Gene Hackman dreamed of fulfilling his mother's wish to see him on television. Although he was able to appear on television, his mother never got a chance to see him as she died before Hackman could get his big break. The actor grew up a shy boy whose self-esteem was too low due to his weight. Over time, he overcame his insecurities to become one of Hollywood's most successful actors. Although he retired nearly two decades ago, Gene Hackman's net worth is still far higher than those who are continuing their careers. Here's a look at how he achieved his wealth.
Love of Journalism Leads to Comedy
Hackman was born in California in 1930. His father was a pressman and his mother was a waitress. The family later moved to Illinois to live with Hackman's grandparents. Shortly after the actor entered his teens, his father left without a goodbye; all Hackman remembers is a wave as his father drove down the street. The actor no longer has to endure the corporal punishment he had grown accustomed to from his father. As a result, Hackman often got into trouble after his father left. According to The Independent, he once stole candy and soda, which landed him a night in jail. Hackman disrespected authority figures at Storm Lake High School. After a heated argument with his basketball coach, he dropped out of school to work in a steel mill. As his grandfather was a veteran, Hackman decided to follow the same path and so lied about his age to join the marines at 16. The strict discipline in the marines helped him tame it and he rose through the ranks to become a corporal.
He volunteered to be a broadcaster and disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Service, a job that allowed him to overcome stage fright since he viewed broadcasting as a performance. Funny enough, his audience was mostly Chinese, who barely understood what he was saying. Fate intervened when his battalion was supposed to leave for Korea, but Hackman was involved in a motorcycle accident the night before the scheduled departure. The injuries rendered him unfit for active duty, and after serving in the Marines for four and a half years, Hackman was discharged as an injured veteran, entitled to $150 a month. He then studied journalism and commercial drawing at the University of Illinois but dropped out after six months to pursue a career in radio. After graduating from the School of Radio Technique in Manhattan, Hackman got a job as an assistant director and television manager. The passion for his work died, prompting him to try acting.
Doing it big in Hollywood
According to Film Comment, Hackman went to California to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse of Theater Arts. The actor once said that watching Marlon Brando in "The Men" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" inspired him to become an actor. He considered himself an ordinary man and believed that even though Hollywood preferred much younger and more handsome men, he could still land certain roles. In Pasadena, he met Dusty Hoffman, who became his only friend in a classroom full of students much younger than him. Their classmates elected the two "least likely to succeed" friends. Perhaps the students thought their prediction had come true because Pasadena expelled Hackman when he scored the lowest score ever at the Playhouse. Hackman and his wife, Faye, moved back to New York, with Faye taking on the role of breadwinner since the aspiring actor preferred short-term jobs to have time to attend auditions. Some of the jobs he held included selling women's shoes, selling sodas, and relief foreman.
He even waxed leather furniture in the Chrysler Building and worked as a doorman. The light at the end of his tunnel appeared when Hackman made his film debut in the summer stock as an unpaid intern. He had built sets for a theatrical production and the director, Ulu Grosbard, chose him to play the role of a strong Italian worker. The actor then studied method acting for eight years under George Morrison while continuing to do odd jobs. His determination to prove the naysayers wrong helped him make his television debut in 1959 on an episode of "The United States Steel Hour." It then landed on Broadway in 1964 and later Hackman booked a film role in "Lilith." In 1967, he was cast in "Bonnie and Clyde," which earned him an Oscar nomination. At the time, he was expecting his first child with Faye and, according to Peter Shelley's book 'Gene Hackman: The Life and Work', the actor's earnings allowed them to move to a more decent apartment, which gave him cost $33 per month.
Earn millions by acting
For an actor who kept getting rejected and never gave up, Hackman quickly began to reap the rewards of his perseverance. He starred in films alongside some of Hollywood's biggest names, such as Tom Cruise and Owen Wilson. Apparently, Wilson pocketed $3 million in the 2001 film "Behind Enemy Lines," so Hackman could have received a similar amount. With over 50 films to his credit, he earned a substantial amount of money and retired in 2004 after filming "Welcome to Mooseport." However, the decision was prompted by his state of health. According to Empire, her doctor advised her not to stress out because her heart wouldn't take it. Fortunately, his fondness for journalism allowed him to embark on a career as a writer that turned out to be a therapeutic hobby. Hackman's net worth would have been much higher if he stuck to writing. He revealed he bought the rights to a best-selling novel in the 1980s, with the intention of adapting it for the screen. Unfortunately, after writing 300 pages of the script, he felt overwhelmed. He dropped out of the project, which turned out to be “The Silence of the Lambs,” grossing $273 million worldwide.
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