Movie star, philanthropist and humanitarian activist Richard Gere, 67, stars in the titular role in the upcoming movie, Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. Gere plays a scheming hustler in this unusual and compelling story which documents the life of Norman Oppenheimer and how his existence dramatically changes after a young politician he befriends becomes Prime Minister of Israel.
Gere began acting in the 70s, playing a supporting role in Looking for Mr. Goodbar and followed in the starring role in Days of Heaven. In the 80s he came to prominence in the film American Gigolo which established him as a sex symbol/heartthrob. Some other films include An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, Primal Fear, Runaway Bride, Arbitrage and Chicago, for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and a Screen Actors Guild Award for part of the Best Cast.
In his personal life, he was married to supermodel Cindy Crawford from 1991 to 1995. He then married actress Carey Lowell, a relationship which lasted for 11 years, ending in 2013. They have a son, Homer, 17.
In person, he’s as handsome and charming as he was in his prime. Clearly, age has been good to him.
This was such a different role for you. Can you talk about the choices you make?
This is a unique movie and a completely unique character. I have never seen this guy before and I will probably never see him again. You’ve known me a long time and I have never made a 100 million dollar movie. Even in the old days, they were all six million, seven million dollar movies, they were all under ten million dollars. I am still making those movies but they are just independent now instead of through the studios. So my process of deciding what I am going to do is basically the same. It either touches me or it doesn’t. And I don’t think I’ve ever taken a job for the money or because it was going to ingratiate me to the studio or anything like that. I never had a game plan that way. It was basically whatever came to me and touched me.
Did you always know you were going to be an actor? When did you get your first break?
There have been two big moments in my career. One was when I was going to the University of Massachusetts and I had auditioned for a summer stock job in Provincetown. I can still remember getting a phone call in my dorm room and them saying, ‘Mr. Gere?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘We would really like you to come and be in our theatre this summer.’ And it was one of those moments where you know that your life is taking on a certain course. I knew it. I could feel this rush of energy come up through me. And I did that and it led to the Seattle Repertory Theatre. I met someone there that led to another thing and then to New York. And that was a perpetual motion of the trajectory of my life. It still is. And the other one was when I was in the Chateau Marmont, and I got a call from Terry Malick. And we had auditioned back and forth for six months of putting actors together and finally he called and said, ‘Richard, I am desperate to have you do my movie. Will you do it?’ It was my first movie (Days of Heaven) that I could feel that there was a certain destiny pull at that moment, that I would be making movies. And I didn’t know I, at age 67, would still be making movies, especially movies that I am proud of and I am learning and bringing all disparate parts of my life to them.
What are the pros and cons of fame?
A million things, but I will never admit them here. (laughs) There’s nothing positive about fame. There’s positive things about being successful, I consider those two different things. The fame part, I have no interest. I don’t know anyone who cares about that. There are people that are famous and you don’t know what they do and that is just pure fame – it’s like sugar. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s a rush. But I think success leads to success, success leads to confidence and it leads to learning and learning leads to expanding. I have been incredibly fortunate, and I never take it for granted, ever. The fact that I am still here and doing things that I want to – I can send my kid to college and I don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from, these are big things. If I need an operation or anyone in my family did, I could pay for that operation. That’s rare. Most people in the world can’t do that, and I never, ever take that for granted. So that part of being successful to me is something very precious. And I think that’s why you sense that I tend to spread this around as much as I can. Success is not something to hoard. You don’t build walls with German razor wire around it to hold it in, it’s meant to go out into the world.
As a father, what do you teach your son and what do you learn from him?
Continually. I mean a kid is a mirror, for sure. And anyone who has kids, they are always telling you who you are. (laughs) You feel the emotions that come up in you because you are looking in the mirror. Good, bad, whatever, the frustrations, the angers, the joy, the happiness, the bliss, all of it, is because you care so much. And because you care so much, you are vulnerable, and being vulnerable means you show up, you can see yourself. It’s very easy to armour up and protect yourself against many things but you can’t do that with a kid, you have got to be wide open.
How do you look on your days of being a heartthrob?
I never paid any attention to any of that. It had nothing to do with me. And I was smart enough to know that it had nothing to do with me. But it’s a fact of your life. You go on the street and people project an enormous amount on you so you have to find your way through that. There is no school for learning that, you just have to figure that out.
What are the advantages or having a much younger girlfriend?
Look, you fall in love or you don’t. That’s basically it. I don’t think it has anything to do with age. Whether it’s young or old, I like freshness, I like energy, I like openness. And she is a very open, continually learning kind of a person. And, she’s non-competitive. She’s always looking to be better in all ways. She is not afraid to look in the mirror at herself and be critical which is what we all have to be able to do if we are going to learn. She’s very loving, she has all these fine qualities, but I don’t think it’s a question of age, it’s a question of energy. Are you still learning, are you still alive, are you still in the moment? That is really the question to me.
Who is the one person you wanted to impress in your life?
Have you impressed him?
Well my dad is not impressed by the movie star. He is impressed by the man. So that’s all I ever wanted from him. Certainly the Dalai Lama is one of my major teachers and I have had a lot of teachers, but I would want them to be proud of how I conduct myself and what I stand for and what parts of me might be helpful in the world.