Gene Hackman has certainly had the lead in enough films to richly deserve being described as a leading man. And yet, when I think of the roles he’s played, he almost seems to be the most talented character actor in Hollywood history. Actually, he’s both.
One of his first roles came in Bonnie and Clyde, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1967. Here are some of his “leading man” roles: “Popeye” Doyle in The French Connection (1971), Harry Caul in The Conversation (1974), Coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers (1986), and Agent Rupert Anderson in Mississippi Burning (Academy Award – 1988).
Now look at some of his character actor parts: Lex Luthor in Superman (1978), Rev. Frank Scott in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Little Bill Daggett in Unforgiven (Academy Award – 1992), Harry Zimm in Get Shorty (1995), and Royal Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
Of course, these are just the highlights of a busy and illustrious career. He’s appeared in some 80 films altogether. He once said on Inside the Actors Studio that two of the most important factors in deciding on which films he will work on are the script and the money. I certainly hope we haven’t enjoyed his talented presence for the last time; however he hasn’t appeared in a movie since 2004…