Get to know Gene Hackman’s three kids: Christopher, Elizabeth and Leslie
Gene Hackman has retained privacy regarding his family life throughout his decades-long career.
Hackman was married to his first wife, Faye Maltese, from 1956 to 1986. The couple welcomed three children: son Christopher and daughters Elizabeth and Leslie. Five years after his split with Maltese, who died in 2017, Hackman wed classical pianist Betsy Arakawa.
Over the years, Hackman has remained quiet about his personal life, including about his children, in interviews. In 1989, he told film critic John C. Tibbetts that audiences were drawn to him because he could be perceived as a “common man,” explaining, “I like to keep my personal life fairly common, so that in my art, one can let go and one can soar.”
Hackman, who announced his retirement from acting in 2004, reflected on the early days of his career on Larry King Live when host Larry King asked how he was able to handle the transition from a sparse career to an illustrious one.
“I didn’t handle it very well, really,” Hackman said. “I took care of my family. My family’s never wanted for anything, but because I was so enamored of the Hollywood of old, the glamour of that — although I never involved myself in that — I was really so taken with that, the fact that I was part of that and that I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be.”
Hackman gave rare comments about his adult children to The Irish Independent in August 2000, crediting them for his decision to continue acting rather than opting for a role behind the camera. After acquiring the rights to The Silence of the Lambs with the intention of making his debut as a director, he ultimately turned down the job, a decision he said he did not regret. “I don't have any second thoughts about that decision,” he said. “My kids helped me see that it just wasn't the best thing for me to do.”
He also acknowledged that it was “tough” being the child of a celebrity, adding, “I couldn't always be home with them when they were growing up and then, living in California, they've had my success always hanging over their heads.''
Read on to learn more about Gene Hackman’s three children: Christopher, Elizabeth and Leslie.
Christopher Allen Hackman, 63
Hackman and Maltese welcomed their first child, son Christopher Allen Hackman, in 1960.
The two-time Academy Award winner sat down with journalist Leta Powell Drake in February 1984 for an interview about his film Misunderstood. When Drake asked Hackman if there was ever a day when he stopped hugging his son, then in his 20s, and opted for a handshake instead, he replied, “No, we still hug to this day, and I thank God that we are able to do that.”
He added: “I don’t think we’ll ever have a point where we have to shake hands. That was a real stretch for me in the film and one of the coldest things that one can do is not be aware and be insensitive to that need of a child to be wrapped in a father’s arms.”
Hackman also spoke about parenthood in a 2011 interview with GQ. Asked if there was any advice that he gave to his son, the actor said, “I lost touch with my son in terms of advice early on.”
He continued: “Maybe it had to do with being gone so much, doing location films when he was at an age where he needed support and guidance. It was very tough for me to be gone for three months and then come home and start bossing him around.”
While reflecting on his journey to becoming a novelist, Hackman shared his son’s early career aspirations during a January 2020 interview with Empire magazine.
“My son thought he wanted to be an actor at one time and was in New York and I wrote him a couple of little monologues,” he said. “I guess that’s where I started. I really enjoyed it. Ideas would just pop into my head and I would write them down.”
Elizabeth Jean Hackman, 61
Hackman and Maltese welcomed their second child, daughter Elizabeth Jean Hackman, in August 1962.
Not much is known about Elizabeth, with Hackman seldom discussing his family in interviews. Though he didn’t specify which of his two daughters he was speaking about, he once shared a candid story about a tough period of his career in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
"I used to have to borrow my daughter's car to go to interviews in Hollywood,” he told Cigar Aficionado in 2000. “Just a piece-of-s--- Toyota and I'd have to park it a couple of blocks [away] and walk so I wouldn't be seen as being that needy. ... I was just barely hanging in, taking pretty much anything that was offered to me and trying to make it work."
As children, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Leslie, were photographed sitting on their dad’s lap while he donned a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey at a celebrity baseball game.
Elizabeth also attended several events with her father, including the December 1978 screening of Superman, in which he played supervillain Lex Luthor, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Years later, in October 1996, she was photographed at the premiere of Hackman’s movie The Chamber in Beverly Hills, California, alongside her sister and her stepmother, Betsy Arakawa.
Leslie Anne Hackman, 57
Hackman and Maltese welcomed their third child, daughter Leslie Anne Hackman, in October 1966.
Like her older siblings, not much is known about the youngest of Hackman’s children. In 1984, journalist Bobbie Wygant spoke to Hackman about his movie Misunderstood and asked if the movie touched him more as a father or as a son, who had a fraught relationship with his own dad.
“They’re almost exclusively with me to my children in terms of how I worked on it, in terms of the misunderstandings between the father and the children,” he said of his role. “My youngest daughter has seen the film and she was very affected by it. But I think that she was affected because it was a film, not because I was in it. She liked it as a film and she recommended it to her girlfriends and they’re going to see a screening of it this week. She was very taken with it and I hope the older children are, too.”
Leslie has been photographed with her father over the years, including at several movie premieres. In January 1984, she attended the 41st Annual Golden Globe Awards with Hackman. They also went to the December 1990 premiere of The Godfather Part III and the March 1991 premiere of Class Action.
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