Hackman Lives

Happy birthday to the great Gene Hackman, who turned 80 today. When I think of my favorite Hackman moment I always default to that heated argument scene with Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide. He’s been retired for five years — hasn’t done anything since ’04’s Welcome to Mooseport. Why would anyone as good as Hackman not want to work? Or at least be open to the right role if it comes along?

  • sutterkane

    My favorite Hackman moment will always be him, Saul Rubinek, and Richard Harris in Unforgiven, when he’s telling Rubinek to give Harris the gun. For a minute, you think he’s going to take it, and then he just puts his hands on the bars, and Hackman’s got such cold menace, such certainty, in his voice when he tells him, “You were right not to take the gun, Bob. I woulda killed ya.” Love it.

  • I met Hackman at a book signing last year – he still looks great, and was as friendly as can be. I had to fight myself not to bring up Welcome to Mooseport, and beg him to go out with something else.

    Thing about Crimson Tide, Hackman was technically correct (my Navy Captain uncle practically had kittens when talking about it). And the movie was weakened because there was never a doubt which character would end up in the right. A braver flick would have ended a missile attack on the US – that could have been stopped by Hackman’s intended course of action.

  • nemo

    Somewhere a few years ago, I remember not where, someone asked Hackman whether he missed anything about making movies now that he’s retired.

    Hackman said what he missed was when the cast and crew were alert and ready and everything was really cooking.

    He added that what he didn’t miss was all the bullshit you had to go through to get to that place.

  • Steven Kar

    When PELHAM came out, I remember Tony Scott saying that he might do a movie with Hackman called POTSDAMER PLATZ. I haven’t heard anything about the movie and I doubt Scott will ever get to it or will succeed in bringing Hackman out of retirement … which is a pity.

  • sabbott1990

    80! How is that even possible?

  • Ray

    UNFORGIVEN remains my favorite Hackman film. He was pretty damned good in Quick And The Dead, but the writing was a bit off there.

    Hackman has a marvelously textured voice, one of my most favorite voices in film. It’s so expressive. It’s such a shame that he’s disappeared… I’d love to see him once again.

  • George Prager
  • Josh Massey
  • The Bandsaw Vigilante

    Christ, I can’t believe Gene’s 80 already. T

    True story:

    We come from the same hometown (Danville, Illinois), grew up in the same neighborhood (at different times, naturally), and graduated from the same high school (DHS). I’ve run into Gene two or three times over the years at various local functions, including a fundraiser for a local theater restoration.

    The last time I saw him, it was in a local Danville restaurant, just after he’d completed shooting on The Royal Tenenbaums — he was in town for personal reasons, and was eating up on the north end of town.

    Surprisingly, not many folks were willing to be the obnoxious asshole fan and come up and bother him while in the restaurant, myself included. But as he was getting up to leave, he’d evidently recognized me, because he actually came over to my table, greeted me by name…he remembered it from the other times we’d bumped into each other over the years.

    Total class-act, and although I’d been a lifelong fan previously, I’m even moreso now.

  • The Bandsaw Vigilante

    Ugh…wish I could remove that “T” from the first line. No edit-function.

  • BaxterPeanut

    Ridiculously talented actor. My favorite scene, among dozens of great moments, still must be when he confronted Brad Doriff – the redneck sheriff/abusive husband – in the barbershop and beat the shit outta him leaving him spinning in the chair in Mississippi Burning. For me anyway, that movie was a Hackman highlight reel. Pure conflict, pure intimidation, pure understanding of where he was in life and looking back on himself and his upbringing in the middle of a horrific cultural change. Brilliant.

  • Geoff

    Wow, there are just so many great Hackman performances – Crimson Tide might be my personal favorite, with French Connection and The Conversation right up there.

    But for most underrated Hackman movie and performance, I would put Class Action – it’s been on Encore a ton, lately. The scenes between him and Mastrantonio really pop – one of the most realistic family arguments I have ever seen on screen is the scene between her, when they’re looking at pictures, reminiscing about her mother/his wife who just passed, and the whole thing quickly escalates into a blow-out argument. Great scene, check it out.

  • Bobby Cooper Superior

    Anyone remember NARROW MARGIN? Hackman could elevate anything, including ’90’s Peter Hyam stock thrillers!

  • mat

    Always thought his work in both Scarecrow and Prime Cut were criminally overlooked. Prime Cut isn’t really all that good, but it serves as a reminder as to what I love so much about Hackman: he’s always willing to portray the most unlikable person on the screen and always ends up a three dimensional human being.

