Gene Hackman

Eugene Allen Hackman[1][2][3] (born January 30, 1930) is an American retired actor, novelist, and United States Marine. In a career that has spanned more than six decades, Hackman has won two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, one Screen Actors Guild Award, and two BAFTAs.

Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman - 1972.jpg
Hackman in 1972
Eugene Allen Hackman

(1930-01-30) January 30, 1930 (age 91)
OccupationActor, novelist
Years active1956–2004, 2016–2017 (actor)
1999–2013 (novelist)
  • Faye Maltese
    (m. 1956; div. 1986)
  • Betsy Arakawa
    (m. 1991)
AwardsFull list
Military career
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps

Nominated for five Academy Awards, Hackman won Best Actor for his role as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in the critically acclaimed thriller The French Connection (1971) and Best Supporting Actor as "Little" Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood's Western film Unforgiven (1992). His other nominations for Best Supporting Actor came with the films Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970), with a second Best Actor nomination for Mississippi Burning (1988).

Hackman's other major film roles included The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Conversation (1974), French Connection II (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Superman: The Movie (1978)—as arch-villain Lex Luthor, Hoosiers (1986), No Way Out (1987), Bat*21 (1988), The Firm (1993), The Quick and the Dead (1995), Get Shorty (1995), Crimson Tide (1995), Enemy of the State (1998), Antz (1998), The Replacements (2000), Behind Enemy Lines (2001), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), and Welcome to Mooseport (2004)—his final film role before retirement.

Early life and educationEdit

Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, the son of Eugene Ezra Hackman and Anna Lyda Elizabeth (née Gray).[4][5] He has one brother, Richard. He has Pennsylvania Dutch, English, and Scottish ancestry; his mother was Canadian, and was born in Lambton, Ontario.[6][7] His family moved frequently, finally settling in Danville, Illinois, where they lived in the house of his English-born maternal grandmother, Beatrice.[6][8] Hackman's father operated the printing press for the Commercial-News, a local paper.[9] His parents divorced when he was 13 and his father subsequently left the family.[8][9] Hackman decided that he wanted to become an actor when he was ten years old.[10]

Hackman lived briefly in Storm Lake, Iowa, and spent his sophomore year at Storm Lake High School.[11] He left home at age 16 and lied about his age to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He served four and a half years as a field radio operator.[12] He was stationed in China (Qingdao and later in Shanghai). When the Communist Revolution conquered the mainland in 1949, Hackman was assigned to Hawaii and Japan. Following his discharge in 1951,[13] he moved to New York City and had several jobs.[12] His mother died in 1962 as a result of a fire she accidentally started while smoking.[14] He began a study of journalism and television production at the University of Illinois under the G.I. Bill, but left and moved back to California.[15]

Acting was something I wanted to do since I was 10 and saw my first movie, I was so captured by the action guys. Jimmy Cagney was my favorite. Without realizing it, I could see he had tremendous timing and vitality.

Gene Hackman[10]


Beginnings to the 1960sEdit

In 1956, Hackman began pursuing an acting career. He joined the Pasadena Playhouse in California,[12] where he befriended another aspiring actor, Dustin Hoffman.[12] Already seen as outsiders by their classmates, Hackman and Hoffman were voted "The Least Likely To Succeed",[12] and Hackman got the lowest score the Pasadena Playhouse had yet given.[16] Determined to prove them wrong, Hackman moved to New York City. A 2004 article in Vanity Fair described Hackman, Hoffman and Robert Duvall as struggling California-born actors and close friends, sharing NYC apartments in various two-person combinations in the 1960s.[17][18] To support himself between acting jobs, Hackman was working at a Howard Johnson restaurant[19] when he encountered an instructor from the Pasadena Playhouse, who said that his job proved that Hackman "wouldn't amount to anything".[20] A Marine officer who saw him as a doorman said "Hackman, you're a sorry son of a bitch". Rejection motivated Hackman, who said,[19]

It was more psychological warfare, because I wasn't going to let those fuckers get me down. I insisted with myself that I would continue to do whatever it took to get a job. It was like me against them, and in some way, unfortunately, I still feel that way. But I think if you’re really interested in acting there is a part of you that relishes the struggle. It’s a narcotic in the way that you are trained to do this work and nobody will let you do it, so you’re a little bit nuts. You lie to people, you cheat, you do whatever it takes to get an audition, get a job.

