In this review of The Bee Season (which sounds very interesting)Manohla Dargis has this pointed bit of analysis of Richard Gere’s acting:
The casting of Mr. Gere proves a challenge the filmmakers never surmount – not only because of his celebrity, but also because he fails to convince as a man devoted to the life of the mind. An appealing and poised screen presence, Mr. Gere wears designer threads and Navy uniforms with ease. His gifts as a film actor are located in his body, in his silky walk and fluid gestures, but he does not have the open, expressive eyes that so often serve as the way into a character, particularly one meant to have a lot going on behind those same eyes.
I never quite thought of it that way before. I wouldn’t call myself a Richard Gere “fan”, but I loved him in Officer and a Gentleman and I loved him in American Gigolo. But sometimes he annoys me (don’t even get me started on Chicago), or … it’s not that he annoys me, it’s just that sometimes there’s something OFF in his character portrayals. When he’s good he’s good and when he’s not good, he seems to … not even BE there up on the screen. Strange. I always thought that maybe it was because he was too self-centered to submit to another character, but I am not sure that that’s true. I actually met the man once, and he was very nice, and interested in other people. Kind, social. Also, and this is very attractive, he cares so much about acting. He is dedicated to it. He was very friendly with all of us actors-in-training, his stories about his early days were terrific. I was also surprised at how FUNNY he was. I never would have imagined Richard Gere to be funny, not from his screen performances, but he is.
I didn’t get a narcisstic vibe from him, and, come to think of it, that possible explanation of what is missing in some of his roles doesn’t quite sit well with me. That’s not WHY he can’t “get into” certain characters. At least I don’t think it is.
Although, I do think he has a difficult time NOT being the leading man anymore. That, for me, was one of the main issues with Chicago. That movie was about the WOMEN, Gere, not you. That was not “a Richard Gere film”. He couldn’t surrender the screen to the women. I noticed the same issue in Pretty Woman, which, let’s be honest, was all about making Julia Roberts a star. He was basically support staff in that film. But he tried to OWN the scenes, as though he thought we were there to see him, but she just walked away with that movie. Easily. The scene when they go to the opera in San Francisco in his private jet there’s a moment where the two of them are getting into a limosine and he doesn’t open the door for her. She’s in that long red ballgown … and he gets into the car first. It always struck me as … a very revealing moment about Richard Gere. And who he is as a movie star. Me first. You’re a romantic lead in what is, essentially, a fairy tale, and you don’t help the princess into her car? It may not be an attractive quality, but it is what made him so riveting in American Gigolo and Looking For Mr. Goodbar and Officer and a Gentleman.
Pretty Woman was all about Julia Roberts. It was about making her a star. I think Gere had a problem with that, on some level. He resisted it.
I think mainly when it seems that he is OFF, it’s a matter of casting: He has a limited range. I don’t mean that as a criticism. Most actors have a limited range. We can’t be EVERYthing. But actors get in trouble when they over-step, when they don’t know WHAT their range is. Most actors who become major stars know exaclty what their range is. They know who they are. Actors who don’t know who they are don’t get very far.
If you’re fat and you can’t or won’t lose weight, then embrace it, and go for the fat-girl parts. Don’t bitch about how people judge you on your looks. They judge EVERYONE on their looks. You think Jessica Alba doesn’t get JUDGED on her looks?? It might even be WORSE for her because if she gains two pounds, she will definitely hear about it from her manager, her agent, her publicist, and Perez Hilton. Camryn Manheim is fat. She never let ANYONE stop her. And she was so good that directors CHANGED how they viewed a character so they could have HER in whatever show they were producing. Her first big break was in a national car commercial where she played a mechanic. The producers/directors of the spot had only been seeing men, of course – guys who fit the “mechanic” type. Big blurpy blue-collar types. My friend, who is a casting director, had seen Camryn’s one-woman show and had thought she was fabulous. She called her in for as much stuff as she could, and she snuck Camryn into the audition lineup for the mechanic part. One woman (Camryn) against 50 guys. Guess who got the part? The director changed his entire VIEW on who the mechanic should be based on Camryn’s audition. How amazing is that? Nobody gave Camryn Manheim anything. She FORCED people to see her TALENT, not her fat. Good for her.
If you’re a geeky skinny nerd, then know your range. Know you will be given geeky skinny nerd parts, and embrace it.
If you’re a hot leading man, don’t be embarrassed about it, and don’t get pissy because you won’t be cast as the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Embrace your leading man-ness.
LATER, if you reach some success, and you have TALENT – THEN maybe you can “stretch” and pick other parts, but unless you’re really talented in that chameleon way (and it’s usually the character actors who are talented in that chameleon way) – then you better stick to your type. Actors have made extremely successful careers out of playing one thing.
Gere, when he’s cast well – like American Gigolo – is superb, definitive. He’s so good in that film that I cannot imagine anyone else in the part.
But until I read the review of The Bee Season this morning, I hadn’t really clarified WHY. It is because his “gifts as a film actor are located in his body …” That is so true. Very few actors have what he has. His comfort in his own body. He moves with grace – and when he crosses a room with purpose (watch how he leaps up after Debra Winger when she tries to storm out of the cheap motel in Officer and a Gentleman) it is very exciting. His body is coiled, ready to strike, but laidback, too, filled with potential. Watch some of the scenes in Looking for Mr. Goodbar when he’s half-naked and freaking out on coke, and putting a knife to Diane Keaton’s throat and then bursting into laughter. He’s incredible. Fearless with his body. Watch how he walks in American Gigolo. Watch how he kisses Debra Winger in Officer and a Gentleman – and … just watch how he walks into that factory in the end of that movie. The whole scene is set up to make you excited, sure, but watch how he WALKS and the excitement in that scene can mainly be found in how he WALKS.