An actor and a gentleman
Richard Tiffany Gere was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Mayflower descendants Doris Ann and Homer George. Acting, he recalls, was not in the genes.
“I was from a different planet,” he laughs. “I just enjoyed acting. I remember my mother early on – it was a big family, an Irish family – would take us to the movies. I enjoyed it. I saw it and understood it was a way of communicating to the world.”
“Well I think so. I am definitely Anglo-Saxon. And I am sure there is Irish blood there. I remember my grandfather – he was a farmer in Pennsylvania – and he’d dance Irish jigs a little bit. I’m still hoping to find an O’Gere out there.”
Today, Gere, a well-preserved 63-year-old, is back in London, the city where his career began in earnest with a 1973 West-End engagement as Grease’s Danny Zuko. Returning to the US he soon found work in a series of seminal post-classical Hollywood pictures: Looking for Mr Goodbar, Days of Heaven and American Gigolo.
His earliest film work coincides with one of Hollywood’s most heavily mythologised eras. Does he remember it as a “golden age”?
“Oh yeah,” he says. “It was great. We were all beginning. We worked cheaply. We were doing things that interested us and we had an audience. And in the 1970s, that approach was embraced by the studios: they wanted a piece of this. We went through a great transitional period. What kind of films can we make? What kind of films should we make?”
Gere quickly established himself as a director’s actor. He has, over the course of four decades in showbusiness, worked with Robert Altman, Todd Haynes, Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa and Terrence Malick among others.
Does he subscribe to auteur theory I wonder?
“It’s hard for me to say,” says Gere. “All of the people you’re mentioning are friends. If you want to put them in a category, that’s cool. I can see it. But they’re all individuals. They make very different movies. They’re all challenging.
“Thank God they’re challenging. That’s how they make something special.”
Against these screen credits, Arbitrage marks a directorial debut for Nicholas Jarecki, younger brother of film-makers Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) and Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight).
Intrigued by the quality and possibilities of the script, Gere invited Jarecki to his hotel room for a meeting. Within months, they were shooting.
“It was a great script but you never know how these things are going to turn out,” recalls Gere. “I met him. I asked a lot of questions. I pushed a lot of buttons. We improvised a lot of things.
“I said the only thing that’s going to change your life is if you make a good film. So, don’t give up, don’t compromise. It wasn’t until the American premiere that I realised this is one of those movies that turned out even better than I thought. The ensemble was superb. Everyone continued to find new things. Nick turned out to be a much better director than anyone could have expected.”