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Best known for his handsome good looks and leading man charms, Richard Gere has used these gifts to showcase his abilities as a supremely talented performer, often taking roles that challenged perceptions. His most celebrated roles of course were the ones where he was the attractive hero, such as 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman and 1990’s Pretty Woman, and while these helped to cement his status as one of his generation’s greatest actors, he committed himself to many other deeper works that might not always have worked as well or were as critically or financially successful, but reveal the dedication and endless appeal he has as a screen presence. Here are 5 Richard Gere roles that you (probably) never heard of but should put on your list.
Gere plays Jesse Lujack, a troublesome, arrogant drifter who steals an expensive sports car and when pursued by a cop, has an alteration that leaves the police officer dead. Now on the run, her breaks into the apartment of Monica Poiccard (Valérie Kaprisky), a UCLA architecture undergraduate with whom he had a torrid one-night stand in Vegas. Knowing she is better off without him, but uncontrollably drawn to the danger he represents, she give him haven, even as the police close in.
The film is a character study of sorts with the highly sexual co-dependent relationship at the center. Gere purposefully plays Lujack with layers of repulsion, and his downward spiral is not always easy to watch. While the movie plays into his smokey sexual allure, Gere gives Lujack a desperation that keeps him edgy. Not likable, just edgy. That’s the point of his work here, a push-me-pull-you performance the takes advantage of the audiences high investment with him after his acclaimed work in An Officer and a Gentleman the year before. We want to fall for this guy because that’s what the movies teach us, but Gere straight out refuses to let us, and it makes for a dynamic antihero.
A remake of the 1982 French film The Return of Martin Guerre, Sommersby follows a man with a questionable story who arrives at a Southern city after the American Civil War after a six year absence. The townspeople recognize him as Jack Sommersby, and then even his wife, who has waited for him to come back, taken by his sudden return. But he seems a different man, a far cry from the cold, unforgiving, and unkind man he once was, and it’s not long before some have questions about his intent. Or who he is.
A film built entirely on the idea that Sommersby might not be who we think, the mystery builds to a court case and murder trial, which sees the town grow divided about this man who many feel has greatly changed. Starring alongside Jodie Foster as Sommersby’s wife, this period film, directed by Jon Amiel, is a sweeping romantic drama made convincing by the two lead performances, with Gere especially good as a man burdened by some very dark haunts. While the film might indulge in some theatrical manipulations, Gere is terrific, keeping this one compelling to the dramatic last moments.
Gere plays Lancelot, a medieval vagabond swordsman with nothing to live or die for, making money in smaller villages with duels for money. When he chances upon Guinevere’s (Julia Ormond) carriage on the way to Camelot where she intends to marry King Arthur (Sean Connery) of Camelot, he rescues her from an attempted kidnapping. He falls in love with her, and she is drawn to him as well, but keeps her vow to join the king. Lancelot soon travels to Camelot and earns the trust of Arthur and joins he Knights of the Round Table, but there are challenges and betrayals ahead that test this new loyalty as love cannot be denied.
Based on the Arthurian legend, First Knight is another period piece for Gere, and while it remains a romantic drama, has plenty of action as well. He is not initially what might be considered a good fit as a knight, especially for fans who came to appreciate his softer, more toned-down approach, but it’s not long before he wins over the part with some dashing swordplay and heroic charms. Playing opposite Connery can be no easy task, but Gere is up for it, and the film has some great moments, despite some lapses. For fans of the genre and Gere, this is unlike anything he’s ever done, and well worth a watch.
Another remake of a French film, this one 1970’s Les choses de la vie, Intersection follows a man named Vincent Eastman (Gere), who along with his wife Sally (Sharon Stone) run a small architectural firm. In an unhappy marriage, Vincent strays when he meets journalist Olivia, (Lolita Davidovich) and an affair begins. As problems continue to cause issues at home, Vincent and Sally are at their end it seems, but there is trouble on a road ahead that will hit with great impact.
While the film is a bit of disjointed story with some pacing issues, not to mention a famously stale performance from Stone, Gere really takes to the premise and delivers a committed turn as a man speeding toward trouble. The film’s double-meaning title might not be so nuanced, but Gere finds plenty of effecting moments as his character struggles with a troubling yet invigorating change in his life. Still luring audiences in with his good looks, this film is another study on personality and Gere delivers.
Not a theatrical release, but instead a television docudrama made for HBO, it chronicles the early spread and identification of HIV/AIDS. A large ensemble cast, with Matthew Modine at the center playing an American epidemiologist, the film uses a number of familiar faces as people affected by or afflicted with the disease. A monumentally challenging and unabashedly in-your-face experience, it highlights a number of political missteps and social injustices that tainted the early years in the fight to learn about the epidemic and educate the people about it.
Gere plays an unnamed but well-known man in theater referred only to as The Choreographer. He is diagnosed with HIV and serves as an emotional reminder that the disease is entirely indiscriminate with its victims. While the production is peppered with a long list of stars doing their part to raise awareness, it was Gere’s involvement that made the largest impression, him already being one of the first big name Hollywood actors to play a gay man, having done so on Broadway back in 1979. His performance here is deeply personal, affecting, and while limited, heartbreaking, giving a lot of the science-laden story some human depth.
What are some Richard Gere roles that you like best?