Gene... God wants you on the screen
Lex Luthor .... errr, I mean Coach Dale ... strike that too ... Defense Secretary Brice maybe? No, it's Gene Hackman. And today's celebrity birthday boy -- still spritely at 77 -- worked many of his best roles in the 80s. Superman's intellectual nemesis, Hoosier's tough-minded basketball coach, No Way Out's morally challenged defense secretary and even the voice of God in the otherwise awful Two of a Kind.
A California native who joined the Marines at age 16, Hackman didn't get into the acting profession until he was 30. Befriending fellow struggling actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall, Hackman began his career on stage. But his Oscar-nominated performances in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), I Never Sang For My Father (1970) and The French Connection (1971) -- for which he won the best actor award -- cemented his star status on the big screen.
His success has brought some odd offers: Hackman was the first choice to play Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch and Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. Other roles he was considered for include: FDR in Pearl Harbor and McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next.
Hackman's career has seen a revival in recent years, with standout performances in The Royal Tenanbaums (2001), Behind Enemy Lines (2001) and Runaway Jury (2003). However, in a 2004 interview with Larry King, Hackman said he believed his career was pretty much finished. That would indeed be a tragedy.
TOP 5 GENE HACKMAN MOVIES OF THE 80s:
5. Uncommon Valor (1983): "If we meet again, we'll smile. If not, we'll know that this parting was well made."
4. No Way Out (1987): "Order some breakfast! It's the most important meal of the day."
3. Mississippi Burning (1988): "Down here they say rattlesnakes don't commit suicide."
2. Superman II (1980): "Kill me? Lex Luthor? Extinguish the greatest criminal flame of our age?"
1. Hoosiers (1986): "Strap, God wants you on the floor."
Also worth seeing: Power, Bat 21, Reds.
Outside the 80s: The French Connection, Loose Cannons, The Firm, Get Shorty