The Real Reason Gene Hackman Doesn’t Act Anymore
Why Gene Hackman Retired From Acting
The Royal Tenenbaums’ Gene Hackman retired from acting after his final film Welcome to Mooseport in 2004, but he had a good reason for his decision.
Fans of The French Connection (1971) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) have long been wondering why Gene Hackman retired from acting. More accurately, they’ve been wondering for 17 years, since the release of his last feature film Welcome to Mooseport in 2004. To say a void has been left by Hackman’s absence would be an understatement; the legendary 91-year-old actor’s career spans over six decades, earning him two Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and two BAFTAs. In his wake remain essential classics like Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Conversation (1974), and Superman: The Movie (1978), featuring Hackman in his unforgettable role as arch-villain Lex Luthor.
In August 2021, a picture of a smiling Hackman surfaced on Twitter, shared by film historian James L. Neibaur. The caption reads that, living in New Mexico at 91, the prolific actor “goes bike riding every day and remains active and engaged with hobbies, and friends.” Newsweek ran a Google reverse image search on the picture, revealing the image was originally posted on Facebook in May 2019. However, the fact remains that, even after retirement, Hackman is a force to be reckoned with.
Due to the poor performance of his final film (Mooseport only took in $14.6 million at the box office), fans often speculated that Hackman’s retirement involved fatigue with the film industry overall. However, in a 2009 interview with Empire, Hackman clarified his reasoning: “The straw that broke the camel’s back was actually a stress test that I took in New York.” He continued, saying, “The doctor advised me that my heart wasn’t in the kind of shape that I should be putting it under any stress.” Considering Hackman’s age at retirement (74), this was par for the course. Sean Connery also retired roughly around the same time and age, after finishing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).
To be clear, Hackman only retired from acting. Following the 1999 publication of his historical fiction novel Wake of the Perdido Star, Hackman has continued his writing career – or, rather, his co-writing career with undersea archeologist Daniel Lenihan – during his retirement, publishing the courtroom drama Justice for None in 2004 and the Civil War novel Escape from Andersonville in 2008. Throughout the 2010s, Hackman wrote solo, publishing two more novels: a Western in 2011 and a police thriller in 2013. He also briefly broke his retirement from performing to narrate two documentaries due to his prior service as a United States Marine, The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima (2016) and We, The Marines (2017).
While Hackman has moved on from Hollywood, his fans, both new and old, certainly haven’t moved on from Hackman. With several book titles to his name, what’s yet to be seen is whether or not any of his novels will be adapted to the screen. Granted, it’s unlikely Hackman, the legend himself, will star in any of these hypothetical movie adaptations. But, all the same, even at 91, Gene Hackman continues to give his fans something to look forward to.