Superman Actor Gene Hackman Pays Tribute To Richard Donner

Over the last 24 hours, tributes have been pouring in for Richard Donner, who died yesterday at the age of 91. Everyone from The Goonies star Sean Astin to Marvel boss Kevin Feige has weighed in on the director’s influence throughout a career that spanned six decades. Now, one of Donner’s most famed collaborators is joining the fray. Gene Hackman, who starred as Lex Luthor in Donner’s original Superman movie in 1978, recalled his own fond memory about the time they spent working together on the film.

Hackman has generally kept a low profile ever since he retired from acting in 2004. Regardless, Donner’s passing compelled him to share a hilarious new anecdote with The Hollywood Reporter. Apparently, Hackman had his own ideas about how Lex Luthor should appear onscreen, but Donner ultimately shot them down.

“I showed up for the first day of make-up tests for Superman with a fine Lex Luthor moustache I’d grown for the role,” said Hackman. “Dick, wearing his own handsome moustache, told me mine had to go. He bargained to lose his if I did mine. True to his word, he celebrated my last razor stroke by gleefully pulling off the fake whiskers he’d acquired for the occasion.”

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“Dick made it fun, and that’s why the films turned out that way, too,” continued Hackman.

Before Hackman was cast as the Man of Steel’s archenemy, the producers also considered Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Wilder, George Kennedy, and Jack Nicholson for the role. Hackman later returned to play the villain in 1981’s Superman II and 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. In the years since his retirement, he has pursued a career as a novelist. His last book, Pursuit, came out in 2013.

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