In a career spanning decades, Richard Gere hasn’t shied away from creating a stir or standing up for what he believes in. Seventy-two and still going strong, this Hollywood heartthrob has seen more than his fair share of scandal.
Richard Gere’s childhood was a simple but happy one. As the clan's oldest son, he got along swimmingly with his many others siblings. Gere was blessed with open-minded parents, and they never pressured him to follow a particular career, which is how he discovered his love for the performing arts at such a young age. However, he wasn’t always interested in acting.
Richard Gere is so much more than an actor. In fact, from a very young age, he became extremely passionate about music and nurtured his skills. Before long, he picked up the ability to play different instruments, and down the road, he went on to play some of his own music in signature movie scenes. But that wasn't all.
Gere was definitely artistic, but he was also incredibly fit. On top of tickling the ivories, he was also a graceful gymnast. So much so, that he even won a gymnastics scholarship to the University of Massachusetts. But he wouldn't stay there for long. In the end, Gere was never cut out for traditional education. And it might have had something to do with yet another interest.
After Gere dropped out, he started working at the Seattle Repertory Theater and Provincetown Playhouse. His first break came when the director cast him in a role for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. But his big(ger) break would come a few years later when both his musical talents and acting chops were married in one of the most famous productions of all time.
You can’t think of Danny Zuko from Grease without the image of John Travolta, in his black leather jacket, popping up in your head, but did you know Gere played the role years before Travolta made it famous? He was the original Danny Zuko, on a London stage, and he did a great job playing him too because it opened up doors to many other roles.
The turning point came later though: When Hollywood came calling. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in for a smooth ride there.
Some people just don’t get along, as Gere would discover after landing his very first movie. The Lords of Flatbush came out in 1974 and was originally supposed to star Richard Gere with Sylvester Stallone, but the two men realized pretty early on that they were more like enemies than happy costars. Sure, they could have swallowed their differences and made the movie, if it wasn’t for one game-changing incident.
Apparently, things came to a head between Gere and Stallone because of an all-important matter: Lunch. The latter was eating a hot dog in the backseat of a Corolla when Gere decided to join him with his own chicken and mustard. Supposedly, Sly lost his cool when the mustard landed on his clothes, and just like that, Gere was out of a job.
Ouch. And the bad blood didn’t end there either, but more on that later.
Thankfully, there were other directors willing to work with Gere. The world finally got to see him on the big screen in Looking for Mr. Goodbar in 1977. Although he had a small role, there was no denying his talent...or his charming appeal. As such, the film also established him as a heartthrob. And it wasn’t the last time he’d play that sort of a role either.
It isn’t hard to see why Gere started getting typecast for a while. I mean, have you seen the man? He appeared in several 18+ rated films until the mid-80s, including American Gigolo, Breathless, No Mercy, and Beyond the Limit. Luckily, he was more than just a pretty face, as quite a few of these films established beyond a doubt.
And some of his more famous films had another interesting thing in common...
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Remember how Travolta got the Danny Zuko role Gere had already played on stage? Well, that was the last time he won a role Gere may have wanted for himself. Throughout his big-screen career, the latter actually went on to accept four roles Travolta had refused, and all of those films were pretty big hits. Clearly, Lady Luck was a Richard Gere fan too.
Actually, the very first film Gere acted in was one Travolta had given up: Days of Heaven. It came out a year after Looking for Mr. Goodbar because it took two years to complete the editing. The long wait was worth it though as it became very successful, with the director winning an award at Cannes. However, his next film truly cemented his fame as a leading man, not to mention his status as a Hollywood heartthrob.
However, he was incredibly close to missing out on the opportunity altogether.
Gere’s first movie as the main lead was American Gigolo (1980), but he almost didn’t get to play it. Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger were all considered for the role before writer-director Schrader offered the part to John Travolta and then to Christopher Reeve. Gere really was a consolation prize, but in the end, he seemed tailor-made for the role.
Of course, choosing Gere worked out in the director’s favor too. He agreed to do the film for $35,000 while Travolta would have done it for $2 million, and Reeves for $1 million. Gere, on the other hand, was just eager for the opportunity. Although he admitted that the undressing made him feel "vulnerable," the role attracted him because it “is a character I don’t know very well. I don’t own a suit...I don’t speak any languages...I wanted to immerse myself...I just dove in.”
