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Gene Hackman, 91, Just Gave a Rare Interview Since Leaving Hollywood

The Oscar winner has been retired from acting for 17 years.

While there are stars in their 90s who say they have no plans to retire, other actors have been more than happy to step away from the business to enjoy their later years. In 2004, Gene Hackman retired from acting at age 74, following a career that spanned more than 40 years. The star had a good reason for throwing in the towel since it was related to his health, and he went on to spend his time devoted to another pursuit. Read on to see what he had to say in a recent, rare interview and to learn more about 91-year-old Hackman's decision to stop acting for good.

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Hackman's career included many acclaimed films.

"The French Connection" producer Philip D'Antoni, Gene Hackman, and Jane Fonda with their Oscars at the 1972 Academy Awards
Bettmann / Getty Images

During his career, Hackman starred in many films that are classics today. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1971 film The French Connection and the award for Best Supporting Actor for 1992's Unforgiven. He also appeared in the films Bonnie and Clyde, Mississippi Burning, the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Hoosiers, and The Royal Tenenbaums. His last movie was 2004's Welcome to Mooseport.

Hackman retired because of his health.

Gene Hackman at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2000
Featureflash Photo Agency /

Hackman didn't retire because he was sick of acting but because it would be better for his health. In a 2009 interview with Empire, Hackman shared, "The straw that broke the camel's back was actually a stress test that I took in New York. The doctor advised me that my heart wasn't in the kind of shape that I should be putting it under any stress." He told the magazine that after retirement, he spends his time fishing, painting, and watching "DVDs that my wife rents." He added, "We like simple stories that some of the little low-budget films manage to produce."

Hackman and his wife, pianist Betsy Arakawa, have been married since 1991 and live in New Mexico. The actor has three children from his first marriage to Faye Maltese.

He also continued with his second career.

Betsy Arakawa and Gene Hackman at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency /

In addition to being an actor, Hackman is a novelist. He has co-written three books with Daniel Lenihan and written two on his own. Hackman and Lenihan's first book, Wake of the Perdido Star, was published in 1999 when Hackman was still acting. The other four books were released after retirement. His latest, Pursuit, hit shelves in 2013.

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He recently gave a rare interview.

Gene Hackman in 2001
Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock

Since leaving Hollywood, Hackman doesn't make appearances or give interviews often, but there have been some instances. In 2019, he signed autographs for fans via Official Pix, and the company posted photos of him on Facebook.

And, in early October of this year, Hackman spoke to the New York Post about the 50th anniversary of The French Connection, which was released on Oct. 7, 1971. The interview primarily focused on the famous car chase scene from the film, which director William Friedkin spoke about in-depth. "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," Hackman said. "The film certainly helped me in my career, and I am grateful for that."

He also said of the movie, "Filmmaking has always been risky—both physically and emotionally—but I do choose to consider that film a moment in a checkered career of hits and misses."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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