Entertainment Movies Gene Hackman's Life in Photos Best known for his rough and tumble roles, the two-time Oscar winner turns 93 on Jan. 30 By Janine Henni Janine Henni Twitter Janine Henni is a Royals Staff Writer for PEOPLE Digital, covering modern monarchies and the world's most famous families. Like Queen Elizabeth, she loves horses and a great tiara moment. People Editorial Guidelines Updated on January 30, 2023 02:14 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos 01 of 23 Gene Hackman Grows Up in Illinois Icon and Image/Getty Images Gene Hackman was born on January 30, 1930, in San Bernardino, California. From a young age, he was drawn to show business. "Acting was something I wanted to do since I was 10 and saw my first movie," he told Connoisseur in 1988. "I was so captured by the action guys. [Old Hollywood star] Jimmy Cagney was my favorite." Hackman's family moved to Illinois, where he grew up during the Great Depression. At 16, Hackman dropped out of high school to join the Marines, lying about his age to make the cut, per Military.com. 02 of 23 Gene Hackman, U.S. Marine Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images Hackman served in the military for four and a half years, working mostly as a radio operator. While stationed in China and Hawaii, "he was demoted three times for leaving his post without permission," per the outlet. 03 of 23 Gene Hackman Befriends Dustin Hoffman Bettmann Archive; Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images After leaving the service in 1951, Hackman studied in Illinois and New York, working odd jobs along the way, per Biography.com. During this time, Hackman committed to acting, joining the Pasadena Playhouse in California at age 22. While there, he became fast friends with Dustin Hoffman when the two were voted "least likely" to succeed, according to Connoisseur. 04 of 23 Gene Hackman Marries Faye Maltese ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images In 1956, he married Faye Maltese and the two would go on to welcome three children together – son Christopher, and daughters Elizabeth and Leslie. They were wed for 30 years before splitting in 1986. 05 of 23 Hackman, Hoffman & Duvall Team Up Bettmann Archive; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Kobal/Shutterstock Moving to New York to pursue his acting dreams, Hackman, Hoffman and their friend Robert Duvall worked odd jobs while dreaming of more. Through the '50s and '60s, the trio leaned on each other when times got tough. "In those days it was a question of which of us was the most broke right then, and the other two would help him out," Hackman told Vanity Fair in 2004. 06 of 23 Gene Hackman Hits Broadway Mary Evans/Columbia Pictures Corporation/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection In 1958, Hackman broke into theater off-Broadway, and continued landing roles on the small stage. After seeing him in the original cast of Any Wednesday, director Robert Rossen cast him in Lilith in 1964 alongside Warren Beatty, Biography.com reported. From there, Hackman's big break would soon follow. 07 of 23 Gene Hackman's Big Break Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images Hackman's rising star shined as Buck Barrow in the now-iconic Bonnie and Clyde, acting alongside Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who played the criminal couple. The 1967 drama was a box office hit and Hackman even earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 08 of 23 Gene Hackman's First Oscar Nomination Bettmann Archive Though he didn't ultimately score the statuette, Hackman was all smiles at the 1968 Academy Awards with his wife, plus Hoffman and his date Ellen McCarthy. 09 of 23 Gene Hackman Stars in I Never Sang For My Father Columbia Pictures/Getty Images Next, the actor tackled the role of college professor Gene Garrison in I Never Sang For My Father (1970), for which he earned his second Oscar nod for for Best Supporting Actor. 10 of 23 Gene Hackman Plays Popeye Doyle 20th Century Fox/Hulton Archive/Courtesy of Getty Images The following year, Hackman shot to superstardom for his portrayal of Detective Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, hunting down a heroin smuggler with his pals in the New York City Police Department. For the riveting role, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. 11 of 23 Gene Hackman Wins His First Academy Award Bettmann Archive And he won! Hackman's elation while accepting the award at the 1972 Academy Awards said it all – he had made it in Hollywood. Sweeping the ceremony, The French Connection also netted four other Oscars, including Best Picture – a first for an R-rated movie, per the Academy. 12 of 23 Gene Hackman Chips at a Mystery The Conversation Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock Hardly slowing down after the success, Hackman lit up the leading role of a security expert obsessed with a mystery in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. The 1974 film was nominated for three Oscars. 13 of 23 Having Fun in Young Frankenstein 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock The same year, fans saw Hackman show off his range as an actor in the comedy Young Frankenstein, playing Harold the Blind Man. 14 of 23 Gene Hackman Leans into Lex Luthor Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images Switching gears once again, Hackman starred in his first superhero film with Superman: The Movie in 1978, in the role of the evil villain Lex Luthor. Creating conundrums and threatening destruction for the righteous Superman (Christopher Reeve), Hackman would reprise the role in the two sequels that followed. 15 of 23 Hoosiers Was a Slam Dunk Orion/Kobal/Shutterstock Dribbling into the sports genre, Hackman played an optimistic coach who led his small-town high school basketball team to success at the state championship in the critically acclaimed film in 1984. 16 of 23 Man for the Job in Mississippi Burning Bertrand LAFORET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images In another critically acclaimed character, Hackman starred as an FBI agent seeking justice in 1998's Mississippi Burning. For the part, he scored his second Oscar nod for Best Actor. 17 of 23 Gene Hackman Weds Betsy Arakawa Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images Five years after his split from Maltese, he married Betsy Arakawa, seen here with him at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 1994. 18 of 23 Unforgiven Moviestore/Shutterstock "A great many actors and writers have their roots in Midwestern towns," Hackman told Connoisseuir in 1988. "It seems to generate a rich fantasy life." Following his heart back to the Western genre, Hackman starred as a stickler sheriff with a dark side in Unforgiven (1992), directed by Clint Eastwood. 19 of 23 Gene Hackman Wins His Second Oscar Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images For his role as the chilling cowboy Little Bill Daggett, Hackman won his second Academy Award for Best Actor. Unforgiven also picked up the Best Picture prize that year. 20 of 23 Gene Hackman Takes on the 2000s James Hamilton/Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock; 20th Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection; Kerry Hayes/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock The actor embraced a range of roles in the new millennium, from the moody Royal Tenenbaums to the legal thriller Runaway Jury and the comedy Welcome to Mooseport — which became his last role before announcing his retirement. 21 of 23 Gene Hackman Tells Larry King He's Retired Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images; Evan Agostini/Getty Images In conversation with the CNN host that year, Hackman said that his career in front of the camera was "over," and joking it was because all the roles had dried up. "I don't have a project, Larry. If you have a script, I'll read it," he joked to King. 22 of 23 Gene Hackman, Novelist Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images Flexing his creativity in a different way, Hackman kicked off a career as a novelist, releasing Wake of the Perdido Star, Escape From Andersonville and Justice for None through the late '90s and early 2000s. 23 of 23 Gene Hackman Looks Back on His Life Gene Hackman. A Rodriguez/BEI/Shutterstock In October 2021, Hackman gave his first interview in a decade for the 50th anniversary of The French Connection. "Filmmaking has always been risky — both physically and emotionally — but I do choose to consider that film a moment in a checkered career of hits and misses," he told The New York Post. "The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that," Hackman added.