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Gene Hackman      

Award-Winning Actor; Best Known for "The French Connection" and "Superman"

Gene Hackman dropped out of high school to join the Marines and then studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse Theatre. Hackman's breakout film was "Bonnie and Clyde," but he is most famous for his performance in "The French Connection" as Popeye Doyle and as Lex Luther in "Superman." An Academy Award-winning actor, Hackman played nearly every type of role imaginable, from politicians to super cops to military leaders to criminal masterminds.

As a teenager, Hackman's father abandoned the family. At 16, he dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Marine Corps. Hackman was discharged and decided he wanted to act. He studied at the Pasadena Playhouse Theatre in the 1950s. Dustin Hoffman was one of his fellow students.

Returning to New York, Hackman landed his first off-Broadway role in "Chaparral" in 1958. He landed his first film role in 1961's "Mad Dog Coll." He made his Broadway debut in the "Children From Their Games," which was quickly followed by a role in "A Rainy Day in Newark later" that year. Hackman was also part of the original cast of "Any Wednesday" with Sandy Dennis.

Hackman landed a supporting role in "Bonnie and Clyde" in 1967. The role brought Hackman a lot of critical attention and his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Three years, Hackman garnered another Best Supporting Actor nod from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for his work on "I Never Sang for My Father."

Hackman's career really took off after starring in "The French Connection." He played the ultimate tough cop, Detective Popeye Doyle, in this big box office hit thriller. For his work on the film, Hackman won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hackman then took on a variety of films, including "The Poseidon Adventure," "Scarecrow" and "The Conversation." Hackman returned as Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection II" in 1975.

Known for his dramatic roles, Hackman took a more comedic turn with his portrayal of super villain Lex Luthor in 1978's "Superman," which starred Christopher Reeve as the legendary man of steel. He reprised his role in two sequels: "Superman II" and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace." In his next effort, Hackman played a colonel who goes to Vietnam to find his son who went missing in action in "Uncommon Valor."

Hackman gave another stellar performance in the civil rights era drama "Mississippi Burning," and it earned him a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. Not long after this film, he had some health problems and underwent angioplasty after experiencing a near-heart attack.

Working with another impressive film talent, Clint Eastwood, Hackman netted an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for "Unforgiven." The film also won the award for Best Picture, and Eastwood won for Best Director. Taking on a different kind of morally questionable character, Hackman played Tom Cruise’s mentor in "The Firm," a film adaptation of a John Grisham novel.

In 2004, Hackman appeared in the light-hearted comedy "Welcome to Mooseport" in which he starred as a former president who battles a local in its mayoral elections.

While he may have stepped away from acting, Hackman has a thriving second career as a novelist. He has co-written three books with Daniel Lenihan: "Wake of the Perdido Star," "Justice for None" and "Escape from Andersonville: A Novel of the Civil War."

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