Happy 93rd to Gene Hackman, who was told by everybody he didn't have what it takes to be an actor, was given the lowest score ever by the Pasadena actors studio, worked as a doorman, didn't get his first film role until his mid-30s and didn't become a leading man until his 40s. pic.twitter.com/RGp8Imbw09
— Christopher Lloyd (@ChristopheLloyd) January 30, 2023
An inspiration to all of us late bloomers, and a damned good actor!
GENE HACKMAN may have retired from acting 20yrs ago but this pic from May of last year shows he’s very much alive & well aged 92 down in New Mexico.
He goes bike riding every day, is active and engaged with hobbies & friends and is thoroughly enjoying his golden years. pic.twitter.com/UT1ptESFG5
— Michael Warburton (@MichaelWarbur17) January 30, 2023
There’s something for every taste in Hackman’s vast filmography — he always gave the word ‘workmanlike’ a good reading, no matter whether the current project was a high-end star project or a quickie throwaway. His ‘best’ film, in my opinion, would be The Conversation, though there’s probably half a dozen other contenders.
My favorite Hackman movies, however, are Enemy of the State and a mostly-forgotten midranger thriller from 1985, Target. Both of which allow Hackman, as a second-in-the-trailer supporting role, to expand his gifts as a quiet, unpretentious ‘normie’ who just happens to be much more than that. Target, in particular, has a memorable scene where Genial Fish-Out-of-Water Midwestern Tourist suddenly morphs into Killer Alphabet-Agency Rottweiler… while his disbelieving ‘ugh, my boring dad’ son (Matt Dillon, at his most posterboy-ish) looks on agape…
Which Hackman films would get your vote(s)?
He probably wouldn’t appreciate it at all, but he’ll always be Lex Luthor to me.
Oh, and there’s his cameo as the blind hermit in Young Frankenstein.
I loved him in “Unforgiven.”
The Duck of Death.
No Way Out. The Firm. Liked him creepy, I guess.
Yes on The Conversation. No contest.
For me, it’s Enemy of the State as #1. He made a great Lex Luthor, too.
ETA I forgot Young Frankenstein: “Come back, I’m making espresso!”
Yes on The Conversation. All these years later I still think about it and shudder at the ending. He was brilliant. I need to watch it again someday.
I was about to post No Way Out, too.
He had so many stand-out performances over the years. But for me, his role in No Way Out was the most memorable.
I enjoyed him in The Royal Tenenbaums (1:54).
His portrayal of Sheriff Little Bill Daggett in “Unforgiven” was a pleasant bookend to coach Jimmy McGinty in “The Replacements”.
Enemy of the State and The Quick and the Dead both slap
I think his first film where it was clear that he would be great at his job was Bonnie and Clyde. I’m not sure I have a favorite role for him, though. I thought he was great in The French Connection and Hoosiers. And Mississippi Burning. And Unforgiven. And… ;)
ETA: And he owned and flew a single-seat Pitts Special.
@Geoduck: Was just coming down here to mention Harold :) “You must have been the tallest one in your class!”
twbrandt (formerly tom)
I first saw him in The French Connection, with that amazing chase scene under the Chicago El.
Enemy of the State and Crimson Tide, too. So many different persona the guy could portray!
Marooned is my favorite Gene Hackman movie – a movie so bad it made it on MST3K and so boring it’s not even a good episode.
On second thought, maybe it’s not my favorite.
Hoosiers and Unforgiven for two very different Hackman performances.
Gin & Tonic
@twbrandt (formerly tom): That’s a great one, and one of my favorites.
Also The Package, which was filmed entirely in Chicago and part of which was filmed in my neighborhood, so we all watched.
Gin & Tonic
@twbrandt (formerly tom): That was in Brooklyn, not Chicago.
I can’t believe no one’s mentioned the Bird Cage. He didn’t quite steal the show from Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, but he came close.
I liked him in everything I saw him in. He has that lovely ability to portray “mundane normality with seething rage underneath,” and you’re just waiting for the transformation – whether for good or evil
It”s good to hear he’s enjoying himself at 93(!).
