The Caul of the Wild (Gene Hackman appreciation thread)

This weekend I realized that I have a favorite actor, and that he is Gene Hackman. This is newsworthy to me only because I think it’s been true for about 20 years, and yet I’ve only just realized it. The guy is amazing, and I’ve been taking him for granted.

I blame Superman, the movie. It came out when I was still a wee tyke, and my impressionable little mind filed Hackman under “Lex Luthor”…(see “bad suit.”)

The “aha” moment was watching Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation this past weekend – one of Hackman’s most famous performances, but one that I hadn’t seen because I was 2 years old when it came out. Suddenly it just clicked: this guy is incredible!

Even when he was relatively young he wasn’t conventionally handsome, or in great shape, or anything but balding…he almost always looks the same way, talks the same way, and basically carries himself the same way. Nothing about him says MOVIE STAR in a clichéd way…but wow does he have charisma. He does everything…romantic roles, villains, heros, broken down losers, upbeat types all with equal ease and aplomb. All you have to do is see *The Quick and the Dead * and *The Royal Tennenbaums * in succession to realize his range.

Then I realized that my affection for a lot of otherwise flawed movies is directly attributable to his presence in them: *Enemy of the State * or Heartbreakers, for instance. (of course, Heartbreakers also features a lot of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage… ). From now on I’ll be calling this the Hackman Factor.

So…wow. I have a favorite actor. Cool :cool:

Gene Hackman, you rock, and I salute you!

(I now return you to your regularly scheduled program)

Never forget…I was gonna make espresso!!!

I loved Hackman as the blind monk.

Yeah, he’s one of my faves too. Currently, though, I’ve only got The Conversation, The French Connection and The Quick and the Dead in my DVD collection. I’m planning to add Night Moves within the next month or two.

Ah, The Hack. Like Alec Guinness, Robert DeNiro, Ed Harris, and the Robert Duvall, he remains distinctive while melding into the characters he plays; a leading character actor, if such a thing could be said to exist, he frequently elevates the qualities of the (often mediocre) films he appears in, and he’s not adverse to taking a supporting role. And while The Conversation is an undervalued classic (far better than the similar Blow-Out) I think my favorite role of his is his iconic turn as Detective ‘Popeye’ Doyle in The French Connection and The French Connection II, which allows him to be a hero, a villian, a ruthless pursuer and a pathetic loser all at the same time; almost as good is his role as a private detective in Night Moves and Sheriff ‘Little Bill’ Daggart in Unforgiven: “I guess you think I’m kicking you, Bob. But it ain’t so. What I’m doing is talking, you hear? I’m talking to all those villains down there in Kansas. I’m talking to all those villains in Missouri. And all those villains down there in Cheyenne. And what I’m saying is there ain’t no whore’s gold. And if there was, how they wouldn’t want to come looking for it anyhow.”

Heck, he even makes unwatchable crap like The Firm and Runaway Jury memorable, and elevates mediocre fare like Absolute Power and The Package to being worth a rental. (I guess, like Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken, he just never turns down a role if he has the time.) He and Anjelica Huston were the only thing that made The Royal Tenenbaums tolerable. And he has the rare gift of reading Mametspeak in a way that actually makes it sound natural rather than timed to a metronome. “What, he isn’t going to shoot me? Then he hadn’t ought to point a gun at me. It’s insincere.”

Allegedly, while studying at the Pasadena Playhouse, he and fellow actor Dustin Hoffman were declared “Least Likely To Succeed”. Indeed.


Yes - I had forgotten about that! That movie deserves (and probably has had) it’s own thread many times over.

And a movie to add to your list of otherwise unwatchable movies that Hackman elevates to watchability: Behind Enemy Lines.

Sure, the film reduces the complexities of the war in the Balkans to an Adidas track suit commercial, but as soon as Hackman starts delivering his string of “Let’s go get our boy” speeches on the deck of the aircraft carrier, I’m all aboard.

Agreed, Hackman is one of the best actors ever. I don’t think he has given anything but a stellar performance. And I include his portrayal of Lex Luthor in that. There’s a great line in the movie when Lex is in his Grand Central lair waiting for the return of his idiot hencman, payed by Ned Beaty. Beaty, unbeknownst to him, is being followed, leading them right to the lair as he licks an ice cxream cone. Of course, Luthor is watching this on camera and delivers a line something like: “It’s amazing that that tiny brian can operate those stubby little legs.”

Gene Hackman is beyond great!

A lot of actors could have looked great in The French Connection or The Conversation or Night Moves or Reds or Unforgiven. But it takes a great actor to look great in The Poseidon Adventure or Uncommon Valor or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace or The Birdcage or Welcome to Mooseport.

Let’s not forget BAT-21, where Hackman was on the other side of the downed-officer-behind-enemy-lines formula.

Or Crimson Tide.

Otisburg? Otis…burg? :smack: :smiley:
Actually, Superman ruined both Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando for me for years - I was only 7 or 8 when I saw it and I assumed Superman was why both of them were famous. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yup…love the Hack.

In the same way, love Christopher Walkin and (annnd damn what’s his name…) the guy who played the main bad guy in Waterworld…

Never saw either of those 3 in a role I didn’t really like.

Can’t remember the movie…but the seen where the last two had a scene together (where they ‘discuss’ why Sicilians have dark hair) is THE BEST!

Well he certainly has made a lot of great films over the years, but he is in the process of making his 24th movie since “Unforgiven” and to me only “Get Shorty” is a standout, though I liked “Twilight” and like Hackman in “Tannenbaums.” I applaud the choice of “Night Moves.” It is one of my favorites. No mention yet of “Hoosiers?” It is arguably the best sports themed movie ever and Gene was great.

Dennis Hopper

Let me guess. You’re under the age of 25.

Nope…just pre-alzheimer’s

You can add me to his list of admirers. If I saw him in anything before Bonnie and Clyde then I don’t remember it. I will also add my name to the list of those who felt his low points were in the blockbusters, but as has been said earlier, even in them he was way above average and doing professional acting.

He’s one of a fairly short list of mine who can always be counted on not to screw up a role. And one of those, like Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman who never appears to be doing much more than reading his lines and hitting his marks, but still persuading you that he is the character, not just playing him.

FWIW, it was also in Bonnie and Clyde that I first noticed Gene Wilder. There’s another breed of actor, too.

“Hey boy - what you doing to my Mama’s car?”

Bonnie and Clyde was the movie I came in to mention. He and Estelle Parsons were terrific.

That would be Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in True Romance

I once saw an interview in which Hackman said something to the effect of, he’s more afraid of unemployment than bad roles.

I believe that was his first role, so you noticed him right out of the gates.