The next movie Gere did became his biggest success and established him as a romantic hero. An Officer and a Gentleman came out in 1982, and Gere only did it for the money, not realizing its potential to become a smash hit. He did throw himself into the character though, mastering his karate training so he could play the role of navy officer convincingly.
He did so well that he won admirers in the unlikeliest of places.
Richard Gere certainly wasn’t expecting anyone to know him when he dropped down in Borneo’s jungles to spend a few days with the Dayak tribe. To his amazement, the tribespeople took one look at him and excitedly yelled, “Officer, gentleman!” Richard Gere had a stunning revelation: He was an international star. However, not everyone associated with the film was his fan.
They may have been in love with each other in An Officer and a Gentleman, but Debra Winger and Richard Gere had no time for each other off-screen. In fact, Winger called Gere a “brick wall” and he admitted there was “tension” between them. Supposedly he was quite unhappy that the Academy overlooked him but nominated her.
Happily, they overcame their differences with time, and recently, Gere was all praise for his former co-star. Unfortunately, he couldn't win them all, especially his ultimate rival—Sylvester Stallone.
They may not have liked each other, but could Gere and Stallone stay completely out of each other’s way? Absolutely not. They both attended a dinner hosted by Elton John in honor of Lady Diana—and before long, the two actors began butting heads. You see, these two Hollywood heartthrobs had both set their sights on the recently-separated Princess of Wales.
One of them was bound to be unlucky, but who would it be?
Gere hadn’t won his stud status for nothing. He and Lady Di were getting along really well with each other, which angered Stallone tremendously. He almost came to blows with Gere and then stalked out of the party, grumbling that he’d never have come if he’d known “Prince f***in’ Charming was gonna be here.”
Gere’s parents were Methodists and brought him up as a Methodist too. However, studying Philosophy in university really ushered him out of his comfort zone and he began studying Buddhist beliefs and practices. Before long, he discovered Zen Buddhism and practiced it for a couple of years before deciding to pay the Dalai Lama a visit. This visit changed everything.
Gere traveled to Nepal with his girlfriend, Sylvia Martins, in 1978. They met with a lot of Tibetan monks and he felt inspired to visit the Dalai Lama himself to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism. After meeting him in India, Gere became a staunch follower and an active proponent of Tibetan Buddhism. He also felt more drawn to human rights issues and making a difference through his own actions.
After the success of An Officer and a Gentleman, Gere had the option of cashing in on his name and choosing other high-profile, commercial films. Filmmakers offered him huge roles like the leads in Die Hard and Wall Street, but he decided to step away from Hollywood for a while to concentrate on his Buddhist faith. He also started working in fact-finding missions in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras, recording the impact of armed conflicts in the region.
People wondered if this meant the end of his Hollywood career, but then he found his next big hit.
Although Gere’s next film was absolute gold, he almost turned it down. He wasn't sold on Pretty Woman—but it only took one beautiful woman to persuade him. He was on the phone and about to refuse the part, when Julia Roberts, who’d already been cast as the female lead in it, slipped him a very important post-it note.
When Richard Gere read Julia's note, he immediately changed his mind and accepted the role. The post-it read, “Please say yes.” Acting in Pretty Woman was one of the best decisions he ever made, and he even got to flex his musical talents. In the film, Gere plays his very own composition. But this wasn't his last musical spotlight. Gere would go on to play his own music in the Cotton Club and Runaway Bride.
While on the set of Pretty Woman, however, Gere had his hands full with one anxious leading lady.
If you’ve watched Pretty Woman, you probably remember the love scene when Gere and Roberts lay wrapped up in one another in bed. What you probably don’t know is that Roberts was so nervous that a vein popped out on her forehead when they began shooting the scene. It was a moment of panic, but of course, Gere came to her rescue.
The director Garry Marshall and Gere both rushed to Roberts' aid and tried to calm her down by massaging the vein in her forehead. Unfortunately, the debacle didn't end there. She then proceeded to break out in hives and had to use calamine lotion before they could finally roll the cameras. Thankfully, as shooting progressed, she became more comfortable.
After all, this wasn't the last time Gere and Roberts would star together.
Despite its huge success at the box office, Gere, Roberts, and director Garry Marshall agreed to never make a sequel of the film unless it involved all three of them. Nine years later, they ended up making a completely different film—another light-hearted romantic comedy—The Runaway Bride. A sequel for the classic Pretty Woman was never meant to be.
