NEW YORK – Gene Hackman (search) is no stranger to playing powerful roles.
The legendary actor has portrayed politicians, generals, admirals and even the president in a myriad of movies. In his latest film, "Welcome to Mooseport," Hackman takes on the role of former commander in chief — but instead of pomp and circumstance, it's filled with gags.
In "Mooseport," Hackman's character is competing with his local plumber (Ray Romano) for the office of mayor — and for the heart of a woman, played by Maura Tierney (search).
Fox News sat down with Hackman to discuss fame, auditioning and his long career of playing playing powerful men.
McCuddy: How many times have you played a politician? Have you counted?
Hackman: I think maybe three or four.
McCuddy: OK, so throw in military men and we're up to a least a half dozen — probably more.
Hackman: You look a certain way, you have a certain timbre to your voice or something and people say, "Oh, you must be a politician or a general or something."
McCuddy: Is that how it starts for someone like Clint Eastwood, who then decides after acting like a politician ...
Hackman: I don't think it has any appeal to Clint anymore after being Mayor of Carmel, Calif. He probably feels he served his time.
McCuddy: You think Arnold Schwarzenegger will feel the same way after his term and come screaming back to Hollywood?
Hackman: Well, I don't know about coming screaming back, but I think that having your way as a major motion picture star and then having to deal in a political arena must be totally different. Everything is a compromise — as opposed to getting your way. I would think that Arnold would find it maybe isn't exactly what he wants to spend the rest of his life doing.
McCuddy: So it holds no appeal to you, public office of any kind?
McCuddy: We can make that official here? Fox News Alert? No running in the future for Gene Hackman?
McCuddy: Well, you get the presidential suite wherever you go anyway, right?
Hackman: (Laughs) A lot of time we're upgraded. Yes. It's kinda fun.
McCuddy: They never stick you in the vice presidential suite. You get the big room, so why go through all that trouble, the fund-raising.
Hackman: (Laughs) You kind of get a sense of what it must be like to be president when you are in this kind of atmosphere.
McCuddy: Lots of people around. You need something — bang — it's there.
McCuddy: You were admiring my tie a few minutes ago. I'm sure there are three people out there trying to find one just like it.
Hackman: (Laughing) Yeah, I hope so.
McCuddy: Running up and down Madison Avenue. "He won't like this one! What about this one!?" So it's good to be Gene Hackman.
Hackman: (Smiling) Yes, it's OK.
McCuddy: Would you have imagined your career today when you first started out?
Hackman: No, I had such tiny goals when I first started. I wanted to work off-off-Broadway. That would have been fine with me. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. You can't stay there. The point is, if you have any talent at all you have to keep moving up, so it's off-Broadway, (then) it's Broadway and so on.
McCuddy: The trap of fame. If you enjoyed ambiguity it's no good to be in this business if you're Gene Hackman.
Hackman: (Smiling) Well, I loved doing what I did early on. I loved the auditions and I loved the atmosphere and the interchange between other actors and you miss that when you become successful. Things change and you become more of a businessman.
McCuddy: I'm guessing you haven't had to audition for anything in at least 10 years.
Hackman: It's been awhile. Probably close to 30 years.
McCuddy: (Laughs) So you get a script now and it's like "Which part am I?"
Hackman: It's unfortunate in some ways because you learn a great deal auditioning. Because you have to put it on the line. You have to come up with things. I auditioned for open calls on Broadway for Gene Kelly and Tallulah Bankhead and those kind of people. They were very kind. I don't know if they were very kind to everybody, but they were very kind to me and I was nobody. Gene Kelly came down to the footlights after an audition and he looked up and he said, "Musicals are very tough." (Laughs)
McCuddy: Was that the last one of those you auditioned for?
Hackman: (Smiles) I think it probably was.
McCuddy: Tallulah Bankhead was legendary for leaving an actor in the lurch when she forgot her lines. She once said she just answered a phone and instead of doing her lines she just turned to this woman who had been flubbing her part and said, "It's for you," and walked off stage. Anything like that ever happen to you?
Hackman: We had some moments like that that (during) a very long run on Broadway. (The show was) "Any Wednesday." It ran a couple of years. I was in it about a year and half and what happens in a long run is you start — you're going along quite well — things are working ... laughs are coming ... and all of a sudden you look at the other person and you say "Where the hell am I? I have no idea where I am in the play," or whatever and it takes an eternity to get back in sync again, which probably only (really) takes three or four seconds. It's one of those things.
"Welcome to Mooseport" is in theaters now.