“I took it for all the wrong reasons”: the movie Gene Hackman made because he was “desperate for money”

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Actors can spend all the time they want talking about their love of the craft and desire to dig deep into character, but at the end of the day, those bills need to be paid. Gene Hackman was one of the best ever, and even he wasn’t beyond falling victim to the lure of the almighty dollar.

What’s strange, though, is that his paycheque gig came at a time when he was one of the industry’s premiere leading men, with his legacy well on its way to being secured. As often tends to be the case when thespians find themselves short of cash, it was the dissolution of a marriage that forced his hand.

By the mid-1980s, Hackman had an Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’ to his name and had partaken in a range of acclaimed and successful films including Bonnie and Clyde, The French Connection, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation, Young Frankenstein and Superman. However, his split from first wife Faye Maltese after nearly three decades together was far from cost-effective.

Ironically, the part that he copped to signing on for based on the promise of a hefty salary alone wasn’t even supposed to star him at all, with Hackman only boarding Hoosiers when Jack Nicholson was ruled out of the running. Not that his replacement was a willing and eager participant, with director David Anspaugh having issues with his star from “the first scene on the first day.”

Still, Hoosiers was a box office success that recouped its $6 million budget almost five times over in ticket sales, and is widely celebrated as one of Hollywood’s best-ever sports flicks. In an interview with GQ, Hackman admitted the entire experience “passed me by” because he was only in it for one thing.

“I took the film at a time that I was desperate for money. I took it for all the wrong reasons, and it turned out to be one of those films that stick around,” he said. “I was from that area of the country and knew of that event, strangely enough. We filmed 50 miles from where I was brought up. So it was a bizarre feeling. I never expected the film to have the kind of legs it’s had.”

In addition to being handsomely rewarded for his efforts at a time when the finest material was placed on the back burner in favour of the gigs that would burnish his bank balance the most, Hoosiers ended up becoming one of the most beloved entries in Hackman’s entire filmography.

Not that he could have cared less when he was there solely to cash that cheque, but at least with the passage of time he was able to appreciate the longevity it enjoyed.

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