A good-looking man in showbiz is bound to be popular with the ladies. A true ladies’ man, Gere dated a lot of women. He had long-term, on-off relationships with Penelope Milford and Sylvia Martins, and flings with co-stars like Tuesday Weld, Barbara Streisand, Tina Chow, and Padma Laxmi, among others. And he wasn’t just a hit with the single ladies either.
Kim Bassinger and Priscilla Presley’s exes both claimed that Gere had been with their ladies while they were still together.
At one point, it looked like Gere had finally had enough of the no-strings-attached life and was ready to settle down. When he met model Cindy Crawford, the two of them got along like a house on fire, despite their 17-year age difference. After dating for a few years, he flew her to Las Vegas and they tied the knot there in 1991. Only, his new wife was slightly disappointed.
Cindy Crawford had always dreamed of a large and glamorous wedding. But unfortunately for her, a fairytale was never in the cards. Instead of a stunning white gown, Crawford wore a navy blue suit, and because the ceremony was so sudden, they exchanged tin foil rings. It wasn't exactly the most romantic affair—but in the end, this would be the least of their worries.
If you think dealing with rumors in this new age of social media is bad, consider what Gere and Crawford went through back in the 90s. For this hot couple, rumors ran rampant, and the one that reigned supreme was that both Gere and Crawford were gay and that their marriage was one big farce. In fact, the whispers became so overwhelming—they decided to respond to the allegations.
To combat the ruthless rumor mill, the newlyweds took out a full page ad in The London Times to counter the slander. They pledged their commitment to each other, declared their love, and also mentioned all the causes they supported, including AIDS research and LGBTQ rights to name a few. Unfortunately, though, trouble was already brewing in paradise.
Gere’s marriage to Crawford lasted over four years, and ended not because of any rumors, but because of other circumstances. The couple’s hectic schedules, their age difference, and their career goals pushed them apart. They eventually called it quits and went their separate ways in 1995. After this crushing blow, it would be a long while before Gere settled down again.
Gere was steadily making films that were doing well at the box office, and that helped his popularity with his fans. Films like Primal Fear, The Jackal, and Runaway Bride all came out in the 90s, each showing a different side of Gere to his audience. But while his films were doing well, he made a drastic decision. On one occasion, he sought out the limelight—but not in an acting capacity.
Never one to mince words, or keep his beliefs under wraps, Gere found himself in hot water while announcing the 1993 Academy Award nominees. The reason? He decided to condemn the Chinese government for their occupation of Tibet. As you can imagine, his outspokenness didn't go unpunished—and the consequences were severe.
Of course, Gere’s bluntness ruffled some Chinese feathers, and Hollywood had to take action to appease them. They clapped back by banning Gere from the Oscars that year, stripping him of his presenter duties. But even his exclusion from the event failed to deter Gere. He refused to back down from his stance, and he still hasn’t.
Gere has had clear goals since the day he became a Tibetan Buddhist. He campaigns for human rights in Tibet and supports “Survival International,” an organization that protects the rights and lands of tribal people all over the world. But that's not all. Gere also supports ecological causes and works to create AIDS awareness; he even set up an AIDS care home in India.
But while he was doing his bit to change the world, he met someone to rock his own.
You never know when Cupid may strike, and in Gere’s case, it truly seemed like the love God had given up. But after seven years, he finally met a woman who stirred something deep inside him. The lucky woman? Carey Lowell, a fellow Buddhist and actor, most famously known as the Bond girl in License to Kill. And while some predicted that the relationship wouldn’t last, they were wrong.
In fact, one huge development brought the couple closer than ever.
After a few years of dating, Lowell and Gere took a huge leap together: They became parents. Homer James Jigme Gere was born in 2000. The couple named him after both his grandfathers, with Gere adding the Tibetan name “Jigme,” which means fearless, before his last name. At 50, Gere admitted that he’d always thought of having kids, but hadn’t found the right person to have them with.
It seemed like the Hollywood heartthrob had finally settled down, but had he really?
Two years after his son’s birth, Gere and Lowell decided to take their relationship to the next level. They married each other in 2002. It was Gere’s second and Lowell’s third marriage, and with a son to care for together, it certainly seemed like they were in it for the long haul. Honestly, though, is anything permanent in Hollywood?
