I was trained to be an actor, not a star. I was trained to play roles, not to deal with fame and agents and lawyers and the press.
(on aging) It really costs me a lot emotionally to watch myself on-screen. I think of myself, and feel like I'm quite young, and then I look at this old man with the baggy chins and the tired eyes and the receding hairline and all that.
(Dustin Hoffman on he and Hackman as young stage actors and roommates in New York) Psychologically, Gene/myself, we did not think about making it in the terms that people think about. We fully expected to be failures for our entire life. Meaning that we would always be scrambling to get a part. We were actors. We had no pretensions. There was more dignity in being unsuccessful.
(on accepting his Best Actor Oscar) I wish all five of us could be up here, I really do.
If I start to become a "star", I'll lose contact with the normal guys I play best.
I came to New York when I was 25, and I worked at Howard Johnson's in Times Square, where I did the door in this completely silly uniform. Before that, I had been a student at the Pasadena Playhouse, where I had been awarded the least-likely-to-succeed prize, along with my pal Dustin Hoffman, which was a big reason we set off for New York together. Out of nowhere, this teacher I totally despised at the Pasadena Playhouse suddenly walked by HoJo's and came right up into my face and shouted, "See, Hackman, I told you that you would never amount to anything!" I felt one inch tall.
(on seeing Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and becoming determined to be an actor) He made it seem something natural.
I wanted to act, but I'd always been convinced that actors had to be handsome. That came from the days when Errol Flynn was my idol. I'd come out of a theater and be startled when I looked in a mirror because I didn't look like Flynn. I felt like him.
I suppose I wanted to be an actor from the time I was about 10, maybe even younger than that. Recollections of early movies that I had seen and actors that I admired like James Cagney, Errol Flynn, those kind of romantic action guys. When I saw those actors, I felt I could do that. But I was in New York for about eight years before I had a job. I sold ladies shoes, polished leather furniture, drove a truck. I think that if you have it in you and you want it bad enough, you can do it.
The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways.
Dysfunctional families have sired a number of pretty good actors.
People in the street still call me Popeye, and The French Connection (1971) was 15 years ago. I wish I could have a new hit and another nickname.
When you're on top, you get a sense of immortality. You feel you can do no wrong, that it will always be good no matter what the role. Well, in truth, that feeling is death. You must be honest with yourself.
I haven't held a press conference to announce retirement, but yes, I'm not going to act any longer. I've been told not to say that over the last few years, in case some real wonderful part comes up, but I really don't want to do it any longer ... I miss the actual acting part of it, as it's what I did for almost sixty years, and I really loved that. But the business for me is very stressful. The compromises that you have to make in films are just part of the beast, and it had gotten to a point where I just didn't feel like I wanted to do it anymore.
Was the first choice to play Mike Brady on "The Brady Bunch" (1969).
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