@Citizen Alan: Another favorite!
I don’t know if this counts as “entertainment” but…I know everyone says TFG doesn’t drink, but he sure sounds drunk off his ass to me in this bit from a speech in NH that Seth Meyers highlighted. Or at least like he just woke up from anesthesia or something.
@guachi: I think I saw that same MST3K episode about 30 years ago, and I quote it to this day: “Gene Hackman, he’s good in anything!”
Deputinize Eurasia from the Kuriles to St Petersburg
I loved Target – I’d forgotten all about it!
He was Lex Luthor. Does one need any further filmography after that?
I looooove Enemy of the State. Mississippi Burning was excellent.
Yuck. Piss poor tone deaf remake of La Cage aux Folles. IMHO.
twbrandt (formerly tom)
@Gin & Tonic: You are correct! My faulty memory has embarrassed me yet again.
@NotMax: And Cindy Williams was in that (learned in the thread downstairs that she just died).
@Geoduck: That Young Frankenstein scene is hilarious.
@Alison Rose: He sounds like JL Cauvin to me.
She was better positioned in schlock which had no pretensions of being anything more, a.k.a The First Nudie Musical.
Narrow Margin with Anne Archer, the sort of sweet little mid-level thriller they do not make these days.
@BruceFromOhio: As I said in the equivalent Hackman tribute thread on LGM, “The Replacements” is flawed in many, many ways and is, sad to say, a horrible movie overall.
But the otherwise mediocre script keeps pulling great lines out of nowhere, the mood it sets with sound and visuals is so enticing, and Hackman and to a lesser extent Reeves are so engaged in their characters and exhibit so much native charm, you just can’t not watch it when it’s on.
I was talking to the front desk clerk at a hotel when Hackman came up and stood next to me. Being right next to that familiar gruff but genial voice…gave me chills.
@Alison Rose: I think he has dentures that slip up sometimes, like when he said “the United Shates of America.” Tried to Google the clip but couldn’t find it.
Gene is a man but he’s no hack.
@Alison Rose: I think Trump medicates himself with pharmaceuticals, maybe with a compliant doctor prescribing them. There have been times I’ve seen him speak when he seemed unusually placid, and I thought it was chemically induced.
My joke was that when they got the drugs balanced correctly it’s like Trump is channeling Humphrey Bogart’s Fred C. Dobbs from the The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But the wrong proportion makes him sound like Bogart playing Captain Queeg.
That’s him trying to efface a Sean Connery vibe.
@eclare: Yeah, I’ve seen that, but this wasn’t slurring. He was just sounding like he literally didn’t know what the words he was saying meant.
(cough) Adderall (cough).
@Citizen Alan: strong second!
@Alison Rose: I replied downstairs to your comment about Cindy Williams: “Betty, pick up your hash browns.”
Mike in Oly
I was just a kid when he was hitting it big, but I remember him in The Poseidon Adventure. However his Lex Luthor will always be tops for this Superman stan.
The Package with Tommy Lee Jones.
Another nice little mid-level thriller
Ah, you already mentioned it. Nice.
I always thought his turn in Heist was possibly his best, but it’s a tough choice as he could do the creep, the righteous, the sneaky and the ambitious all with ease, he was a chameleon which means he was pretty good at his craft I guess.
Loved his character Harry Zimm from Get Shorty.
Early Hackman on the TV.
Hoosiers but I am biased. When they had the premier, in Indiana, the reception was at the institute where I worked. We got to meet many of the actors, including Hackman. He was very nice. I also played basketball with several of the film’s “high school” players.
Back to lurking, need to catch my breath.
@NotMax: Yeah, Adderall, and Ambien and who knows what else.
Mai Naem mobile
I really enjoyed Narrow Margin. Also Get Shorty, Birdcage and Mississippi Burning. He’s been in a ton of really good movies.
That’s weird. Z currently showing on TCM. How is it listed in the grid on Sling? As “Movie.”
