10/30/2001 at 01:00 AM EST
"French Connection" Oscar winner Gene Hackman, 71, was involved in a minor traffic accident at a busy West Hollywood intersection Monday that escalated into a brouhaha between him and two much younger occupants of the car he allegedly bumped, police and witnesses said. Police quoted witnesses as saying that Hackman's Volvo sedan collided with a Volvo station wagon on a busy street just off Sunset Boulevard and that after both drivers pulled over, the driver of the station wagon, a man in his 30s, lost his temper and began verbally abusing Hackman. The driver of the other car "was really close to (Hackman's) face and kept stepping up on him," witness Nathaniel Keefer, quoted by Reuters, told reporters afterward. "There was more of that for several minutes but (Hackman) seemed to keep his cool . . . But then something was said and (Hackman) just hit him four or five times." After Hackman reputedly punched the driver, another occupant of the station wagon kicked the actor in the groin, wrestled him to the ground and flipped him onto his stomach, witnesses said. Through his publicist, Dick Guttman, Hackman said that he had "no recollection" of being kicked in the groin. A police spokesman earlier had said that police who arrived on the scene forcibly separated the men, but the Los Angeles Police Department later retracted that statement. Guttman said that except for a few bumps and bruises, Hackman was fine. "His film roles to the contrary, he's not a violent person."