Hackman got various bit roles, for example on the TV series Route 66 in 1963, and began performing in several Off-Broadway plays. In 1964 he had an offer to co-star in the play Any Wednesday with actress Sandy Dennis. This opened the door to film work. His first role was in Lilith, with Jean Seberg and Warren Beatty in the leading roles. In 1966 he played a small part as Dr. John Whipple in the epic film Hawaii. In 1967 he appeared in an episode of the television series The Invaders entitled "The Spores". Another supporting role, Buck Barrow in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde,[12] earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. In 1968 he appeared in an episode of I Spy, in the role of "Hunter", in the episode "Happy Birthday... Everybody". That same year he starred in the CBS Playhouse episode "My Father and My Mother" and the dystopian television film Shadow on the Land.[21] In 1969 he played a ski coach in Downhill Racer and an astronaut in Marooned. Also that year, he played a member of a barnstorming skydiving team that entertained mostly at county fairs, a movie which also inspired many to pursue skydiving and has a cult-like status amongst skydivers as a result: The Gypsy Moths. He nearly accepted the role of Mike Brady for the TV series The Brady Bunch,[22] but his agent advised that he decline it in exchange for a more promising role, which he did.


Hackman was nominated for a second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in I Never Sang for My Father (1970). The next year, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as New York City Detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection (1971), marking his graduation to leading-man status.[12]

After The French Connection, Hackman starred in ten films (not including his cameo in Young Frankenstein) over the next three years, making him the most prolific actor in Hollywood during that time frame. He followed The French Connection with leading roles in the disaster film The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), which was nominated for several Oscars.[12] That same year, Hackman appeared, in what would become one of his most famous comedic roles, as Harold the Blind Man in Young Frankenstein.[23]

He appeared as one of Teddy Roosevelt's former Rough Riders in the Western horse-race saga Bite the Bullet (1975). He reprised his Oscar-winning role as Doyle in the sequel French Connection II (1975), and was part of an all-star cast in the war film A Bridge Too Far (1977), playing Polish General Stanisław Sosabowski. Hackman showed a talent for both comedy and the "slow burn" as criminal mastermind Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie (1978), a role he would reprise in its 1980 and 1987 sequels.


Hackman (right) with President Ronald Reagan in 1987

Gene is someone who is a very intuitive and instinctive actor...The brilliance of Gene Hackman is that he can look at a scene and he can cut through to what is necessary, and he does it with extraordinary economy—he's the quintessential movie actor. He's never showy ever, but he's always right on.

Alan Parker
director of Mississippi Burning (1988)[24]

Hackman alternated between leading and supporting roles during the 1980s, with prominent roles in Reds (1981)—directed by and starring Warren BeattyUnder Fire (1983), Hoosiers (1986) (which an American Film Institute poll in 2008 voted the fourth-greatest film of all time in the sports genre),[25] No Way Out (1987) and Mississippi Burning (1988), where he was nominated for a second Best Actor Oscar.[26] Between 1985 and 1988, he starred in nine films, making him the busiest actor, alongside Steve Guttenberg.[27]


Hackman appeared with Anne Archer in Narrow Margin (1990), a remake of the 1952 film The Narrow Margin. In 1992, he played the sadistic sheriff "Little" Bill Daggett in the Western Unforgiven directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples. Hackman had pledged to avoid violent roles, but Eastwood convinced him to take the part, which earned him a second Oscar, this time for Best Supporting Actor. The film also won Best Picture.[12]

In 1993, he appeared in Geronimo: An American Legend as Brigadier General George Crook, and co-starred with Tom Cruise as a corrupt lawyer in The Firm, a legal thriller based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. Hackman would appear in a second film based on a John Grisham novel, playing a convict on death row in The Chamber (1996).

Other notable films Hackman appeared in during the 1990s include Wyatt Earp (1994) (as Nicholas Porter Earp, Wyatt Earp's father), The Quick and the Dead (1995) opposite Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, and as submarine Captain Frank Ramsey alongside Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide (1995). Hackman played movie director Harry Zimm with John Travolta in the comedy-drama Get Shorty (1995). He reunited with Clint Eastwood in Absolute Power (1997), and co-starred with Will Smith in Enemy of the State (1998), his character reminiscent of the one he had portrayed in The Conversation.