Good call! I have an enormous soft spot for Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums. His performance is very subtle and perfectly pitched.
When I think of Hackman I often think of his great work in supporting roles or less well-known movies, e.g., Night Moves (1975), Get Shorty (1995), The Birdcage (1996).
Mississippi Burning and Hoosiers stand out for me.
There are so many performances to choose from.
Also, does anyone make cheesy biscuits? I’ve tried twice now, and they’re not cheesy, and they don’t rise nearly as well without cheese.
I just found out that Lionsgate is making a Michael Jackson biopic, starring Jermaine’s son Jaafar as his uncle Michael.
Unfortunately, it’s a remake of a great B-movie film noir of the same title from 1952, directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor. The original is a marvel of tight editing and only lasts 71, about 25 minutes shorter than the remake.
But satby did a shout-out for The Package, a Hackman film with Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Joanna Cassidy, John Heard, and Dennis Franz that’s a vastly underrated paranoia thriller. A whole lot better than another film Hackman did from the same genre, The Domino Principle. Avoid that one.
I really liked Gene Hackman as the FBI agent in Mississippi Burning and the sheriff in Unforgiven.
@Beagleowned: I was in my second year of medical school in Bloomington when Hoosiers came out. One of my instructors for pathology (Anthony Pizzo) was the father of the writer (Angelo Pizzo). Dr Pizzo had met all of the cast and said Dennis Hopper was really pleasant to talk to. My mother was from Clinton, IN and had been a sportswriter in her younger days for that powerhouse newspaper the Daily Clintonian, She really loved the movie as the scenes were almost exactly as she remembered small town high school basketball.
Mike in NC
@Geminid: The people that have enabled Trump his whole rotten life:
Great, TFG’s a delusional and cruel John Gill.
Gene Hackman never gave a bad performance. If it was A bad movie, he was the best thing in it.
“Hoosiers” because it brings back memories for me. My dad coached high school basketball teams in gyms like those in the movie when I was young. The Billings gym is still there – if was a WPA project (Billings, MO not MT).
I just started the movie. I need a pick me up after my disappointing biscuits. Maybe Gene will give me a pep talk!
That’s a great story. That’s why we read this blog.
@JCJ: Wow small world. I’m from Terre Haute. My doctorate is from IU Bloomington. I did my dissertation in the med school and had to take most of the first year med classes. If I’m not mistaken I was one year ahead of you. Yes to everything you mentioned!
Thank you for your response, my gast is flabbered!
@Steeplejack: The Conversation wins for me hands down (total package), but Night Moves is a close second (Hackman was brilliant; movie was so-so).
Heist was good. Hackman was really effective in that, plus the bonus of the always great Ricky Jay.
Twilight is a great movie where Hackman has a smaller part. Unfortunately Susan Sarandon plays his wife. Fortunately it also has Paul Newman, James Garner, Stockard Channing, Reece Witherspoon, Margo Martindale, M. Emmet Walsh, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber. Written and directed by Robert Benton who wrote Superman, Bonnie and Clyde, and Kramer vs Kramer.
@Prometheus Shrugged: I should add that i had a “brush with greatness” moment with Hackman, when he was in line in front of me at the video rental store. He was renting “Scarface”. This was ca. 1991. I forget what I was renting. But whatever it was, it was not worthy….
Man, Hickory does not like Norman Dale! And Ms. Fleenery or whatever the hell her name is (looking like Miss Gulch) is about as warm as a polar bear’s ass in winter. They ready to beat ol’ Norm up!
“We want Jimmy! We want jimmy! We want Jimmy!”
Like moths to a lying flame.
The staffers who call George Santos ‘boss’
James E Powell
I like Heist. It has one of my favorite quotes. Danny DeVito talking to Hackman on the phone: “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.” It makes no sense, but when DeVito says it, it works.
@coin operated: I literally just finished watching Get Shorty before I read this.. Hackman was great in that movie… so rare to see a comedic performance from him.
