A child of a broken home, Hackman left home at 16 for a 3 year hitch with the Marines. Moving to New York after being discharged, Hackman worked in a number of menial jobs before studying journalism and Television production on the G.I. Bill at the University of Illinois. Hackman would be over 30 years old when he finally decided to take his chance at acting by enrolling at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. Legend says that Hackman and Dustin Hoffman were voted "least likely to succeed". Hackman next moved back to New York where he worked in summer stock and off Broadway. In 1964, he was cast as the young suitor in the Broadway stage play "Any Wednesday". This role would lead to him being cast in the small role of Norman in the film Lilith (1964) starring Warren Beatty. When Warren was casting for his film Bonnie and Clyde (1967), he would cast Hackman as Buck Barrow. Hackman would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, an award for which he would again be nominated in I Never Sang for My Father (1970).
In 1972, he would win the Oscar for his role as Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle in 'The French Connection'. At 40 years old, Hackman was a Hollywood Star whose work would rise to the heights with Night Moves (1975) and Bite the Bullet (1975) or fall to the depths with Poseidon Adventure, The (1972) and Eureka (1983). Hackman is a versatile star who can play the Blind man in the comedy Young Frankenstein (1974) to the evil Lex Luthor in Superman (1978). He is the doctor who puts his work above people in Extreme Measures (1996) and the Captain on the edge of nuclear destruction in Crimson Tide (1995). After turning down the role of Little Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood's film Unforgiven (1992), Hackman finally accepted the role as it was a different slant on the Western that interested him. For his performance, he would win the Oscar and Golden Globe and decide that he was not tired of Westerns after all. He has since appeared in Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), Wyatt Earp (1994) and Quick and the Dead, The (1995).