For nearly five decades, Eugene Allen Hackman was a staple of American cinema. During that time, the San Bernardino-born actor won four Golden Globes, two BAFTAs, and two Academy Awards while starring in such great films as The French Connection, The Conversation, Hoosiers, Mississippi Burning, Unforgiven, Get Shorty, The Royal Tenenbaums, and many others.
Since the early 2000s, however, we haven’t seen or heard much from the accomplished actor and All-American tough guy. Why is that?
First and foremost, Hackman is retired—which explains why we haven’t seen much of the guy lately. His last role was in the sadly forgettable 2004 romantic comedy Welcome to Mooseport, in which he acted alongside sitcom star Ray Romano.
After the critical flop, Hackman called it quits, but he didn’t really make a big deal out of it. “I haven’t held a press conference to announce retirement,” he said in an interview with Reuters, “but yes, I’m not going to act any longer. I’ve been told not to say that over the last few years, in case some real wonderful part comes up, but I really don’t want to do it any longer.”
If you’ve seen Welcome to Mooseport, it’s not hard to understand why.
He’s a novelist
Just because Hackman retired from acting doesn’t mean he’s not working. In fact, he’s actually a pretty solid novelist and has penned quite a few works.
In 1999, Hackman teamed up with undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan to co-write three works of historical fiction. The first was Wake of the Perdido Star, about a 19th century adventure at sea. The pair followed that up with a Great Depression-era murder mystery titled Justice for None. Their most recent title is the Civil War-era prison breakout story Escape from Andersonville, but Hackman has also released two solo efforts: Old West revenge story Payback at Morning Peak and police thriller Pursuit.
These days, Hackman greatly prefers writing to acting. “I like the loneliness of it, actually,” he said to Reuters. “It’s similar in some ways to acting, but it’s more private, and I feel like I have more control over what I’m trying to say and do … I find it relaxing and comforting.”
He’s more interested in painting
In addition to writing novels, Hackman’s other artistic pursuits include painting—and he’s pretty darn good at it. The accomplished actor actually studied art at the Art Students League of New York as a young man and once mentioned on Inside the Actors Studio that he was painting to pay the bills before breaking through on the big screen. He’s been creating art ever since but rarely shows what he calls his “unshowable” work to the public. He has, however, donated some artwork to charitable causes.
He’s busy watching football
Aside from writing books and painting, Hackman’s got better things to do than act—like catching the occasional Jacksonville Jaguars game—and right from the sidelines, no less!
According to The Florida Times-Union, Hackman is good friends with ex-Jags coach Jack Del Rio since the former pro linebacker’s playing days at the University of Southern California. It pays to have friends in high places, and Hackman has scored sideline access to one of the NFL team’s games—against the wishes of Sun Devil Stadium security, who demanded Hackman be removed from the field for safety reasons. However, nobody tells an acting legend like Hackman what to do, and the Jaguars were happy to have him hang out until the final whistle.
When he’s not watching the Jags on Sunday, there’s a pretty decent chance you can catch Hackman watching the Florida Gators on Saturday.
He was hit by a car
While riding his bicycle in Islamorada, Florida, in January 2012, Hackman was hit by a Toyota Tundra pickup truck. The retired actor—who wasn’t wearing a helmet—sustained significant injuries after being thrown from his bike, and was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center.
Luckily, Hackman is tough as nails and didn’t stay in the hospital long. “Gene’s fine,” his publicist stated shortly after the accident. “Just a few bumps and bruises. He is already on his way home.” Still, getting hit by a car probably isn’t the best way to be coaxed out of retirement.
He’s not interested in playing grandfathers
There’s one pretty big reason why we’ll likely never ever see Hackman come out of retirement for another big-screen role: the aging actor simply isn’t interested in playing older characters. According to the website ContactMusic, “At my age,” he said, “they would have me playing grandfathers and great grandfathers. That’s not a heck of a lot of fun.” Nobody puts Hackman in a box.
But that’s not the only thing putting Hackman off from acting …
He doesn’t miss the “crapola”
Perhaps the main reason we’ll never see Hackman come out of retirement is that he really doesn’t miss all of the behind-the-scenes nonsense that comes with the job. “I don’t miss the business,” he once explained. “I miss the process of being on-set with actors when things get cooking. But there’s so much crapola in order to get there. It’s just too painful.”
When you’ve accomplished all that Hackman has, there’s really no reason to take anyone else’s “crapola.”
He narrated an important WWII documentary
Although Hackman doesn’t lend his physical presence to the screen anymore, he’s not afraid to lend his voice to worthwhile projects.
Hackman sort of came back from retirement to narrate 2016’s The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima, a one-hour documentary aiming to correct the misidentification of one soldier in Joe Rosenthal’s famous WWII photograph of flag raisers on Mount Suribachi. In the program, we learn that U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Harold Schultz had long been misidentified as Navy Corpsman John “Doc” Bradley—an understandable mistake, given that Bradley was actually part of a previous and altogether different flag raising in Iwo Jima.
Hackman’s voice is perfect for the project, and he himself dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to enlist in the Marine Corps, where he served as a field radio operator for four-and-a-half years. Oorah!
Will we ever see him act again?
Probably not. Hackman seems quite satisfied with the arc of his career, accomplishing everything there is to accomplish—with the awards and accolades to prove it.
Speaking of which, the disinterested actor cares so little at this point, he doesn’t even know where his awards are. “I don’t have any memorabilia around the house,” he explained in an interview with GQ. “There isn’t any movie stuff except a poster downstairs next to the pool table of Errol Flynn from Dawn Patrol. I’m not a sentimental guy.”
Still, there is one role that could possibly entice Hackman out of retirement. “I like Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo,” he explained, “having been able to keep that terrible vengeance in his soul for so many years and then carrying out what he thought were justified events in the end. I like that as a novel. As a human being, that’s not the healthiest thing.” Of course, Dantès first appears as a 19-year-old in Alexandre Dumas’ novel, so, y’know, don’t hold your breath.