In 1996, he took a comedic turn as conservative Senator Kevin Keeley in The Birdcage with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.[28]


Hackman co-starred with Owen Wilson in Behind Enemy Lines (2001), and appeared in the David Mamet crime thriller Heist (2001),[29] as an aging professional thief of considerable skill who is forced into one final job. He also gained much critical acclaim playing against type as the head of an eccentric family in Wes Anderson's comedy film The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), for which he received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. In 2003, he also starred in another John Grisham legal drama, Runaway Jury, at long last getting to make a picture with his long-time friend Dustin Hoffman. In 2004, Hackman appeared alongside Ray Romano in the comedy Welcome to Mooseport, his final film acting role to date.[30]

Hackman was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globe Awards for his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" in 2003.[31]

Retirement from actingEdit

On July 7, 2004, Hackman gave a rare interview to Larry King, where he announced that he had no future film projects lined up and believed his acting career was over. In 2008, while promoting his third novel, he confirmed that he had retired from acting.[32] When asked during a GQ interview in 2011 if he would ever come out of retirement to do one more film, he said he might consider it "if I could do it in my own house, maybe, without them disturbing anything and just one or two people."[33] He briefly came out of retirement to narrate two documentaries related to the Marine Corps: The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima (2016)[34] and We, The Marines (2017).[35]

Career as a novelistEdit

Hackman at a book signing in 2008

Together with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan, Hackman has written three historical fiction novels: Wake of the Perdido Star (1999),[36] a sea adventure of the 19th century; Justice for None (2004),[37] a Depression-era tale of murder; and Escape from Andersonville (2008) about a prison escape during the American Civil War.[38] His first solo effort, a story of love and revenge set in the Old West titled Payback at Morning Peak, was released in 2011.[39] A police thriller, Pursuit, followed in 2013.

In 2011, he appeared on the Fox Sports Radio show The Loose Cannons, where he discussed his career and his novels with Pat O'Brien, Steve Hartman, and Vic "The Brick" Jacobs.

Personal lifeEdit

Hackman's first marriage was to Faye Maltese.[40] They had three children: Christopher Allen, Elizabeth Jean, and Leslie Anne Hackman.[41] The couple divorced in 1986 after three decades of marriage.[42] In 1991 he married classical pianist Betsy Arakawa;[43] they have a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.[44]

In the late 1970s, Hackman competed in Sports Car Club of America races, driving an open-wheeled Formula Ford.[45][46] In 1983, he drove a Dan Gurney Team Toyota in the 24 Hours of Daytona Endurance Race.[47] He also won the Long Beach Grand Prix Celebrity Race.[48]

Hackman underwent an angioplasty in 1990.[49]

Hackman is a supporter of the Democratic Party, and was proud to be included on Nixon's Enemies List. However, he has spoken fondly of Republican president Ronald Reagan.[50]

He is an avid fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and regularly attended Jaguars games as a guest of then head coach Jack Del Rio.[51][52] Their friendship goes back to Del Rio's playing days at the University of Southern California.[53]

In January 2012, the then 81-year-old Hackman was riding a bicycle in the Florida Keys when he was struck by a car.[54] He made a full recovery, and was still an active bicyclist as of 2018, at the age of 88.[55]

