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Born: Jan. 30, 1930 San Bernadino, California, USA
Gene Hackman, like Michael Caine, is one of those hard-working actors who seems to have appeared in every film ever made. Comfortable in both leading and supporting roles, Hackman is an actor’s actor and an audience favorite.
Gene Hackman was born in San Bernadino, California on January 30th, 1930. The Depression forced the family to move to Danville, Illinois where Gene’s father could get work at a newspaper where his father and brother worked. Family tensions finally led to Gene’s father walking out on the family when Gene was 13.
Family life also led Gene to look for a way out. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of 16, lying about his age in order to get in. He was posted to a variety of places including Shaghai, Japan and Hawaii. Though he was very active in sports, he did makes his first steps into public performance when he worked as a broadcaster on the Armed Forces Network.
He finished his high school learning while in the Corps and upon his discharge in 1952 he took journalism at the University of Illinois. After six months there, he dropped out, headed to New York and went to the School of Radio Technique. He followed that with radio jobs in Florida and Illinois.
Radio wasn’t holding Gene’s interest and he headed back to NYC to study commercial art. Looking for something new, he headed to California and and indulged in his desire to act by enrolling in the Pasedena Playhouse, where he met fellow actor Dustin Hoffman. When Hackman headed back to New York, Hoffman shared an apartment with him.
Hackman took on several odd jobs while he looked for acting gigs. He did some small roles on TV but 1964 was his big year. Not only did he have a hit on Broadway with Any Wednesday, but he also appeared in the Warren Beatty flick Lilith. He made a big impression on Beatty who then cast him in his 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. His performance earned him his first Oscar® nomination.
Hackman really came into his own in 1971’s The French Connection. His portrayal of narcotics cop Popeye Doyle earned him an Academy Award® for Best Actor. The work’s the thing for Hackman and whether it was a lead or supporting role he appeared in almost two films a year for the next 20 years. Highlights of this time include The Conversation, Superman, Reds, Hoosiers, Mississippi Burning and Unforgiven. Unforgiven earned Hackman a Best Supporting Actor Oscar®.
The 90’s didn’t see Hackman slow down and he appeared in a variety of films including The Firm, The Quick and the Dead, Crimson Tide, Extreme Measures, Get Shorty and The Birdcage. He even upped his releases in 1998 to three appearing in Twilight, voicing Antz, and working with Will Smith in Enemy of the State.
He made the football comedy The Replacements with Keanu Reeves in 2000. Keeping busy as usual, he added five films to his roster in 2001: Behind Enemy Lines, The Royal Tenenbaums, Heist, Heartbreakers and The Mexican.
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