Interviews


Richard Gere


Occupation: Actor
Date of Birth: August 31, 1949
Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pa., USA
Sign: Sun in Virgo, Moon in Sagittarius
Relations: Ex-wife: Cindy Crawford; father: Homer Gere (farmer turned insurance salesman); mother: Doris Gere; siblings: has four, one older and three younger; companion: Carey Lowell (actress); son (with Lowell): Homer James Jigme Gere
Education: Dropped out of the University of Massachusetts after two years

 

RICHARD GERE has become so emblematic of modern male urbanity that it's hard to believe he grew up in a bucolic farm setting in upstate New York. Nurtured by an artistic family, the musically inclined Gere attended the University of Massachusetts on a gymnastic scholarship following his graduation from high school in 1967, but dropped out after two years of philosophy and drama studies to launch an acting career. He acquitted himself well in a number of repertory productions on both coasts (on Cape Cod and in Seattle, to be more precise) over the next couple of years, before opting to strike out as a professional trumpet player. He settled in at a commune of rock musicians in rural Vermont, but once he discovered that musicians were even more temperamental than actors, he left the commune and drifted down to New York City.

Following an appearance in a rock opera that closed after a single performance, Gere crossed the Atlantic to give the London theatrical world a try. There, he stepped into the role of macho gang leader Danny Zuko in the perennial stage favorite Grease; when he returned Stateside, he took over the role in a Broadway-mounted production of the musical. After cementing his reputation as an able and versatile thespian in a subsequent string of notable stage roles, Gere decided to make the transition to film with a part as a small-time pimp in the so-so cop-corruption melodrama Report to the Commissioner (1975). Despite the film's lackluster reception, Gere's performance was commendable enough to warrant his casting as a shell-shocked, psychopathic soldier in the World War II drama Baby Blue Marine (1976). His virtuosity at portraying menacing nut cases adequately proven, Gere's big-screen career finally achieved liftoff in 1977, with his portrayal of Diane Keaton's handsome, high-risk pickup in Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977); he tested his new wings in a follow-on lead assignment in the period piece Days of Heaven (1978).

The darkly handsome actor next starred in a brace of ambitious box-office clunkers  Yanks (1979) and American Gigolo (1980)  and returned to Broadway for a production of Martin Sherman's Bent, in which he gave an award-winning performance as a homosexual who tries to survive his internment in a concentration camp by pretending to be a Jew. Gere scored his first film coup in a lead role with the 1982 military-romance blockbuster An Officer and a Gentleman. (Days of Heaven, American Gigolo, and An Officer and a Gentleman were all developed for John Travolta, who was enjoying a career boom at the time, but Travolta dropped out of all three at the last minute, thereby opening the door for Gere). The same year he scored with An Officer and a Gentleman, Gere converted from his Methodist roots to the Tibetan school of Buddhism.

In 1984, Gere was able to draw on his trumpet-playing skills for Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club, but for the most part, the '80s did not do wonders for his movie career, as he blundered through a string of generally critically reviled and ego-deflating bombs like King David (1985), Power (1986), and Miles From Home (1988). Off the screen, Gere busied himself with fact-finding trips  to Asia or Central America  and was generally preoccupied with the exiled Dalai Lama and the state of Tibetan Buddhism. Over the years, Gere has successfully used his high visibility to promote various causes, the most notable of which has been his call for support for Tibetans oppressed by the Chinese government. To organize and advance his various activist causes, Gere founded the Tibet House in New York, as well as established the Gere Foundation.

In 1990, Gere rode triumphantly back into Hollywood with the Mike Figgis-directed sleeper Internal Affairs and the $455-million hit Pretty Woman. In December 1991, he married supermodel Cindy Crawford; their union weathered a flurry of generally unpleasant tabloid skepticism and speculation and ended in divorce in 1995. True to his hit-and-miss track record and possibly regrettable tendency to turn down mass-market projects that then wind up being huge successes (Die Hard, Wall Street), Gere slogged through a string of stultifying to outright laughable features following his Pretty Woman resurgence: he essayed psychotherapy in Final Analysis (1992), bipolarism in Mr. Jones (1993), amnesia in Sommersby (1993), adultery in Intersection (1994), and chivalry in First Knight (1995)  but all of his efforts were for the most part met with derision. The 1996 courtroom drama Primal Fear looked to be a comeback opportunity, but Gere's then unknown co-star, young Edward Norton, quite handily stole his leading-man thunder, in the process snagging a Best Supporting Oscar nomination. The year 1997 delivered up roles in two major features: the China-indicting political thriller Red Corner, in which he played a bigshot Hollywood lawyer who gets framed for the rape and murder of a woman in Beijing; and The Jackal, in which he portrayed an imprisoned Irish underground operative recruited by the FBI to help track down an assassin. In 1999, Gere attempted to make career lightning strike twice in the same genre by reteaming with Roberts in the Garry Marshall-directed romantic comedy Runaway Bride.

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