Gene Hackman had given clothes, money and lifts to a homeless man whom he slapped this week after the man became aggressive towards the Oscar-winning actor and his wife, according to a police report detailing the incident in New Mexico.
Santa Fe police said Hackman acted in self-defence, and no charges have been filed.
Hackman told officers he had been helping Bruce Becker, 63, for several years, and Mr Becker told a similar story. But their versions of the physical confrontation differed. Hackman said he slapped the man once, and Mr Becker said he was hit 10 to 12 times.
The report released by Santa Fe police said both agreed the incident began when Mr Becker approached Hackman and his wife, Betsy, on a street early on Tuesday afternoon and asked for money.
Mr Becker told police Hackman called him a worthless bum and told him to get a job. Hackman said he told Mr Becker to get a job and tried to walk away, but Mr Becker kept following him and his wife, asking for money and calling them by a derogatory name.
Mr Becker said he told Hackman: “Gene, you are just another Clint Eastwood, you are nothing but an empty chair” – an apparent reference to Eastwood’s unscripted performance at the Republican National Convention, when he addressed an empty chair as if it were US President Barack Obama and was later mocked.
Mr Becker said that was when Hackman went “ballistic” and began “pummelling” him, he told officers.
Hackman, 82, told police Mr Becker became angry when he refused to give him money, called him a name and moved in close in a threatening manner. The actor told officers that was when he slapped Mr Becker once to fend him off, and both fell to the ground.
Hackman and his wife have a home in Santa Fe. He has won two Academy Awards and been nominated for three others over a career that has spanned five decades.