born on January 30, 1930, in San Bernardino, California.From a young age, he was drawn to show business.
“Acting was something I wanted to do since I was 10 and saw my first movie,” he told Connoisseur in 1988.”I was so captured by the action guys.[Old Hollywood star] Jimmy Cagney was my favorite.”
Hackman’s family moved to Illinois, where he grew up during the Great Depression.
At 16, Hackman dropped out of high school to join the Marines, lying about his age to make the cut, per Military.com .
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Hackman served in the military for four and a half years, working mostly as a radio operator.While stationed in China and Hawaii, “he was demoted three times for leaving his post without permission,” per the outlet.
2 of 23 View All 3 of 23 FB Gene Hackman Befriends Dustin Hoffman Gene Hackman life in photos Credit: Bettmann Archive; Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images
After leaving the service in 1951, Hackman studied in Illinois and New York, working odd jobs along the way, per Biography.com .
During this time, Hackman committed to acting, joining the Pasadena Playhouse in California at age 22.
While there, he became fast friends with Dustin Hoffman when the two were voted “least likely” to succeed, according to Connoisseur.
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Advertisement 4 of 23 FB Gene Hackman Marries Faye Maltese Gene Hackman life in photos Credit: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
In 1956, he married Faye Maltese and the two would go on to welcome three children together – son Christopher, and daughters Elizabeth and Leslie.They were wed for 30 years before splitting in 1986.
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Moving to New York to pursue his acting dreams, Hackman, Hoffman and their friend Robert Duvall worked odd jobs while dreaming of more.Through the ’50s and ’60s, the trio leaned on each other when times got tough.
“In those days it was a question of which of us was the most broke right then, and the other two would help him out,” Hackman told Vanity Fair in 2004.
5 of 23 View All 6 of 23 FB Gene Hackman Hits Broadway Gene Hackman life in photos Credit: Mary Evans/Columbia Pictures Corporation/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
In 1958, Hackman broke into theater off-Broadway, and continued landing roles on the small stage.
After seeing him in the original cast of Any Wednesday, director Robert Rossen cast him in Lilith in 1964 alongside Warren Beatty, Biography.com reported.From there, Hackman’s big break would soon follow.
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Hackman’s rising star shined as Buck Barrow in the now-iconic Bonnie and Clyde, acting alongside Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who played the criminal couple.
The 1967 drama was a box office hit and Hackman even earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
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Though he didn’t ultimately score the statuette, Hackman was all smiles at the 1968 Academy Awards with his wife, plus Hoffman and his date Ellen McCarthy.
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Next, the actor tackled the role of college professor Gene Garrison in I Never Sang For My Father (1970), for which he earned his second Oscar nod for for Best Supporting Actor.
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The following year, Hackman shot to superstardom for his portrayal of Detective Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, hunting down a heroin smuggler with his pals in the New York City Police Department.
For the riveting role, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
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And he won! Hackman’s elation while accepting the award at the 1972 Academy Awards said it all – he had made it in Hollywood.
Sweeping the ceremony, The French Connection also netted four other Oscars, including Best Picture – a first for an R-rated movie, per the Academy .
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Hardly slowing down after the success, Hackman lit up the leading role of a security expert obsessed with a mystery in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversatio n.The 1974 film was nominated for three Oscars.
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The same year, fans saw Hackman show off his range as an actor in the comedy Young Frankenstein, playing Harold the Blind Man.
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movie “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Switching gears once again, Hackman starred in his first superhero film with Superman: The Movie in 1978, in the role of the evil villain Lex Luthor.Creating conundrums and threatening destruction for the righteous Superman (Christopher Reeve), Hackman would reprise the role in the two sequels that followed.
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Dribbling into the sports genre, Hackman played an optimistic coach who led his small-town high school basketball team to success at the state championship in the critically acclaimed film in 1984.
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In another critically acclaimed character, Hackman starred as an FBI agent seeking justice in 1998’s Mississippi Burning.For the part, he scored his second Oscar nod for Best Actor.
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Five years after his split from Maltese, he married Betsy Arakawa, seen here with him at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 1994.
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“A great many actors and writers have their roots in Midwestern towns,” Hackman told Connoisseuir in 1988.”It seems to generate a rich fantasy life.”
Following his heart back to the Western genre, Hackman starred as a stickler sheriff with a dark side in Unforgiven (1992), directed by Clint Eastwood.
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For his role as the chilling cowboy Little Bill Daggett, Hackman won his second Academy Award for Best Actor.Unforgiven also picked up the Best Picture prize that year.
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The actor embraced a range of roles in the new millennium, from the moody Royal Tenenbaums to the legal thriller Runaway Jury and the comedy Welcome to Mooseport — which became his last role before announcing his retirement.
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In conversation with the CNN host that year, Hackman said that his career in front of the camera was “over,” and joking it was because all the roles had dried up.
“I don’t have a project, Larry.If you have a script, I’ll read it,” he joked to King .
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Advertisement 22 of 23 FB Gene Hackman, Novelist Gene Hackman life in photos Credit: Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images
Flexing his creativity in a different way, Hackman kicked off a career as a novelist, releasing Wake of the Perdido Star, Escape From Andersonville and Justice for None through the late ’90s and early 2000s.
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In October 2021, Hackman gave his first interview in a decade for the 50 th anniversary of The French Connection .
“Filmmaking has always been risky — both physically and emotionally — but I do choose to consider that film a moment in a checkered career of hits and misses,” he told The New York Post.
“The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that,” Hackman added.
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