Richard Gere was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars at his peak. With critical recognition in films such as Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Chicago and Pretty Woman, many thought that Gere would go on to become arguably one of the greatest to ever do it.
However, all of a sudden, Gere disappeared from the biggest of screens. And no, he didn’t move on to do blockbusters, franchise films, or superhero movies.
In fact, Richard Gere simply couldn’t get the biggest parts anymore. As it turns out, there was a reason for that, and it’s pretty tragic.
Richard Gere wasn’t exactly a showman growing up. In fact, his interest in films and the theater came way later in life. What was present from the beginning, mind, were those sparkling eyes and energetic smile.
Richard Gere – early life
Born on August 31, 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gere grew up on a farm near Syracuse, New York. He described his childhood as being “normal and all-American.” Early on, sports and music were all he did.
As a kid, Gere was an amazing gymnast. Still to this day, his family enjoys watching gymanstics.
“When the Olympics were on, my son is 12 years old, and when we were watching, he goes, ‘Wow, Dad, look at that,’ and I’m thinking, ‘I did some of that’,” Gere recalled.
“There’s a picture up in the hallway of me in high school with a side horse. I’d just finished a routine and I’m pumped and I stick the dismount. And I brought [my son] up there to look at that picture and he’d never noticed it!”
In high school, Richard played four instruments, and he even composed several amateur musical shows. This was to be his first meeting with the stage.
It took a while, however, before he really decided it was going to be his thing.
Gere started studying philosophy at the University of Massachusetts after getting a gymnastics scholarship. Yet after only one year in college, he decided to drop out and follow his passion full-time.
Musical work in London
At this point, Richard Gere had fallen in love with acting. He got a job as a repertory player with the Provincetown Playhouse on Cape Cod. As soon as the season was done, he decided to head for New York, and landed the lead role in the rock musical Soon.
That, however, proved to be a disaster. It closed after only one show, and Gere decided to try something else. This time, something else meant moving “across the pond” to London, England.
There, he landed the role of Danny Zuko in the musical Grease in London. When the musical was set up in New York, he decided to leave and move back to the States. He found work on Broadway in the early 1970s, and that’s when he started to shine.
Gere won critical recognition for his portrayal of a convicted murderer in Killer’s Head – and he decided to do what many of his colleagues were doing. Instead of working only on the stage, it was time for him to transition towards the screen.
From here on in, it was all about the film industry for Richard Gere. And boy, did it work out well!
In 1977, Gere got his breakthrough role in the thriller film Looking for Mr. Goodbar, starring alongside Diane Keaton. A year later, he landed a starring role in Days of Heaven, and in 1980, Gere got the title role in American Gigolo.
Richard Gere – Pretty Woman
At this point, Richard Gere had become an actor on the rise. He then became Hollywood’s heartthrob after starring in Pretty Woman alongside Julia Roberts, as well as in An Officer and a Gentleman alongside Debra Winger.
Richard Gere’s performance in Pretty Woman sure was something special. The film is one of the greatest ever romcoms, but what many might not know is that Gere almost didn’t star in it at all.
In fact, it was Julia Roberts that convinced Gere to do the film.
“To be honest, I didn’t know if I was doing this movie yet. She’s across the desk, we’re getting to know each other, we’re flirty-flirty, nice-nice,” Gere said in 2015.
“And [Marshall] calls up and it’s kind of like, ‘How’s it going?’ And I’m going, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ and she takes a piece of paper. She turns it around, and she pushes it to me. It said, ‘Please say yes.’ It was so sweet. And I was like [miming talking on the phone], ‘I just said yes.’”
Gere became very popular due to his many wonderful performances in romantic comedies.
The actor has been in some classic and legendary films, but he’s yet to get an Academy Award nomination. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like awards and recognition are majorly his thing.
Beautiful wife Alejandra
Some actors desperately seek fame, and are only willing to star in the biggest possible projects. But Richard Gere isn’t one of them. Looking at his resume, there aren’t any blockbuster or franchise films; no superhero movies or sequels.
“My career has never been thought out,” he told the Independent. “I never engineered a career. I just have always done whatever I wanted.
“You’re restricted by what you’re offered but the incredible list of brilliant directors and actors and writers I’ve worked with, you know I’m kind of amazed myself that I’ve been able to ride this career this long with such good people.”
Today, the 71-year-old is a father with several children. Through the years, he’s been married three times, and has dated some of the world’s most famous women, including Priscilla Presley, Cindy Crawford and Carey Lowell.
