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While Gene Hackman trained as an actor at the Pasadena Playhouse in California in the 1950s and early 1960s, he was voted one of the actors (along with his friend Dustin Hoffman) whose breakthrough was the most unlikely. Over fifty years later it can be stated that his fellow students could no longer have been wrong. Gene Hackman is one of the most versatile and respected actors of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The two-time Oscar winner was nominated five times for the coveted gold man in the course of his long career, won the Golden Globe three times, almost every US critic award and a silver bear.
life and work
Gene Hackman was born Eugene Allen Hackman on January 30, 1930 in San Bernadino, California. At sixteen, Hackman left his family and joined the US Army. Although he lied about his age in order to enter the Army as a minor, he resigned after completing his 3-year minimum service period. He studied journalism and television production at the University of Illinois before starting his acting training at the Pasadena Playhouse.
After playing in off-Broadway plays for some time and having been cast in smaller roles in film and television productions for years, he had his breakthrough in 1967. He played the brother of Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) in Bonnie and Clyde, one of the milestones of the New Hollywood. The film earned Gene Hackman his first Oscar nomination. He won the gold statue four years later for his portrait of the driven police inspector Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in the police thriller French Connection - Hot Spot Brooklyn.
The 1970s gave actors like Hackman, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and Dustin Hoffman, who would probably not be called "beautiful" in the classical sense, a number of fantastic opportunities to demonstrate their skills. Gene Hackman used this opportunity in a number of challenging roles in films such as Arthur Penn's Hot Trail, Francis Ford Coppola's Dialogue and Jerry Schatzberg's Underrated Asphalt Blossom. The financial failure of the latter film, which the actor called his favorite role, eventually led Gene Hackman to play more roles in larger mainstream productions, as he did in the disaster film The Poseidon Descent into Hell.
In the late 1970s, Gene Hackman reluctantly let himself be cast in the role of Lex Luthor in the first Superman film. The role that Hackman was to repeat in all Superman films apart from the third part turned out to be very lucrative for the actor: He received two million dollars for the film. For comparison: Christopher Reeve, who played the title role after all, only got $ 2,500,000.
Some of the highlights in Gene Hackman's further career are his roles as a tough but vulnerable FBI agent in Mississippi Burning - The Root of Hate, as rough-legged coach Norman Dale in the basketball drama Free Throw, Sherriff "Little" Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood's melancholy Late Western Merciless and the charming and immoral Patriarch Royal Tennenbaum called in The Royal Tenenbaums. The latter role, which director Wes Anderson tailor-made Gene Hackman, was to be seen as the swan song (although Hackman had previously starred in other, less significant films) of this great actor: in 2008, Gene Hackman gave the end of his Known acting career. (KJ)
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