Happy 90th Birthday Gene Hackman!

Gene Hackman knew from childhood that he wanted to be an actor, but his path was not an easy one. Born January 30, 1930 in San Bernardino, CA, Gene's family moved frequently and his father eventually left. He ran away at 16 to enlist as a Marine and served as a radio operator. After finishing his military career he attended Pasenda Playhouse to earn his acting chops. Voted as the least likely to succeed (along with his friend, Dustin Hoffman!), Hackman became even more determined to earn his living as an actor. He went to New York to work and audition, sharing apartments and working side gigs. One of his first big breakthrough roles was as Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde which netted him an Academy Award nomination. His film career has spanned over forty years and although he formally retired in 2014, he continues to stay busy with his second career as a novelist.  Known to be a character actor who can play a variety of roles either supporting or leading, Hackman’s films are beloved by both critics and audiences.

The French Connection established Hackman as an A-lister when he won an academy award for Best Actor. The film was based on a nonfiction account of the NYPD's pursuit of a French heroine smuggler and his one of his best known roles. A bonus is the exciting car chase under the city's train tracks.

Gene made several westerns, but swore off doing violent roles as he felt he was being typecast. It took Clint Eastwood to persuade him to take the role of “Little Bill” Daggett, the corrupt Sheriff in Unforgiven. The film earned Hackman an academy award for Best Supporting Actor.

One of my personal favorites was Hackman’s role in the dark comedy The Royal Tenenbaums. He plays the bumbling patriarch, Royal, who tries to ingratiate himself back into his dysfunctional family by pretending to be dying. The role netted the actor a Golden Globe Award.

For diehard sports fans, the film Hoosiers is a must see. It stars Hackman as the high school coach of a small Indiana basketball team that makes it all the way to the nationals.

Hackman appeared in three different movies made from John Grisham novels. In my favorite, Runaway Jury, he starred as the ruthless "jury consultant” Rankin Fitch, who would do anything to help his client, a gun manufacturer, win a civil case.

Gene Hackman has a rich and lasting legacy, and despite his fame, always saw himself as a “regular guy”, who maintained his ability to play normal characters by not trying to be a star.

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