Richard Gere PROFILE
More coolly charismatic than drop-dead handsome, Richard Gere was one of the most successful sex symbols of the 1980s and early '90s. Possessing something of an actual talent in addition to his good looks, Gere has proven himself to be a versatile actor since first starring as the pick-up artist who creeps out Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Capable of playing everything from romantic leads and action heroes to medieval knights and ruthless villains, Gere has moved beyond his role as cinematic eye candy to become one of the more enduring actors of his generation.
Born in Philadelphia on August 31, 1948, Gere had a strict Methodist upbringing in upstate New York. In the '60s, he studied philosophy and film at the University of Massachusetts. Following his 1967 graduation, Gere became a professional actor and sometime musician, performing theatrically in Seattle and New York and attempting unsuccessfully to form a rock band. In 1973 the young actor landed in London, where he gained prominence playing Danny Zuko in Grease, a role he would later reprise on Broadway. While in London, Gere gained the privilege of becoming one of the few Americans ever to work with Britain's Young Vic Theater, where he appeared in The Taming of the Shrew.
Back in the U.S., Gere made his feature film debut in 1974 with a tiny part in Report to the Commissioner. He returned to the stage the following year as part of the cast of an off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard's Killer's Head; following Gere's turn in the 1977 Looking for Mr. Goodbar, he and Shepard would again collaborate in Terrence Malick's breathtaking Days of Heaven (1978). In 1979, Gere won considerable theatrical acclaim for his performance in the Broadway production of Martin Sherman's Bent, and the next year enjoyed his first shot at screen stardom with the title role in Paul Schrader's American Gigolo. Though the film was not a major critical or box-office success, it did earn recognition for the actor, who had taken the role after John Travolta turned it down. Gere did not become a real star until he appeared opposite Deborah Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982, but his bonafide celebrity was jeopardized with roles in several poorly received films, including King David (1985). A lead role in Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 The Cotton Club also failed to perk up the actor's career; despite a legendary director and stellar cast, the film received mixed reviews and poor box office.
With no recent major successes behind him by the end of the decade, it looked as if Gere's career was in a tailspin. Fortunately, he abruptly pulled out of the dive in 1990, first as a cop/crime lord in Mike Figgis' Internal Affairs and then as a ruthless businessman who finds true love in the arms of prostitute Julia Roberts in the smash romantic comedy Pretty Woman. Back in the saddle again, Gere continued to star in a number of films, including Sommersby (1993), Intersection (1994) and First Knight (1995). In 1996, he was highly praised for his portrayal of an arrogant hot-shot attorney in Primal Fear, and in 1999 found further financial, if not critical, success starring opposite Julia Roberts in the Pretty Woman sequel Runaway Bride.
When not on screen, Gere uses his stardom to promote his causes. A devout Buddhist, he has been deeply involved with the struggles surrounding the Dalai Lama.