Gere had plenty of hits at the turn of the century, and no wonder considering the effort he put in. Two of his films required him to dance. He spent three months learning tap dancing for his role in Chicago. He also spent eight-hour days for two months practicing ballroom dancing for Shall We Dance. When he wasn’t on set, or practicing for his roles, Gere spent most of his time with his little family.
Sadly though, his on-screen roles were far more successful than his domestic attempts.
Gere and Lowell appeared to be a happily married couple, but in truth, they were struggling to make it work. In 2013, 11 years after their marriage, Gere and Lowell decided to go their separate ways. One speculation was that their personalities were too different: Gere wanted a more serious, Buddhist lifestyle while Lowell was more of a party girl.
This meant another failed relationship for Gere. Still, that wasn’t even the worst part.
It’s one thing if a couple decides they don’t want to be together, and another if they can’t agree on how to settle their divorce. Lowell and Gere’s split took an ugly turn and the matter went to court. After three long years of highly contested court proceedings, their divorce became final. The couple shares custody of their son but has nothing else to do with each other now.
Gere wouldn’t have to wait long until he found someone else to love though. But more on that later.
You never know when people can misjudge your actions. Gere was at a rally in Jaipur to campaign for AIDS awareness when he decided to show some of his ballroom dancing moves to the audience, with the help of his Bollywood co-campaigner, Shilpa Shetty. He twirled and dipped Shetty and kissed her on the cheek, invoking the ire of several onlookers.
It became such a huge deal that a local court charged them to be in violation of public obscenity laws. What would this mean for Gere?
Thankfully the court dismissed the case as “frivolous” and allowed Gere to enter and exit the country freely. He acknowledged that he’d wanted to capture the audience’s attention to draw it towards the more important practice of being safe and using protection to prevent the spread of HIV. However, he issued an apology to the Indian public claiming he’d never intended to offend anyone.
Soon after his divorce, Gere met the beautiful Alejandra Silva, a Spanish activist who was, incidentally, 33 years younger than him. For him, it was a no-brainer. She was intelligent and alluring, and together, they shared a lot of the same interests. However, at the beginning of their romance, Silva certainly played hard to get.
Right from the get-go, Silva turned a blind eye to Gere’s overtures. Clearly, she didn’t belong to one of his fan clubs. Gere didn’t give up though. He sent her beautiful bouquets of flowers and even wrote her songs. Naturally, his grand gestures eventually worked their magic and melted her ice-cold heart. The rest, as they say, is history.
After dating for a bit, the happy couple tied the knot in 2018 at an Italian resort on the Amalfi coast. They had another private, Indian-inspired, ceremony a month later. They had tents from Jaipur and flags from Tibet gracing the ceremony, and the bride and groom arrived at the venue in a tuk-tuk. It looked like Gere had finally found love.
But even as he welcomed romance back into his life, Gere's political views certainly made him unwelcome in other places.
Remember how Gere’s outspokenness against China got him banned from the Academy Awards? Well, the Chinese were also very unhappy with him, and he provoked them further by calling for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He continues to be a vocal Dalai Lama and Tibetan supporter, which means he’s earned himself a lifetime ban from entering China, and that Hollywood has no space for him.
He’s matter-of-fact about it because he enjoys the freedom and range of characters he gets to play in Indie films. He also feels bad for other people facing the Chinese wrath. He was going to work with a Chinese director once, but the man apologized saying he had to back out otherwise his whole family would have to leave the country.
Perhaps the weirdest thing about Richard Gere is that there's an outrageous rumor about him and a gerbil. In fact, his longtime rival, Sylvester Stallone, even cited the rumor as a reason to steer clear of the tabloids: "I stopped reading the press a long time ago. Lots of crazy things came up about me at first, especially from the tabloids. There is an infamous 'Gere stuck a hamster up his bum' urban myth." Believe it or not, this wasn't even the craziest part.
As the urban legend goes, Richard Gere took a living gerbil and inserted it into his rear end. Then, when the creature died, Gere had to undergo emergency surgery. Of course, this is just a ridiculous story, but somehow it had legs. People even started to think that Sylvester Stallone was responsible for the wild rumor—another tit for tat in the scintillating Stallone and Gere rivalry.
Unbelievably, Stallone responded to these allegations, saying, "He even thinks I'm the individual responsible for the gerbil rumor. Not true...but that's the rumor."
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