In a timeless tale of romance, Richard Gere as Naval Officer Zack Mayo sweeps factory worker Paula into his arms, and with the song “Up Where we Belong” playing in the background, he carries her from her workplace, leaving fans everywhere gushing over his gallantry.
The legendary scene in the romantic drama An Officer and a Gentleman–where Gere played Officer Zack Mayo, the handsome hero in navy whites–became the benchmark of love stories for daydreaming fans.
But Gere was rallying for a “grittier” ending, and the iconic scene almost didn’t make the cut.
Richard Gere, who’s celebrating his 74th birthday on August 31, was 31 when he became a sex symbol in his performance as the handsome American Gigolo, in the 1980 film that glamorized the role of a male escort to swooning women around the world.
In a career spanning almost 55 years, Gere appeared in many romantic roles during his career including Days of Heaven, Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and the silver-maned father in the 2023 comedy film Maybe I do.
And though the star of Hachi: A Dog’s Tale “was shy as a boy” and has “never changed,” his roles and gorgeous features established him as a Hollywood heartthrob, a title he still holds at 73.
“I have to be pleased to hear that–who wouldn’t be? I don’t take it seriously, of course. I have never actually wanted to be a celebrity, let alone a sex symbol, but it goes with the acting career if you are successful. Films are all about image and box office. When you come into the movie business, be prepared for that. I enjoy acting and movie production, it’s what I do, so I accept what goes with it.” He continued, “May I just say a very sincere thank you to those lovely ladies who voted for me– though I can’t understand why. I hope I still live up to their expectations. It’s hard to cope with such an honour, but I do my best.”
On a recent Facebook post, fans can’t seem to get enough of the award-winning actor, who gets better with age. “More handsome now,” writes one while another shares, “Congratulation for all your achievement in life your still handsome and gorgeous.”
A third writes about An Officer and a Gentleman, “I absolutely love this movie and he is as handsome as always.”
When he was filming the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, Gere, who despite playing a selfish, hard-hearted loner, was every bit an officer and a gentleman.
The film, a romantic drama, has a dark storyline that tells the story of Zack Mayo, who after his mom kills herself, is forced to live with his drunken soldier dad.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Gere’s character joins the Navy’s flight school and navigates his way through basic training, his hostilities and inability to fully commit to his girlfriend, Paula, played by Debra Winger.
At the end, Mayo, wearing his crisp white officer’s uniform, marches through the factory and sweeps Paula off her feet. The redemptive love story appears to show Mayo rescuing Paula from her difficult life, but the two rescue one another.
The sobering plot doesn’t seem likely to have a fairy tale ending and Gere was resistant, arguing that him carrying Winger from the factory was too over-the-top, and that the ending needed to be more “realistic.”
“I argued against it from the beginning. I said, ‘This is bull—’ I was trying to make a very real, gritty movie and all the rewrites we did were to keep it grounded in that territory of realism. And that didn’t fit at all, it was such a rave-up ‘movie moment.’” He continued, “We were in the factory ready to shoot it and I said, ‘We’re going to waste half a day shooting this thing. We’re behind schedule, we’ve got other stuff to do. This is never going to be in the movie.’”
The screenwriter, Douglas Day Stewart, recalls that the cast and crew strayed from his original script.
“I returned just in time for the final filming and I asked the director, Taylor Hackford, why they weren’t doing it the way I wrote it and he said, ‘Well, who would believe that?’” Stewart continues, “But I asked him to shoot it anyway, which he did. In post-production, everyone debated that my ending didn’t work and when they cut it all together, everyone laughed.”
And, then the director added to the scene the famous song, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, and magic happened.
“Richard Gere, who I became close friends with, and I were in Toronto when that version of the film was shown to an audience and they went crazy. We realised then that it worked,” Stewart said.
Gere, agreed: “I was definitely wrong.”
We love Richard Gere, even if he did want to change the ending of An Officer and a Gentleman! What do you think about a “grittier” finale to the movie?
Happy birthday to one of the greatest actors of all time and we wish you many more years of happiness and movies to share with the world!
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