Theatre creditsEdit



Year Title Role Notes
1961 Mad Dog Coll Policeman Uncredited
1964 Lilith Norman
1966 Hawaii John Whipple
1967 Banning Tommy Del Gaddo
Community Shelter Planning Donald Ross, Regional Civil Defense Officer
A Covenant with Death Harmsworth
First to Fight Sergeant Tweed
Bonnie and Clyde Buck Barrow Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1968 Shadow on the Land Reverend Thomas Davis Television Film - ABC
The Split Lieutenant Walter Brill
1969 Riot 'Red' Fraker
The Gypsy Moths Joe Browdy
Downhill Racer Eugene Claire
Marooned 'Buzz' Lloyd
1970 I Never Sang for My Father Gene Garrison Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1971 Doctors' Wives Dave Randolph
The Hunting Party Brandt Ruger
The French Connection NYPD Detective Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1972 Prime Cut Mary Ann
The Poseidon Adventure Reverend Frank Scott
Cisco Pike Sergeant Leo Holland
1973 Scarecrow Max Millan
1974 The Conversation Harry Caul National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
2nd Place – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Young Frankenstein Harold, The Blind Man
Zandy's Bride Zandy Allan
1975 French Connection II NYPD Detective Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle
Lucky Lady Kibby Womack
Night Moves Harry Moseby
Bite the Bullet Sam Clayton
1977 The Domino Principle Roy Tucker
A Bridge Too Far Major General Stanisław Sosabowski
March or Die Major William Sherman Foster
1978 Superman Lex Luthor
1980 Superman II
1981 All Night Long George Dupler 2nd Place – National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Reds Pete Van Wherry
1983 Under Fire Alex Grazier
Two of a Kind God (voice) Uncredited
Uncommon Valor Colonel Jason Rhodes, USMC (Ret.)
Eureka Jack McCann
1984 Misunderstood Ned Rawley
1985 Twice in a Lifetime Harry MacKenzie
Target Walter Lloyd / Duncan 'Duke' Potter
1986 Power Wilfred Buckley
Hoosiers Coach Norman Dale
1987 No Way Out Defense Secretary David Brice
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Lex Luthor
Nuclear Man (voice)
1988 Bat*21 Lieutenant Colonel Iceal Hambleton, USAF
Split Decisions Danny McGuinn
Another Woman Larry Lewis
Full Moon in Blue Water Floyd
Mississippi Burning FBI Special Agent Rupert Anderson National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated – New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1989 The Package Sergeant Johnny Gallagher
1990 Loose Cannons Detective MacArthur 'Mac' Stern
Postcards from the Edge Lowell Kolchek
Narrow Margin Robert Caulfield
1991 Class Action Jedediah Tucker Ward
Company Business Sam Boyd
1992 Unforgiven Sheriff Bill 'Little Bill' Daggett Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
1993 The Firm Avery Tolar
Geronimo: An American Legend Brigadier General George Crook
1994 Wyatt Earp Nicholas Earp
1995 The Quick and the Dead John Herod
Crimson Tide Captain Frank Ramsey
Get Shorty Harry Zimm
1996 The Birdcage Senator Kevin Keeley
Extreme Measures Dr. Lawrence Myrick
The Chamber Sam Cayhall
1997 Absolute Power President Allen Richmond
1998 Twilight Jack Ames
Antz General Mandible (voice)
Enemy of the State Edward 'Brill' Lyle
2000 Under Suspicion Henry Hearst Also executive producer
The Replacements Coach Jimmy McGinty
2001 The Mexican Arnold Margolese
Heartbreakers William B. Tensy
Heist Joe Moore
Behind Enemy Lines Admiral Leslie Reigart
The Royal Tenenbaums Royal Tenenbaum Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Nominated – Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
3rd Place – Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
2003 Runaway Jury Rankin Fitch
2004 Welcome to Mooseport Monroe 'Eagle' Cole Final film role
2006 Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut Lex Luthor re-edited director's cut of Superman II
2016 The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima Narrator (voice) TV documentary film
2017 We, the Marines


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Tallahassee 7000 Joe Lawson Episode: "The Fugitive"
1963 Route 66 Motorist Episode: "Who Will Cheer My Bonny Bride?"
1967 The FBI Herb Kenyon Episode: "The Courier"
The Invaders Tom Jessup Episode: "The Spores"


Asteroid 55397 Hackman, discovered by Roy Tucker in 2001, was named in his honor.[57] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on May 18, 2019 (M.P.C. 114954).[58]

Works or publicationsEdit

  • Hackman, Gene, and Daniel Lenihan. Wake of the Perdido Star. New York: Newmarket Press, 1999. ISBN 978-1-557-04398-6.
  • Hackman, Gene, and Daniel Lenihan. Justice for None. New York: St. Martins Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-312-32425-4.
  • Hackman, Gene, and Daniel Lenihan. Escape from Andersonville: A Novel of the Civil War. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-312-36373-4.
  • Hackman, Gene. Payback at Morning Peak: A Novel of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 2011. ISBN 978-1-451-62356-7.
  • Hackman, Gene. Pursuit. New York: Pocket Books, 2013. ISBN 978-1-451-62357-4.


