He may have matured in his approach to life but Richard Gere still manages to incite raw emotions. Richard Mowe catches him in a state of siege in Rome
Outside the Hotel de Russie in Rome there’s an army of screaming women interspersed with Roman youths feigning curiosity. Film star Richard Gere appears mildly astonished at the state of siege. You suspect that all this attention could not fail to flatter his vanity. Except you’d be wrong. He doesn’t appear to have any.
Gere, 57, has become the antithesis of the Hollywood star, except nobody has told the citizens of Rome. When I ask him how it feels to continue to rate as one of the most handsome males on the planet he has a ready quip: ‘Plastic surgery. At least once a month. If you come to New York I will give you the name of my plastic surgeon. He’s a genius . . . Look, I do not know how much time is left before I become old and ugly. So I’m making the most of what I have while I can.’
Gere is in Rome with his young family (actress wife Carey Lowell and their seven-year-old son Homer James) to talk about his new role in Lasse Hallström’s The Hoax as Clifford Irving, the writer of the spoof biography of reclusive multimillionaire Howard Hughes, which plays on Gere’s qualities of inbuilt charm and persuasion to hide the unreliable shark underneath. His performance is definitely worth an Oscar nod. Later this year he will be seen as a journalist in the comedy thriller Spring Break in Bosnia opposite Jesse Eisenberg and Terrence Howard and as one of several representations of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There.
Gere and Hallström are neighbours in upstate New York. The actor had known The Hoax script was out there a long time before it came his way. ‘Lasse called me up and told me to read the latest version of the script, but at that point I could not see what I could do with it. Then I had another think and suddenly I could see exactly where to go with it. I thought that it would really be fascinating as an actor to play someone who’s lying all the time.
‘Hughes is like a mythical creature who lives in our imagination but no one knew him. Irving invents stories but I think they become real for the audience as well.’
Gere finds it intriguing to compare such a notion with his craft. ‘Obviously as actors we are in the game of manipulation. We pretend to be in the middle of a story and our job is to make the pretence believable enough that people will take the voyage with us.’
Gere’s private predilections have been the object of much media speculation over the years, notably the rumour that he was gay. He may once have been enraged at the perpetrators but now he has emerged on a higher plateau. ‘What difference does it make what anyone thinks if I live truthfully and honestly and with as open a heart as I can?’ he says. Clifford Irving would not be amused.
The Hoax is on general release from Fri 3 Aug.