  • Halhillco

    If indeed there will be no more Gene Hackman films (and certainly that’s not written in stone just because he says he’s retired) for the moment let’s just all agree that he went out with his glorious performance as ROYAL TENENBAUM. ‘Nuff said.

  • TM

    He still works — doing voiceovers for commercials — IIRC Lowe’s or some sort of store like that. I’m sure he would much rather cash those lucrative paychecks for an afternoon of work where he doesn’t have to worry about the toupee and all than have to deal with the b.s.

  • nemo

    Hackman with his grandsons at his mother’s grave site in The Royal Tenenbaums:

    “Well, she was a tough old broad. Come on, let’s shag ass, and get some lunch.”

  • Gordon27

    I believe ‘Scarecrow’ is one of the reasons he doesn’t work much anymore, inasmuch as ‘Scarecrow’ is the reason he cites for why he doesn’t take small movies for no money (that is, he loved it and hated to see it fail). I suspect that they’re reluctant to meet his quote these days, and he has no real motivation to lower it.

  • nemo

    I remember Hackman in an Actor’s Studio interview talking about his father who abandoned the family when Hackman was a kid.

    Hackman said his father returned to the house to pick up some of his things. As his father was driving away for the last time, he waved to Hackman as if he was just going away on a short trip.

    Hackman said: “Everything I ever needed to know about acting I learned from that wave.”

  • austin111

    I’m happy for him if he retired and is living well. I think he also had some health problems, not surprising given how old he is. I was afraid he’d somehow died and I missed hearing about it. GREAT GREAT ACTOR.

  • Chicago48

    80 is a good age….to retire….look at Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra. These guys know there’s not much left in them. I believe Hackman is writing novels, which is a good trade. WHY? Would he want to come out of retirement for an acting job?

  • Thanks for linking to that clip from EUREKA, George. One of the oddest films by either Hackman or Roeg (in the latter case, that’s saying an awful lot), but I have great affection for it. And this shows you how professional Hackman was – according to an cover article American Film magazine wrote about Hackman at the time, Frank Pesce (who I believe was one of the hoods along with Rourke during that scene) was having problems with the his part, and Hackman took him aside and helped him.

    As much as I like Hackman when he’s the man of will and of violence (I loathe and despise MISSISSIPPI BURNING, but I acknowledge how great the scene is when he destroys Brad Dourif), I also love the movies where he plays shy or weak-willed, especially, of course, in THE CONVERSATION, but also in THE FIRM. Say what you want about the movie, but I think it’s one of his best performances, especially in two scenes with Jeanne Tripplehorn – one right when she’s drugged him, and he gets suspicious of why she’s with him, the other when he finds out the truth about what she’s really doing there. He ends both scenes with lines that are quite sad – for the former, it’s something like “At least you didn’t come here for me,” while for the latter, when Tripplehorn asks what the firm is going to do to him, he replies, “Whatever it is, they did it a long time ago.” – and yet he refuses to play it for pathos, which makes the moments all the more powerful.

    Oh, and he’s got one of the best laughs (or chuckle) of any actor around. It can be good-hearted and menacing at the same time.

  • Ephemerinko

    The striptease in the bar to head off the fight in SCARECROW. As has been noted, he’s on the record as saying it’s his favorite film. And, of course, the line about Rohmer films in NIGHT MOVES, which is a sublime update of the flawed shamus to the Me Decade.

  • Josh Massey

    “WHY? Would he want to come out of retirement for an acting job?”

    So his last movie wouldn’t be Welcome to Mooseport. If he had ended with Tenenbaums, it would have been perfect.

    Of course, this obviously doesn’t matter to him nearly as much as it does to me. And that’s to his credit.

  • DarthCorleone

    The first moment that came to mind was the first one named here: the jail cell scene with Richard Harris in Unforgiven.

    I love his entire performance in The Conversation; that might be my favorite film character study. In particular, the scene at the party in his loft when the woman records his vulnerable moment is fairly amazing.

    And, yeah, The Royal Tenenbaums rises to greatness on his shoulders more or less.

  • Noah Cross

    Favorites for me would be “The Conversation”, “Unforgiven” and “The French Connection”… But someone should mention his very funny performance in “Superman” as Lex Luthor. It probably is still the way kids are most likely to be introduced to this great actor.

  • MartinBlank

    “Duck of Death.”


    “Duck, I says.”

    I think he’s happy enough writing historical novels these days:


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  • ali

    Are you for really – 80??? Oh my gosh- can’t believe it. Definitely one of the best actors out there – who knew how to handle the media and stay out of the spotlight.


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  • steve

    of course the world miss Hackman when he retired.

    hm, it’s interesting film