A tribute to Gene Hackman as the legendary actor turns 90

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Gene Hackman is such a gifted actor. I can never get tired of watching him and even when he is not in a leading role, he ends up stealing every scene that he features in. Just think of him in The French Connection, Scarecrow, The Conversation, Night Moves, Superman, Mississippi Burning, Bonnie and Clyde, Crimson Tide, Heist, Runaway Jury, and, of course, Unforgiven, among others.
Speaking of Unforgiven, the film depicts a clash of egos, a battle of wits between two supreme alpha makes, William Munny and Little Bill - brilliantly portrayed by Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, respectively. Hackman won his second Oscar for the part. The movie’s protagonists are deeply convoluted, grey-shaded characters who are not bounded by the tenets of virtue or vice. Little Bill Daggett, the tough, autocratic Sheriff of the town called Big Whisky, is totally committed to keeping peace in the town, even at the cost of freedom and justice. William Munny, once a personification of pillage and slaughter in the Old West, is an aging farmer bereft by the untimely loss of his wife who was the reason behind his reformation.

The two scenes that Eastwood and Hackman share in the movie are absolutely magical and serve as the exact antithesis of each other. The first encounter between William Munny (Eastwood) and Little Bill (Hackman) portrays Munny at his most vulnerable, pitted against a brutally dominant and ruthless Bill. The second encounter, which also happens to be the movie’s finale, is a completely different affair with the merciless Munny calling the shots against a helpless Bill.
Now, in both the scenes we see the brilliance of Hackman. In the first scene, Bill beats the hell out of Munny. It's just chilling to see the ruthlessness of Bill against a helpless Munny. How he disarms him. How he beats him. How he makes him crawl out of the joint. And that fact that Munny is none other than Clint Eastwood (aka Man with No Name aka Dirty Harry aka Outlaw Jossy Wales) greatly elevates the scene. Then the second time Bill meets Munny, the tables are turned. This time it's Munny on the top. Again in this scene Hackman shows his brilliance. Even when Munny is about to shoot him, Bill says, "I don't deserve this... to die like this... I was building a house." Munny retorts, "Deserve's nothing to do with it." Realizing that his time has come, Bill sighs, "I'll see you in hell, William Munny." I can go on and on. But, for now, I will just say that Hackman recently turned 90 and so I would like to extend my tribute to the legendary actor.
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