Gene Hackman hasn’t been seen since the 2004 Ray Romano comedy Welcome to Mooseport, and for a good reason: He’s happily retired. Nowadays the legendary actor with two Oscars to his name is an avid bicyclist, keeping himself athletic even at the age of 91. He also rarely does interviews, but he made an exception for The New York Post, in a piece celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of his most enduring classics…which he’s only seen once, half a century ago.
Hackman was speaking, of course, of The French Connection, the 1971 docudrama-thriller, in which he won his first Academy Award as a rule-breaking (some would say reckless) NYPD detective. The actor wasn’t down on the film, but he didn’t seem all that excited either, saying simply, “I do choose to consider that film a moment in a checkered career of hits and misses.” He added, modestly, “The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that.”
The actor wasn’t even too impressed with the film’s centerpiece: the unbearably intense, gritty chase, in which his sorta-hero pursues a commandeered elevated subway train by car through Brooklyn. “As for the car chase, there was a better one filmed a few years earlier with Steve McQueen,” Hackman said, alluding to the one in 1968’s game-changing Bullitt.
In any case, Hackman’s going off some no doubt fuzzy memories. “[I] haven’t seen the film since the first screening in a dark, tiny viewing room in a post-production company’s facility 50 years ago,” he said, adding that “if the film has a legacy, I am not sure what that would be. At the time, it seemed to me to be a reverent story of a cop who was simply able to solve and put a stop to a major crime family’s attempt to infiltrate the New York drug scene.”
Should Hackman feel like revisiting The French Connection — the third highest-grossing film of 1971, and which won Best Picture and four other trophies — he’ll either have to have a Showtime add-on on Hulu or pay for it on Amazon Prime. Of ask someone for a copy, because he is Gene Hackman.
(Via NY Post)