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Why can't this post be about 10 new Gene Hackman films opening next year instead of a tidbit found on TMZ? No offense to Harvey Levin and the gang, but if they produce a film starring a finer actor currently at work, I'll eat the screen. (Jeff Bridges comes close.)

Hackman, 82, practically sat out the last decade. Last year he told GQ "he's retired, splitting his time between painting and writing." The Petrie-fied Welcome to Mooseport (2004) can't possibly stand as the actor's swansong!

In a career spanning 80 films, there were but a few wrong turns (Doctor's Wives, Loose Cannons, Heartbreakers). For the most part he chose his roles wisely and unlike Pacino and even Bobby D., Hackman never once made the audience aware that they were watching an actor act.

Hackman and his wife were leaving a Sante Fe, New Mexico Restaurant on Tuesday when a homeless type approached the couple "in a threatening manner."

The belligerent jerk may not pick his feet in Poughkeepsie, but he did pick a fight with the actor by calling his wife the C-word. Hackman pimp-slapped the dude who in turn called the police.

The cops spoke with Hackman and his wife and determined the slap was in self-defense. No charges have been filed.

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