Gene Hackman at 81, now cast as novelist and regular good guy

Dave Masko's picture

SEAL ROCK, Ore. – In the first chapter of retired actor Gene Hackman’s new western novel “Payback at Morning Peak," a 17-year-old named Jubal, “finds his mother dead, shoots his dad in the head as he burns alive and tries in vain to save the life of his 14-year-old sister, who has been raped.”

In response to the opening lines for his new novel “Payback at Morning Peak” – a violent book that mirrors the violent characters Gene Hackman has portrayed in more than 70 movies – he told Time Magazine in its June 13 edition, that “I kind of maybe overdid it a bit, but it was fun trying to solve the dilemma.” In turn, Hackman, who retired from Hollywood films in 2004, admits that the Jubal, the protagonist for his western novel, is roughly the same age as he was when he joined the Marines. So for Hackman and film fans, he does seem to be the real deal – the same sort of guy that he was cast as in all those great movies that are still showing on TV.

“I left home when I was 16 because I was looking for adventure. There was something in the book (Payback at Morning Peak), certainly, about my young life in China, dealing with being one of the youngest people in my battalion in the marines. A lot of what I experienced as a young man I kind of exaggerated into what this young Jubal may have found himself doing,” explained Hackman during a recent Time Magazine interview.

Oregon local meets Hackman while shopping for a vase in New Mexico

Imagine running into “Poyeye” Doyle or “Lex” Luthor, the fictional super villain from the “Superman” movies, at a home décor shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I will tell you this, I’m now watching a lot more Gene Hackman flicks,” says Bonnie, a local Seal Rock, Oregon, retiree who recently vacationed down in Santa Fe.

“It’s where old movie stars must go to wait for God or something,” quips Bonnie. “One day I’m discussing colored turquoise vases with Gene Hackman, and the next I’m taking a double-take at Jane Fonda walking the street in Santa Fe."

In fact, both Hackman and Fonda own ranches in the Santa Fe area, states their Hollywood biographies. And, Hackman and his wife Betsy Arakawa now run what’s been dubbed as “an upscale retail home furnishing store in Santa Fe called Pandora’s, Inc.”

Aging Hackman still vital as ever. "A real person," says fan

“What I noticed – when looking into Gene’s eyes; he told me to call him Gene – is that Gene Hackman is just like us. He’s a real person,” adds Bonnie when discussing her recent run-in with the famed Hollywood actor down at his wife’s shop in Santa Fe.

Moreover, Hackman told Time Magazine recently that although he’s up in age, “I still have a bit of a wanderlust. We live in Santa Fe, N.M., and they do a lot films here, and I will see the wagons on the side of the roads sometimes, and I’d like to go talk to somebody, but I don’t. I did stop once when there was a young assistant director on a backstreet in Santa Fe, directing traffic. I pulled up next to her and asked her if they were hiring any extras. She said, ‘No, I’m very sorry, sir.’”

As for age, Hackman is now 81 and his friend Jane Fonda is 73. Both stars have told Time Magazine in recent interviews that “there’s a lot of vanity involved” in being an aging actor. For instance, Hackman told Time Magazine in its June 13 edition that “I don’t want to play great-grandfathers. And a lot of it is the stress of movie-making. You get a little older, and you don’t like to get up at 5:30 in the morning. And night work. I hate night work.”

Hackman quits acting, but carries on as the cool, calm and collected dude

It was back on July 7, 2004, that Hackman fans first heard the bad news that their favorite action star, and good guy/bad guy, announced his retirement from film making during a TV interview with Larry King on CNN.

Hackman is as tough as old boots, said his friend Clint Eastwood in a recent interview -- that also noted how "Gene being the best in the business" -- and Hackman's legacy as being one of the great movie stars of all time.

“What’s nice is to meet a real man, a real hero of so many great films, and find out that he’s a really nice man,” quips Bonnie who – two months after meeting Hackman – is still impressed with the man age 81.

Hackman called “an actor’s actor,” by colleagues in Hollywood

"Look son, being a good shot, being quick with a pistol, that don't do no harm, but it don't mean much next to being cool-headed. A man who will keep his head and not get rattled under fire, like as not, he'll kill ya. It ain't so easy to shoot a man anyhow, especially if the son-of-a-bitch is shootin' back at you,” said Hackman as “Little Bill Daggett” in his Oscar winning role in the “Unforgiven.”

Considered an “actor’s actor,” Hackman has earned all the major acting awards – to include two Oscars – for over 70 films, to include such favorites as: “Behind Enemy Lines,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Crimson Tide,” “Get Shorty,” “The Quick and the Dead,” “Unforgiven,” “Mississippi Burning,” “Hoosiers,” “Superman and Superman II and IV,” “The French Connection,” “Scarecrow,” “Downhill Racer,” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”

During a 2003 appearance at the Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood – when Hackman was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" – Hackman simply said that, as an actor and a man, “I’ve tried to do my best, because I owe that to my fans.”

As for watching his old films, Hackman told Time Magazine that “I’ll watch maybe five minutes of it, and I’ll get this icky feeling, and I turn the channel. Rather than being disappointed, I’ve always stayed away from watching my films unless I absolutely had to.”

Also, he doesn’t know where he put his two Oscars. “It’s true. I have a poster of Errol Flynn, but other than that, around the house we just kind of keep it civilian,” Hackman said.

Image source of Gene Hackman as the character Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle” in “The French Connection,” that earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor: Wikipedia


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I was trully sorry to hear Mr Hackman was retired, I always looked for his films, then I decided why not read some of his books, it was very hard to find them, I had to request it several times from our local Barnes & Noble, read payback and enjoyed the adventure.

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