“The French Connection” (1971) is considered to be the film that gave Gene Hackman his rise to stardom. Hackman, who played tough New York cop Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
Hackman's character, Popeye Doyle, was based on real-life New York City narcotics officer Eddie Egan.
The film was such a hit that Hackman reprised the role in 1975 for the sequel, "The French Connection II." Hackman received Best Actor nominations from the Golden Globes and British Academy of Film and Television Arts for the encore performance.
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Here are five quotes about Gene Hackman’s iconic role, Popeye Doyle:
“Popeye Doyle, the New York narc created by Gene Hackman in ‘The French Connection,’ was the most compelling of characters, a man driven by violent hungers that had little to do with his job as a cop. He needed the violence, maybe, to survive the toughest beat in town. He had such presence, such a capacity to explode, that when he ran a bust on a bar, the patrons — pretty tough themselves — were actually intimidated. Popeye was something unique among film characters, and Hackman deserved the Oscar he won for the performance.”
– Roger Ebert
, Chicago Sun-Times
“The Hackman characterization, one of the most successful in his career, and the only one that is allowed to emerge in much detail, virtually defines the attitude of ‘The French Connection.’ Hard-nosed, pork-pie-hatted, vulgar, a tough cop in the latest measure of a fine tradition, he exists neither to rise nor to fall, to excite neither pity nor terror— but to function. To function in New York City is its own heroism, and the film recognizes that, but it is not the heroism of conventional gesture, and so even the most conventional excitements of ‘The French Connection’ carry with them a built-in air of fatigue.”
– Roger Greenspun
, The New York Times
“Hackman is a prince of Fun City, crowned with an absurd porkpie hat and inhabiting his part so totally, it's amazing that Jackie Gleason and Jimmy Breslin were among the half-dozen personalities first considered for the role. Being a cop is Popeye's vocation; he establishes his street cred early on by single-handedly browbeating and brazenly N-wording the soul-brother patrons of a Bed-Stuy bar. These post-Great Society policemen have to go it alone, collaring perps by any means necessary.”
– J. Hoberman
, The Village Voice
“Then (agent) Sue Mengers, who represented Gene Hackman, suggested Gene, and we met with him, who'd never really starred in a picture ... and we frankly had no other choice, that was it. The way that film was cast, it was like the Movie God took care of it.”
– William Friedkin
, director of "The French Connection"
“I’m not that kind of guy. He was a physical man. We had to go back and reshoot the first two days of scenes because I hadn’t gotten into the character enough. I wasn’t physical enough.”
– Gene Hackman
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