Gene Hackman's Life in Photos

Best known for his rough and tumble roles, the two-time Oscar winner turns 93 on Jan. 30

01 of 23

Gene Hackman Grows Up in Illinois

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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

02 of 23

Gene Hackman, U.S. Marine

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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

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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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

Dustin Hoffman; Gene Hackman; Robert Duvall
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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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, reported. From there, Hackman's big break would soon follow.

07 of 23

Gene Hackman's Big Break

Gene Hackman life in photos
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

Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman
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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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

Philip D' Antoni (left) and Gene Hackman, producer and star, respectively, of "best picture" The French Connection
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

Gene Hackman The Conversation

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

Peter Boyle, Gene Hackman
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

Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve in a scene from the Warner Bros. movie "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace"
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

Gene Hackman life in photos

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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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

Gene Hackman and Betsy Arakawa during 1994 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
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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, Gene Hackman

"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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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

The Royal Tenenbaums; RUNAWAY JURY; Welcome To Mooseport
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

Larry King; Gene Hackman
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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

Gene Hackman life in photos
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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.

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Gene Hackman Looks Back on His Life

Gene Hackman
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.

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