Today, Gene Hackman became an octogenarian, believe it or not. I found some clips on Youtube of his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio. The episode is split into five parts, and unfortunately, part four is missing. But still, it's a good watch, well worth the time if you like Hackman. Despite his success and many accomplishments, he remains a truly humble human being. He comes across as personable, thoughtful, shy, and at times vulnerable.
Hackman may just be my favorite actor of all time. The guy has tremendous range and managed throughout his career to be both a huge box-office draw and a serious actor. He won the Oscar twice, the first time for bringing Popeye Doyle to life in The French Connection and the second time for his turn as Little Bill Daggett in Unforgiven. What's neat about these two roles is that they're almost the antithesis of each other. Popeye Doyle is the tough cop who bends the rules to see that justice is done; Daggett is a tough sheriff who adjusts the rules as he goes along to see that the status quo isn't upset.
He's given many great performances, but I think my favorite scene of his comes in French Connection II. (I tried to find it on Youtube, but couldn't.) The scene takes place within the tiny confines of some dingy cell in a French police building, and Hackman has just spent the last week or so tied to a bed and being forced to take heroin by "Frog One," the guy he's spent the last one-and-a-half movies hunting down with little success. In order to help the French police, and obviously himself, he has to get off the junk that he's become involuntarily addicted to, and what follows is a gut-wrenching, harrowing performance as Hackman goes completely cold turkey. It's so good it's painful to watch.
By the way, I think French Connection II is one of the finest sequels ever made. It's a taut police thriller with wonderful acting, great locations, some nice action set pieces, and it has one of the most satisfying endings ever put on film. I won't spoil it for you, but I will say this. The ending is brilliant because it plays against your expectations, as established by the ending of the first film.
As an added bonus, here's the car chase, the one that needs no introduction. I listened to a commentary once by William Friedkin, director of The French Connection, and he said that yes, that was Hackman behind the wheel of the car, doing about seventy under the El.
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