Dennis Hopper and Gene Hackman as high school basketball coaches carrying enough baggage to slow down a train is damn fine viewing.
Wow. Colbert brought back The Word from The Colbert Report, updated for Tyre Nichols. I Googled but can’t find it, hopefully it will surface. Powerful.
Hickory are some hard asses, they got Norman Dale (wearing his Navy peacoat) up in front of a town tribunal, what with him liking the town drunk and training the boys different an’ stuff.
If Norman Dale were played by Poitier, they’d be prepping a lynching.
Awww sookie sookie now, Miss Fleenery, she all in love!
I bet she lets Norman touch Jimmy Chitwood now. (that’s entirely inappropriate, I know, but they country folk, they’em have their ways)
Awwww hell, here come Jimmy Chitwood, shit gonna be on fire now. Jimmy Chitwood is like Larry Bird’s uncle or some shit in Indiana lore.
As Tony Danza would say, he looks good! Retirement evidently agrees with him.
If I had to pick one, The Conversation would be it. But he’s always good even if the picture’s only fair — or if his character is none too likable to me, like Popeye Doyle.
@Citizen Alan: Forgot that one! That might be the one time where, just ever so slightly, he broke character, kind of as a compliment to his fellow players.
“Would you like some hot soup?”
I liked Hackman in Superman. He wasn’t afraid to play Lex Luthor as a slightly ridiculous super villain. And I enjoyed his (uncredited, I think) comedic turn in Young Frankenstein. I haven’t seen the movie in a while, but I remember a certain sad weariness to his bad guy in The Firm. And I like the way Hackman slowly revealed the depth of his moral rot in Unforgiven.
I think he is a really great actor, and enjoy the small touches that make many of his roles so memorable.
Mr. Hackman is dean of a class of actors born on Jan 30: Vanessa Redgrave, Charles Dutton, Christian Bale, Olivia Colman, and several character players.
Really? Could barely stomach him in that. Chris Reeve managed to play it by the (comic) book (at least in the first movie), even when faced with an abysmally cast Brando and the ludicrous crystalline nonsense. It was as if Hackman had never so much as opened the cover of a single comic.
Had his character been named Lester Limehouse, or Lawrence Loomis, fine (gotta go with the double L tradition, don’tcha know). But Luthor? Swing and a miss. And don’t get me started on his flunky Otis.
As always, YMMV.
Cathie from Canada
Tastes vary, but c’mon, “The Conversation” hands down. The best film and his best performance.
David ⛄ 🎅The Establishment🎄 🦌 🕎 Koch
A lot of good selections in this thread. I’ll add “Scarecrow” and “The Domino Principle”, “Bat 21″, ” Riot”, “Under Fire”, and “Runaway Jury”
@Alison Rose: Every chance he didn’t…
You’re right. Tastes vary. Even though Superman was a hit, the Donner cut of the movie suggests some wrangling between the producers, writers and directors over the tone of the movie. I suspect that someone wanted a campy Superman, much like the old Batman TV series.
I liked Hackman as Luthor because he wasn’t the standard dull, predictable stolid villain so often portrayed in the movies. Liked him even more playing against the interesting but more typical villain Zod in Superman 2. I don’t care whether Hackman ever read a Superman comic.
Yeah, Otis was a goof. But again, Ned Beatty is another actor who makes even goofy roles interesting.
@David ⛄ 🎅The Establishment🎄 🦌 🕎 Koch: Oh, Runaway Jury! That scene in the men’s restroom with Dustin Hoffman? Just pure distilled evil.
I really like him in Enemy of the State.
I haven’t seen The Conversation.
What a great thread! I haven’t seen some of the movies mentioned here, including Target, so I will have to check them out. My favorite Hackman movie is Crimson Tide with Denzel Washington. It’s about a mutiny on a nuclear submarine. Not too much in the way of special effects, this one is all about the characters and both Hackman and Washington are great. The suspense is almost unbearable.
@apocalipstick: “You know what I like about you? You’re tall.”
