When it comes to naming the greatest actors to have ever graced the silver screen, a solid argument can be made in Gene Hackman‘s favor. Before his official retirement from the business in 2004, he’d built up an incredible body of work dating back decades and covering almost every imaginable genre.
His trophy cabinet includes two Academy Awards from five nominations, a pair of BAFTAs, four Golden Globes and much more, while his filmography is stacked to the brim with classics like Bonnie and Clyde, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, A Bridge Too Far, Christopher Reeve’s Superman franchise, Enemy of the State, The Royal Tenenbaums, Crimson Tide and Unforgiven.
One of Hackman’s very best is The French Connection, long since lauded as one of the finest movies ever made. This year marks the 50th anniversary of William Friedkin’s crime thriller, and the 91 year-old leading man gave his first interview in a decade to the NYPost to reflect on the legacy of Popeye Doyle’s bruising introduction to the masses.
“I haven’t seen the film since the first screening in a dark, tiny viewing room in a post-production company’s facility 50 years ago. If the film has a legacy, I am not sure what that would be. At the time, it seemed to me to be a reverent story of a cop who was simply able to solve and put a stop to a major crime family’s attempt to infiltrate the New York drug scene. The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that. I don’t know. If I could do [another movie] in my own house, maybe, without them disturbing anything and just one or two people.”
It’s interesting to note that Hackman didn’t rule out the idea of a brief comeback, so long as he could do it from the comfort of his own home. Technology has advanced to a point where that’s not out of the question, so the ears of many Hollywood executives may have just been pricked up by his comments.