Gene Hackman is an American actor. Known for his roles in Bonnie and Clyde, Mississippi Burning, The French Connection, The Conversation, and Unforgiven, Hackman was nominated for four Academy Awards and three Golden Globes. He won one Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in The French Connection. Though he had many notable performances throughout his career, Hackman remains most famous for his role as the antagonist Frank Costello in Francis Ford Coppola’s crime film The Godfather: Part II.

Gene Hackman’s Early Life

Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman was born in San Francisco, California, on January 30, 1930 to Adele Elizabeth (née Hocktol) and John Alexander Hackman. He is the youngest of five children with two sisters and two brothers. Hackman has said that his mother’s ambition was for him to become a Catholic priest.

Hackman attended San Rafael Military Academy in high school before attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he studied engineering for two years before dropping out to become an actor.

Gene Hackman’s Career

Gene Hackman’s career started in New York City. He began acting in the 1950s, appearing in a number of Broadway plays before making his film debut in 1959. A prolific actor, he has appeared in over 140 films and many TV shows. His first prominent role was as the lead detective Jimmy Doyle in The French Connection (1971), for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In 1975, Gene Hackman won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Frank Costello in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II. 

In 1997, Hackman received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; he is one of only two living actors with stars on both the Hollywood and Vine Sts. 

As of 2007, Hackman has played roles in five different decades: 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. In 2009, Gene Hackman released his autobiography titled “Hollywood Hack”.

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Gene Hackman’s Family

Gene Hackman was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Gladys “Gladys I” (née Parsons) and Eugene Ezra Hackman. His father, an American World War II veteran and businessman, abandoned the family months before Hackman’s birth. 

Hackman’s mother was unmarried at the time of his birth. A few years later, Gladys married Richard Arthur Lewis. Gene Hackman has said that he did not know until late in life that Lewis was not his biological father, but a friend of his family who helped raise him after the death of his own son.

8 Interesting Facts About Gene Hackman

1. Gene Hackman was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Jessie (née Johnson), a homemaker, and John Clyde Hackman, a distiller of beer and liquor store owner.

2. Hackman attended San Antonio’s Sam Houston High School.

3. Hackman enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin with the intention of studying law but did not graduate because he found acting more interesting.

4. In 1968, he was drafted into military service during the Vietnam War as an Army private and assigned to provide security for VIPs in Vietnam before being honorably discharged due to his father’s high rank as a retired Marine Corps colonel.

5. After attending Yale University on scholarship in 1969, Hackman made his acting debut on the New York stage with Viva Max! He later appeared in plays staged by William Hickey at Yale while studying acting at night under Hickey’s tutelage.

6. In 1971, he borrowed $20,000 from his father to fund his first film, Harold and Maude which went on to win him critical acclaim and a cult following over the years. 

7. Woody Allen famously called him “the best actor we’ve got” after watching him in Annie Hall (1977). 

8. His role as Frank Costello in Francis Ford Coppola’s crime film The Godfather: Part II earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor plus one Golden Globe award and another nomination for Screen.


Gene Hackman is one of the most successful actors of all time. With a career that spanned four decades, he has received many accolades and awards. Here are 10 interesting facts about this American actor and icon.