Richard Gere Biography:
A talented musician who found his way into musical theater in NYC during the early 1970s, Richard Gere parlayed his photogenic sullenness into a Hollywood career, becoming one of the biggest male screen attractions of the late 70s and early 80s before falling off the A-list after a long series of critical and commercial flops. He had made a convincing mixed-up kid, but the transition to adulthood was not easy for the brooding actor with the penchant for shedding his clothes. The all-but-forgotten Gere roared back into the public's consciousness with a stunning comeback in 1990 and has maintained a high profile. His pretty face was still in tact, but his public persona had undergone a radical makeover. The sulky young bad-boy narcissist of had transformed into an elegant silver-haired advocate for Buddhism, Tibetan culture and progressive political causes.
Gere spent a season each with the Provincetown Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Company before settling in NYC where he eventually starred on Broadway (and later in London) as Danny Zuko in "Grease" (1973). He continued to work in theater while securing his first film parts (his debut in "Report to the Commissioner" 1975, a psycho Marine in "Baby Blue Marine" 1976) and finally gained notice as Diane Keaton's hustler beau in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (1977). He landed his first leads in two films released a week apart in the fall of 1978, Terrence Malick's lyrical "Days of Heaven" and Robert Mulligan's urban working class family drama "Bloodbrothers". Stardom came with "American Gigolo" (1980), Paul Schrader's ambitious updating of Robert Bresson's "Pickpocket" (1959) to a contemporary Californian milieu. Playing a cocky prostitute, decked out in Armani suits and driving a fancy car, Gere's character became not only a fashion statement but a symbol for the Reagan years.
Gere enjoyed his greatest commercial success of the 80s with "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), a surprisingly old-fashioned military romance pairing him with Debra Winger. It had taken a mere five years to reach the top, but he would have little time to savor the altitude. Miscast as a British doctor who becomes involved with South American revolutionaries in "Beyond the Limit" (1983), an adaptation of Graham Greene's "The Honorary Consul", Gere fared no better as an amoral punk in "Breathless" (1983). The wild adolescence of his character was charmless, the scenery chewing tiresome. "The Cotton Club" (1984) was a disastrous, insane carnival chaos from the get-go, and a lack of screen chemistry between Gere and sexy co-star Kim Basinger doomed the mindless melodrama "No Mercy" (1986). He turned down blockbusters like "Wall Street" (1987) and "Die Hard" (1988), but his risk-taking, which had paid off with critical raves for his starring turn as a homosexual Holocaust victim in Broadway's "Bent" (1979), backfired in failures like "King David" (1985) and "Miles from Home" (1988), as a farmer. His stalled career resembled a textbook example of early promise unfulfilled.
But it took only two years before he reasserted his position as a bankable star with two change-of-pace roles. First, he painted a chilling portrait of corruption and misogyny with his portrayal of rogue cop Dennis Peck in Mike Figgis' sophisticated thriller "Internal Affairs", a film which returned him to the homoeroticism of "An American Gigolo". He followed with the huge box-office success "Pretty Woman", which allowed him to display a heretofore untapped comedic sensibility a la Cary Grant. There was also no lack of screen chemistry with co-star Julia Roberts, two beautiful people who allowed each other to shine. Gere went on to play a Eurasian who visits his Japanese relatives in Nagasaki in Akira Kurosawa's well-intentioned "Rhapsody in August" (1991) before making his executive producing debut with the psychological thriller, "Final Analysis", a duty he also performed for "Sommersby" and "Mr. Jones" (both 1993). With the exception of "Sommersby", a remake of "The Return of Martin Guerre" (1982) which co-starred Jodie Foster, Gere was mired in feature failures throughout the early 90s, but his small role as a gay choreographer helped launch HBO's "And the Band Played On" (1993) and earned him an Emmy nomination.
After the embarrassment of his contemporary American-sounding Lancelot in yet another telling of the Camelot story, "First Knight" (1995), Gere returned to form as a cocky attorney--for once without all the answers--defending accused killer Edward Norton in "Primal Fear" (1996). "Red Corner" (1997) addressed something close to his heart, the oppressive Chinese regime which has persecuted his beloved Tibet since 1949. Featuring an all-Chinese cast, whose involvement placed their families back home in danger, "Red Corner" tells the story of an American entertainment lawyer (Gere) railroaded by a brutal, arcane judicial system. He followed quickly that same year with "The Jackal", playing a former IRA commando (with a wavering accent) hunting a noted terrorist (Bruce Willis) in this loose remake of Fred Zinneman's 1973 "The Day of the Jackal". Gere remains ambitious enough to make and publicize his movies, but he truly cares most about promoting Tibetan Buddhism, its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and an awareness of Chinese repression of the Tibetan culture--The actor frequently served as the Hollywood "point man" for high-profile appearences and fundraisers involving the Dalai Lama.
Gere continued to act steadily in movies, though for a stretch his films were less than remarkable. He re-teamed with his "Pretty Woman" co-star Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall for "Runaway Bride" (1999), a sort-of-sequel-in-spirit in which he played a journalist investigating the story of a woman who's backed out of several marriages at the altar-of course, the two characters fall for each other. The film did well enough at the box office, but the excitement was nowhere near the original Gere-Roberts-Marshall teaming. Worse, creatively and commercially, was the would-be romantic tearjerker "Autumn in New York" (2000) in which both he and Winona Ryder were seriously miscast against one another in a soggy "dying-girl-finds-love" melodrama. Gere fared much better under the direction of Robert Altman in the seriocomic "Dr. T and the Women" (2000), playing a handsome gynecologist who seems beset by the many demanding women-including his wife, daughters, office staff and patients-in his life. Gere was perfectly believable as a man who lures females into his orbit, yet fails to understand what drives them; nevertheless, it was one of Altman's entertaining but trifling efforts and never lured a large audience. 2002's "The Mothman Prophecies," a horror thriller pairing Gere again with Laura Linney, also appeared and disappeared from theaters with nary a ripple. It wasn't until 2002's "Unfaithful," in which Gere played the loving, attentive and dashing husband whose beautiful wife (Diane Lane) nevertheless cheats on him with a sensual Frenchman (Olivier Martinez). The film offered one of the best, most measured performances of the actor's career, particularly when the truth is finally revealed to him. Gere next got to display his oft-ignored musical talents in the much-anticipated movie version of the musical "Chicago." At the same time, he also married his companion of seven years and the mother of his son, actress Carey Lowell.
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