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  20. ^ "VINTAGE MOVIES: "THE FRENCH CONNECTION"". Magnet. August 7, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
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  22. ^ "You'll never watch 'The Brady Bunch' the same way again after reading these 12 facts". Me TV. June 9, 2016. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  23. ^ "Weekend Top 10, Aug. 3, 2018". Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette. Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  24. ^ Gonthier, David F. and O'Brien, Timothy M. The Films of Alan Parker, 1976-2003, McFarland (2015) p. 167
  25. ^ "MAFFEI: 'Hoosiers' still a classic after 25 years". San Diego Union Tribune. San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  26. ^ "1989 Oscars". Oscars. Oscars. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  27. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (October 5, 1988). "Acting Jobs Steadiest Since Studio Era". Variety. p. 1.
  28. ^ "The Birdcage at 20". NY Daily News. NY Daily News. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  29. ^ "FILM REVIEW; Forget the Girl and Gold; Look for the Chemistry -". New York Times. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  30. ^ "Cameron Diaz and other celebs who have retired from stage and screen". AZ Central. AZ Central. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  31. ^ "Business Wire, November 14, 2002. Hollywood. 'Gene Hackman to Receive HFPA'S Cecil B. DeMille Award At 60th Annual Golden Globe Awards to be Telecast Live on NBC on Sunday, January 19, 2003'". November 14, 2002. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  32. ^ Blair, Iain (June 5, 2008). "Just a Minute With: Gene Hackman on his retirement". Reuters. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  33. ^ Hainey, Michael (June 1, 2011). "Eighty-one Years. Seventy-nine Movies. Two Oscars. Not One Bad Performance". GQ. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  34. ^ Smithsonian Sneak Peek: The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima, archived from the original on September 13, 2017, retrieved October 31, 2018
  35. ^ Barber, James (December 20, 2018). "'Marine for Life' Gene Hackman Narrates the Story of the USMC". Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  36. ^ "Hackman's, Bergen's talents shine on film, in books". Bouldercityreview. Bouldercityreview. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  37. ^ "Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima': Gene Hackman narrates". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
  38. ^ Blair, Ian (June 5, 2008). Tourtellotte, Bob; Reaney, Patricia (eds.). "Just a Minute With: Gene Hackman on his retirement". Reuters. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  39. ^ Daniel, Douglass K. (July 30, 2011). "'Payback at Morning Peak': Actor Gene Hackman revisits the West — as a writer". Seattle Times. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  40. ^ Ross, Shane (August 6, 2000). "The Gene genie works his magic off screen". Irish Independent. INM Website. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  41. ^ Brady, James (December 30, 2001). "In Step with Gene Hackman". Parade. The Blade. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
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  43. ^ Lidz, Franz. "Gene Hackman's new novel - AARP The Magazine". AARP. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  44. ^ "Police: Hackman knew homeless man he slapped in NM". The Associated Press, AP Regional State Report - New Mexico. November 1, 2012.
  45. ^ Finke, Nikki (March 13, 1998). "PLEASURES OF THE ROAD : TRACK STARS : Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Perry King and Lorenzo Lamas rap on racing". LA Times. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  46. ^ Siano, Joseph (October 23, 2002). "ON THE TRACK; Movie Stars as Racecar Drivers: What's Their Motivation?". The New York Times. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
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  48. ^ "Grand Prix of Long Beach 2016 Fan Guide" (PDF). Grand Prix of Long Beach. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
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  51. ^ Parziale, James (April 13, 2013). "Most famous fan of every NFL team". p. 15. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  52. ^ Parziale, James (October 20, 2016). "Most famous fan of every NFL team". Fox Sports. FOX. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  53. ^ BART HUBBUCHThe Times-Union (November 29, 2005). "JAGUARS NOTEBOOK: Chatter angers Cardinals". Archived from the original on January 4, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2018.
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External linksEdit

Preceded by
George C. Scott
Declined Oscar
Academy Award for Best Actor
Succeeded by
Marlon Brando
Declined Oscar
Preceded by Actors portraying Lex Luthor
for Superman, Superman II and Superman IV
Succeeded by