An actor and a gentleman
Internal Affairs (1990)
Pretty Woman (1989)
From his breakout role as Grease’s Danny Zuko in the West End 40 years ago, Richard Gere has been the consummate actor in every role – the odd bad guy, sure, but mostly the romantic lead. “I happen to really, really like women,” he tells TARA BRADY
There’s a moment in Arbitrage, the crazily taut new Wall Street thriller from writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, when murky hero Robert Miller (Richard Gere) refers to himself as a “patriarch”.
Another actor might have enunciated the word with moustache-twirling élan. Miller, we realise early in the film, is a hedge-fund manager attempting to offload his greatly overvalued company before anyone notices that the books have been cooked to a crisp.
“Patriarch”, in the circumstances, ought to sound like another villainous flaw in a character motivated by shady, one-per-cent capitalism.
Gere, however, is far too astute to play the role to pantomime effect. Many have noted a relationship between the 1980s-style tycoon at the heart of Pretty Woman and Arbitrage’s grand scale huckster. But watching Miller shuffle between his dowager wife (Susan Sarandon), French mistress (Laetitia Casta, replete with Lauren Hutton-esque diastema) and financial wunderkind daughter (Brit Marling), another Gere role entirely comes to mind, namely American Gigolo’s Julian Kaye.
Gere, accordingly, sounds out the word patriarch in Arbitrage as a needy cry for affirmation.
“I’ve thought about this,” he says. “They are both very charming characters that have a lot of personal talent. Julian was a very twodimensional character. There is no centre to him. In classic movie terms, he was a woman’s role. He was a female character. This character is an alpha male, but like most of those alpha males, there is something unfinished about him. There is something dominating which surely masks some kind of insecurity. And ultimately he’s very dependent on all the women around him.”
In a film jollied along by sleight of hand and reversals of fortune, the biggest surprise is that Gere’s performance takes us in too. Miller (whom Gere has frequently likened to Bill Clinton) may be a swindling, philandering, whiskey-swilling suit who spends much of the film covering up an involvement in a fatal car crash, yet Gere never allows us to forget his human frailties or charms.
“Just one more chance,” sings Billie Holiday on the soundtrack; we’re with her.
“This is the kind of film we used to make in the 1970s a lot,” says Gere, who came out of semi-retirement for Arbitrage.
“They were socially conscious films with great central characters the kind that spoke to the moment about relationships, about emotions, about language. Now that’s a rarity. These guys are demonised right now; years ago, they were deified. The reality has to be somewhere in between. They represent the good and the bad in all of us.”