Today, Gere is happily married. This time, it’s with someone much younger than him. In fact, his beautiful wife Alejandra Silva is 33 years his junior.
One would think that with the career Gere has had – having spent an eternity under the sear of the Hollywood spotlight – he must have tunnel vision for all things film.
Yet, as the man himself says, one night in 1993 would change his career forever.
Richard Gere – Buddhism
Richard Gere has lived a life as Buddhist. He’s been interested in Tibetan Buddhism since he was young, and has been devoted to the Dalai Lama for a long, long time.
“I remember when I was just starting to practice meditation – 24 years old, trying to come to grips with my life,” Gere said. “I was holed up in my sh*tty little apartment for months at a time, just doing tai chi and doing my best to do sitting practice.
He added: “I had a very clear feeling that I’d always been in meditation, that I’d never left meditation. That it was a much more substantial reality than what we normally take to be reality. That was very clear to me even then, but it’s taken me this long in my life to bring it out into the world more, through more time practicing, watching my mind, trying to generate bodhicitta [awakened mind and heart].”
When Richard Gere met the Dalai Lama for the first time in India, it was a special occasion, even if it didn’t go quite as he expected.
“We started out with a little small talk and then he said, ‘Oh, so you’re an actor?'” he recalled.
“He thought about that a second, and then he said, ‘So when you do this acting and you’re angry, are you really angry? When you’re acting sad, are you really sad? When you cry, are you really crying?’
Criticism against China
“I gave him some kind of actor answer, like it was more effective if you really believed in the emotion that you were portraying. He looked very deeply into my eyes and just started laughing. Hysterically. He was laughing at the idea that I would believe emotions are real, that I would work very hard to believe in anger and hatred and sadness and pain and suffering.”
So, Gere became a Buddhist and a great friend of the Dalai Lama.
Then, at the Academy Awards in 1993 – where Gere was to present the award for Best Art Director – he didn’t read from his pre-agreed upon script. Instead, Gere used his platform to protest China’s occupation of Tibet and its “horrendous, horrendous human rights situation.”
Academy Award’s producer Gil Cates was furious, and vowed to ban Gere from future Oscars broadcasts.
Richard Gere wouldn’t let anyone stand in his way regarding what he thought and believed in. In 2008, he called on a boycott of the summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Due to his two different foundations – International Campaign for Tibet and The Gere Foundation – he actually was banned for life from China by Chinese authorities.
Perhaps you can see where this is going …
Richard Gere and China became the worst of enemies, and China soon after became the world’s second-biggest-box-office market.
Wouldn’t finance film with Gere in it
As a result, Richard Gere says he’s been dropped several times by the biggest studios, simply because the Chinese people and its authorities don’t want anything to do with him in their films.
“There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him’,” Richard Gere explained.
“I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”
In 1997, the much-praised Hollywood star was made fully aware just how much the big film studios care about their relationship with the Chinese market. After filming for his role in the film Red Corner – where he played the role of an American businessman being wrongfully accused in China – studio MGM made a staggering decision.
“Everyone was happy with the film,” Richard Gere said.
“I get calls from the heads of the studio. Went on Oprah. Then, out of nowhere, I get calls saying, ‘We don’t want you doing press.’ MGM wanted to make an overall deal with the Chinese. China told them, ‘If you release this film, we’re not buying it.’ And so, they dumped it.”
Then, another time, Richard Gere had another damning experience when he was set to do an independently financed film, outside of the big studios. It was never intended to be released in China – but the director was Chinese.
Richard Gere – indie films
“Two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it,'” Gere recalled.
“We had a secret phone call on a protected line. If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work.”
Richard Gere might no longer be in the biggest and most lucrative Hollywood productions, but the most important thing is to always follow your passion, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
These days, Gere has dedicated his time to smaller films and indie projects – something he absolutely loves. Even though the Hollywood studios don’t want to work with him, it hasn’t affected him in a negative way at all.
“The studios are interested in the possibility of making huge profits,” he explained.
“But I’m still making the same films that I was making when I started. Small, interesting, character-driven and narrative-driven stories. It hasn’t impacted my life at all.”
“I’m not interested in playing the wizened Jedi in your tentpole,” he added. “I was successful enough in the last three decades that I can afford to do these [smaller films] now.”
Richard Gere is still a wonderful actor, and we love to hear that he’s following his passion in life.
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