So, the consensus is that Hackman is a great actor, always, no matter how good or poor any particular film is overall. He brought his A game to every project and always connected with the audience.
Now it’s time for a double bill: The French Connection and The Taking of Pelham 123. (1974 of course, forgeddaboutit.)
Both movies shaped around similar “everyman” actors, Gene Hackman and Walter Matthau.
And whenever I’m homesick for the City, they are some of the ones I turn to. Especially that extraordinary soundtrack for Pelham.
David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
“whenever I’m homesick for the City, they are some of the ones I turn to.”
Not “The Warriors” or “Escape from New York”?
I kid. I kid.
Why hasn’t he gotten a lifetime achievement award yet?
I mean, he’s 93. WTF are they waiting for?
@David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch: Yet, those are two that still snag me when they appear.
There’s that NYC brashness about “these people are poor and starving in a post-catastrophe dystopia but it doesn’t mean we can’t look like a dance team as we terrorize. Faaaaabulous!”
David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
lifetime achievement awards are usually given to actors/directors who havent’ won an oscar but deserve recognition: Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, Cary Grant, Sidney Lumet, Akira Kurosawa, Adam Sandler, etc.
Hackman has won two oscars.
@David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch: ISWYDT
I loved him in The Birdcage. My favorite probably was No Way Out. I guess the first time I saw him was The Poseidon Adventure.
Great piece on his home here in Santa Fe. Lives there with his second wife, a classical pianist, born 1961.
Scarecrow is really good, the final scene with Pacino is chilling. His brother, Richard, was a stuntman in the film.
@Quinerly: I wonder if my ex lives near him??
@David 🌈☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch: Or the Wanderers.
He was very creepy in Absolute Power too.
Hackman lived in Danville and is an Illini!!!
@Another Scott: What a casting triumph The Royal Tenenbaums was! Everyone is pitch perfect, and Hackman is the glue that holds it all together.
He plays the minister so taken with his Moses role. He’s the bright spot in the whole thing for my rewatches.
And yes, I love dopey disaster movies. Never got over it :) But now I need a book, too.
Enemy of the State is one of my favorite movies ever. Also the first movie where Regina King first caught my attention.
Though he was excellent in everything, I have to agree on The Conversation. He carries that movie completely; I don’t think there’s a scene in it in which he’s not present. And the ending is absolutely haunting.
Kind of a shame he decided to retire so long ago, because he always added something wonderful to every film he was in. (I don’t love that “Welcome to Mooseport” is his last film, you know?)
I’m very fond of his run in the 90’s: Crimson Tide, Class Action, Unforgiven, The Firm, Get Shorty, Enemy of the State, Company Business (an underrated film that feels like an 80’s leftover).
He did 3 Grisham adaptations! Wonder if he was a fan of the books?
Has anyone mentioned the silly movie Heartbreakers? He’s pretty funny in that. I went to see it with no expectations, but he and Sigourney Weaver are very enjoyable.
I’ll second a vote for Night Moves, although you can’t beat The Conversation.
Enemy of the State because the chase scenes were filmed in my old neighborhood. Never saw Hackman though, darn it.
Enemy of the state, for me; great character amazingly played. In the “turned a dumb idea into a pretty fun movie” category, The Quick and the Dead.
Back when I was in college in the late seventies there was a standard joke that Gene Hackman was in every movie that’s ever been made. Not far from the truth.
@les: Second on Quick and the Dead. I wouldn’t say it was a dumb idea though. It was a pretty standard western plot line with standard western characters.
His casting as the conspiracy nut, ex CIA agent in Enemy of the State was perfect.
I always thought his death scene in Bonnie and Clyde was shockingly graphic and brutal. I can’t remember anything like it during that time period. Not clean or quick or painless. Not many actors could have pulled that off (maybe James Caan).
He was such a great foil for so many young actors. Cruise, Denzel, Smith, Russell Crowe… I often wonder if they appreciated what he brought out in them and what he was able to do with even a mediocre script.