Hackman, Gene 1

Gene: An overlooked classic?

From the June 29, 1981, Deseret News

NIAGRA FALLS, Canada – Gene Hackman hadn't made a movie in three years. And when he went back on the set last fall he wanted a comeback film he could be proud of, one that would attract an audience and bring him some more good scripts.

"Superman II" may do that for him but it wasn't the comeback film he shot last fall. In fact, all of his footage for the super sequel was filmed four years ago during the making of the original "Superman."

But when "All Night Long" was released last March it was hardly the hit he had hoped for. Though Hackman's performance received good reviews there was no chemistry with co-star Barbra Streisand and the film flopped at the box-office.

" ‘All Night Long' didn't work commercially," Hackman told entertainment writers from around the country during a press junket to promote "Superman II."

To fully understand why "All Night Long" didn't work on the screen, however, the history of the film must be explained, he said. "Lisa Eichhorn, who was in ‘Yanks,' was in it with me first, then Barbra came along later and we had to reshoot. She's (Streisand) the kind of actress who needs a project written for her, I think. It was hard for her to step into this type of role."

Hackman also has a cameo appearance in Warren Beatty's "Reds," which stars Beatty, Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. That film, which has had many production problems, is now scheduled for Christmas release this year.

Hackman, who won an Oscar for "The French Connection," said he went into a quasi-retirement because he was disappointed in some of his own films during the 1970s. "There were three or four of the 10 to 12 films I'd done in 10 years that I was not very proud of," he said, citing specifically "March or Die." "That's one I regret having made, it wasn't terribly good. But then I always find something about my work I think I should have done better."

He would like to do more light comedy, he said. That was one reason for selecting "All Night Long," and that's what he liked about his role in "Superman" and "Superman II" as Lex Luthor. "I've done some violent films but I tend not to want to do those anymore."

As he sat at the roundtable, surrounded by 10 members of the print media, Hackman was told he had stolen the show in "Superman II." "Now," he said wryly, "if I could only steal the profits."

Unassuming and candid, Hackman said he normally doesn't do the rounds of interviews the studios would like for film publicity but consented to do so now because he likes the picture. "The Luthor role was a very different role for me. I hadn't played that broad a role before.

"I wasn't a Superman fan when I was a kid but I liked this part. I also got involved because Brando was involved, but, of course, I didn't get to work with him."

Hackman said he has no projects coming up, no scripts he has accepted or pictures he has committed himself to. "I have enough money now so it's not to my advantage to become a one-note screen character, to take whatever comes along. When I find a script I like, I'll do it, but I'm content. My wife and I renovate houses, and I fly, and I paint. I paint just for myself; I'm strictly a Sunday painter.

"And I read a lot of novels, a lot of junk, then I tell people that I read them because I'm looking for movies. I read best-sellers."

He said he would also like to direct a film but he doesn't particularly want to direct himself. "Of course, I might have to just to get such a project off the ground but I may be a second lead or something."

Besides light comedy, he is interested in stories of intrigue. "Not necessarily international intrigue, but any kind of intrigue." Then he leaned forward, adding "Do you have a script? Send it to me!"

In the interview situation, Hackman exhibited the same off-handed humor he displays in "Superman II," and said he considers himself slightly neurotic. "I have a sense of comedy, and the best comedy people are neurotic people."

Despite his Oscar for a hard-hitting action picture, his best work from his own viewpoint is more low-key. His favorite of his own films is Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation"; his favorite of his own performances is "Scarecrow." Neither film made much money but critics often sight both of them as overlooked classics.

Hackman himself may be something of an overlooked classic in Hollywood now but if there's any actor we ought to be getting back up there on the screen – it's Gene Hackman. How about "Superman III?"

He smiles, pauses a moment, then he says, "Oh, I don't know. It would really depend on what the script was. I'd really rather not; I've done two. But I'm not going to close the door on it."