GENE HACKMAN (Jimmy McGinty) is one of film's most distinguished, honored and versatile actors. Most recently seen opposite Will Smith in "Enemy of the People," Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon in "Twilight"; Hugh Grant in "Extreme Measures," and Clint Eastwood in "Absolute Power." Hackman is a two-time Academy Award winner: as Best Actor for his classic portrayal of Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection," and Best Supporting Actor in Eastwood's "Unforgiven."
Hackman's other recent films include starring roles with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in Mike Nichols' "The Birdcage"; opposite Sharon Stone in the western "The Quick and the Dead"; with Denzel Washington in "Crimson Tide"; Chris O'Donnell in "The Chamber"; with John Travolta and Danny DeVito in Barry Sonnenfeld's "Get Shorty," and in two big-scale westerns, Walter Hill's "Geronimo: An American Legend" and Lawrence Kasdan's "Wyatt Earp."
Hackman's teaming with Tom Cruise as a smooth-as-silk corporate lawyer in "The Firm," his follow-up to "Unforgiven," gave him two back-to-back $100 million winners at the U.S. box office. Even a brief list of Hackman's film recalls his virtuosity: "Bonnie and Clyde," "Scarecrow," "The Conversation," "Night Moves," "Under Fire," "All Night Long," "Reds," "No Way Out," "Mississippi Burning," "Class Action," "Hoosiers," "Another Woman," "The Package," "Postcards From the Edge," "Uncommon Valor," "Bat 21" and "Narrow Margin," just to name a few.
Diversity has always been a Hackman hallmark, established early in his career by the contrast between two Oscar nominated performances: as Melvyn Douglas' tortured son in "I Never Sang For My Father" and the brutal Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection," which were shortly followed by two of his most respected and most dangerously offbeat portrayals: the raucous and
trigger-tempered panhandler in "Scarecrow," and the pathologically withdrawn eavesdropper in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation."
Hackman was born in Riverside, California and brought up in Danville, Illinois where his father was a newspaper printer. Lying about his age, he joined the Marines at the age of 16, and became a radio operator which led to the beginning of his show business career. He was stationed in Tsingtzu, China, when the unit's radio announcer was injured and Hackman volunteered to take his place. After his discharge from the service. Hackman moved from radio to television and worked at various small-town TV stations all over the United States. He eventually returned to the West Coast and enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse, where he and another student, Dustin
Hoffman, were considered the two least likely to succeed. It was at the Playhouse that Hackman made his stage debut with Zazu Pitts in "The Curious Mrs. Caraway."
After a period of summer stock. Hackman finally moved to New York. He studied with George Morrison and began getting small parts in
television and stage productions. He then won the Clarence Derwent Award for his performance in Irwin Shaw's "Children at Their Games," even though the play only lasted one night. His first starring role on Broadway was with Sandy Dennis in the comedy hit "Any Wednesday." and he returned in the 1990s with Glenn Close and Richard Dreyfuss in Mike Nichols' production of "Death and the Maiden."
He made his screen debut in Robert Rossen's 1964 film "Lilith," with Warren Beatty. Three years later, when Beatty was casting "Bonnie and Clyde," he remembered Hackman's talent and offered him the role of Clyde Barrow's slow-wined brother, Buck, a performance that brought him his first Academy Award nomination. Over a decade later, he worked again with Beatty in "Reds," another of Hackman's searing cameo performances.
In the meantime, Hackman appeared in "Hawaii," "The Gypsy Moths," "Downhill Racer" and "Marooned," before he won a second Oscar nomination for "I Never Sang For My Fath
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