October 14, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Sun Herald: More than 20 years later, director Taylor Hackford is still proud of 'An Officer and a Gentleman," and admiring of Gere's emotionally naked performance.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : The Peace Corps in Bolivia: October 14, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Sun Herald: More than 20 years later, director Taylor Hackford is still proud of 'An Officer and a Gentleman," and admiring of Gere's emotionally naked performance.

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More than 20 years later, director Taylor Hackford is still proud of 'An Officer and a Gentleman," and admiring of Gere's emotionally naked performance.

More than 20 years later, director Taylor Hackford is still proud of 'An Officer and a Gentleman, and admiring of Gere's emotionally naked performance.

More than 20 years later, director Taylor Hackford is still proud of 'An Officer and a Gentleman," and admiring of Gere's emotionally naked performance.

'Shall We Dance' star Gere continues to evolve



NEW YORK - Nirvana ain't easy.

Richard Gere has spent more than 25 years journeying toward that state of perfect blessedness. But the last couple of weeks have been making progress pretty difficult.

First, "Shall We Dance?" co-star Jennifer Lopez decided to let him do most of the work publicizing the film, which opens Friday. Then, Gere took a fall off his horse, breaking his hand.

The heavy Tibetan prayer beads he wears wound around his right wrist, and all those sacred teachings about the nature of earthly suffering, don't seem to be lifting his mood.

But he brightens when he talks about his new movie.

"This is not a deep emotional film," Gere said, running his hand through hair the color of antique silver. "But there's a sweetness to it, and a truth to that sweetness."

The sweetness comes from the film's source, a 1996 Japanese hit about a shy businessman who rejects his country's conformity by taking dance classes. The truth, Gere hopes, comes from the new translation, which moves the story to Chicago and has Gere's vaguely unhappy hero abandon his commute to learn the waltz.

"A man's going home and suddenly decides to get off the train," the 54-year-old actor said. "It's about opening up; it's about listening to this mysterious drive in us all."

Gere's own drive - which led him from college to off-Broadway theater, sexy Hollywood movies, an onslaught of innuendo and a passionate commitment to Buddhism and Tibet - is a little mysterious, too. It began in Syracuse, N.Y., where Gere grew up.

"We did school plays and sang in the church choir and we all played instruments," he said. "To this day, every day, I thank my mother and father for those music lessons when we were kids. Because there were five kids, and we were not a wealthy family."

After high school, Gere went off to the University of Massachusetts, where he took some philosophy courses.

"My grades were pretty terrible," he admits.

"But acting had something for me, touched something in me," he said. He auditioned for a part in a play on Cape Cod. "I remember... getting the call in my dorm room saying 'You got the job.' And I knew, this is it - my life has started.

"And so," he says, "I ran off to join the circus."

Gere's father, an insurance salesman, wasn't thrilled to hear that his 19-year-old son was dropping out. He probably grew less thrilled as Gere's travels took him to Seattle, San Francisco and even, briefly, a rock 'n' roll commune.

"I was a pretty standard-looking hippie at that point," Gere remembers.

That reputation wasn't always flattering.

"I've known him forever, although we hadn't worked together before," said Susan Sarandon, his other co-star in "Shall We Dance?" Then, she grins. "I never even slept with him - how'd that happen?"

She resumes, "I think he's much... mellower now. And you know, at this age, that doesn't seem like such a bad word anymore."

The mellowness, though, comes and goes.

Allude to "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" really taking him to a new level in his career, and Gere's instantly dismissive.

"It had happened long before that," he says, though previously he had only bit parts in movies like "Baby Blue Marine." "I was already doing really interesting plays in New York. I could have kept going at that and made a good living."

In 1978, the year after "Goodbar," Gere co-starred in Terence Malick's cult epic "Days of Heaven."

"Part of me was thinking about movies, although I wasn't focused on it," he says. "I had seen 'Badlands,' his first film, and I was quite taken with that. I thought this is someone I can work with, this is someone special. And then when 'Days of Heaven' came along - I knew, clearly, that my life was going to change."

It didn't, as Gere - never the best judge of material - followed that film with "Bloodbrothers," based on the Richard Price novel, and the wartime flop "Yanks."

But then, in 1980, John Travolta dropped out of "American Gigolo" - and Gere got a career-defining role as the smug, Armani-clad, multisexual prostitute. When "An Officer and a Gentleman" followed in 1982, featuring Gere romping in bed with Debra Winger, his sex-symbol status was assured - as well as his image as someone who could leave a leading lady in tears.

More than 20 years later, 'Officer" director Taylor Hackford is still proud of that film, and admiring of Gere's emotionally naked performance.

"My sense of Richard is that too often people just look at him and settle for that beautiful exterior and don't ask him to go any deeper," Hackford said.

Repeat the compliment, and Gere only bristles a bit.

"Well, I know what he's saying, but that's also a bit naive," he says. "Some parts don't require you to do all that. How many great parts in movies have that great bravura (quality) - there just aren't that many around. De Niro, how many have there been for him?"

There weren't many for Gere as the decade went on. "An Officer and a Gentleman" was followed by the ill-advised "Breathless" remake and a misfired Graham Greene adaptation, "The Honorary Consul." "The Cotton Club," in 1984, was a legendary disaster on several levels, and the biblical "King David" was roundly ridiculed.

"It's very difficult to find good roles," Gere says now, "and the competition for them is extremely high. So you do the best of what's out there, and you fulfill the requirements of it. You rise to the necessity of the character... . It's very easy to destroy a piece by giving too much."

Since then, he has continued to recharge his career every few years, following up five years of flops (remember "Sommersby," "Mr. Jones," "Intersection" and "First Knight"?) with the smart "Primal Fear"; coming back from "Autumn in New York," "Dr. T & The Women" and "The Mothman Prophecies" to hit with "Unfaithful."

"I'm thankful that there have been enough good parts around, and I'm very lucky that they're here now," he says. "I didn't realize I'd last this long."

When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Sun Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bolivia; Movies; Music; Hollywood



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