In the golden era of Hollywood, few names shone as brightly as Gene Hackman. With a career spanning over four decades, Hackman’s chameleon-like ability to slip into any role made him one of the most versatile and respected actors of his generation.
From the gritty streets of “The French Connection” to the comedic corridors of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Hackman’s performances were nothing short of cinematic magic.
But as the years rolled on, this once-ubiquitous star seemed to fade from the limelight, leaving fans and film aficionados wondering: Whatever happened to Gene Hackman?
Off to War and Into Acting
When he was sixteen in the year 1946, Gene Hackman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a radio operator. With a love and desire to act since he was ten, Hackman jumped headfirst into it, joining a famous acting school Pasadena Playhouse while also befriending fellow actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall.
While looking into Gene Hackman to write this, I discovered we had something in common- living and working harder out of spite. Constantly put down by his acting teachers, military officers, and others who would call him a loser and repeatedly tell him he wouldn’t amount to anything. Damn, people are really mean for no reason.
Safe to say at this point that Gene Hackman got the last laugh here, clawing his way to the top across off-broadway shows in NYC and small parts in sitcoms and commercials. Hackman scraped by along with friends Hoffman and Duvall, all three making their breakthrough into Hollywood around the same time.
Just Getting Started
Eventually making his way to the screen in small roles across various movies and shows before bagging a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Bonnie and Clyde in 1967. Gene Hackman had a name and clout now, even being offered the role of Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, and had no way to go but up.
He went pretty far up too. 1971 saw him win best Best Actor for The French Connection, which gained him worldwide fame, star power, and a ridiculous schedule for the next twenty years or so. Seriously, Gene Hackman did ten films in three years. Man’s a machine.
Success From the Spite
Not saying he didn’t have some stinkers in his career, though. The later Superman films with Christopher Reeve got pretty terrible. Then there was Antz, but that’s a whole other bag of… ants. It’s the good times that count though, right?
The success that followed over the next thirty years from Superman, The Birdcage, and The Royal Tenenbaums led him to legendary status, and also burnout.
Gene Hackman announced his retirement in the middle of 2004, citing that his health just couldn’t handle the schedules needed for filming.
While he has done a couple of voiceovers in documentaries since, there have been no other appearances in film or television.
He didn’t just sit around after retiring though, transitioning to being a novelist starting in 1999, Hackman released his second novel in 2004, with five total under his belt currently.
What is Gene Hackman Doing Now?
These days Gene Hackman and his wife Betsy Arakawa live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hackman has three grown children from his previous marriage to Faye Maltese, which ended in 1986. Gene Hackman and Betsy Arakawa, a classical pianist, have been married since 1991, and they made a few headlines over the years.
In 2012 Hackman made local Santa Fe news for smacking the hell out of a homeless man who allegedly threatened him and his wife. According to bystanders the man was threatening the couple and calling his wife multiple slurs. So he got bitch slapped by Lex Luthor. That’s one hell of a story to tell the grandkids.
Otherwise, he’s stayed quiet, just living out his days attending local events or riding his e-bikes around the various paths around Santa Fe. Occasionally he’ll release a behind-the-scenes photo for movie anniversaries, or just to assure people he’s not dead.
Yes, the ever-present danger for aging celebrities has come for Hackman many times in the past, with rumors of his death circulating nearly every year at this point, and the most recent being the end of January 2023, because why wouldn’t that happen at this point?
2023 is ruthless so far. Gene Hackman once again proved them false though, with reps confirming he is still, in fact, alive.
Gene Hackman is still clear that he doesn’t plan to act again, content to live out his days in peace with his wife.
At 93, and with so many awards and accolades, along with critical and fan praise enduring for his performances (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is just a gem), Gene Hackman won’t be forgotten any time soon.
So, let the man rest and have a good time in his golden years. He’s earned it.