One-time Hollywood A-lister Richard Gere says that his absence from major studio movies in recent years is down to his outspoken views on Tibet.
The 67-year old actor, famed for his roles in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Pretty Woman,’ is also a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and a close friend of the Dalai Lama. In this capacity, he has long spoken out against China’s occupation of Tibet – and this, he tells The Hollywood Reporter, has led to him being blacklisted in Hollywood.
Gere explains, “There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him.’ I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”
Recent years have seen China become the third-largest box office territory in the world. As a result, many Hollywood movies covet a theatrical release in China – plus Chinese business involvement in Hollywood has increased dramatically.
However, Gere says his troubles stem further back than this. Presenting an award at the 1993 Oscars, he seized the opportunity to publicly condemn the “horrendous human rights situation” in Tibet, and was subsequently banned from presenting at the award show again. Nor has he ever been Oscar-nominated, even after getting a Golden Globe for 2000’s ‘Chicago’ – although he has recently become a member of the Academy.
Further problems arose with Gere’s 1997 movie ‘Red Corner,’ in which he portrayed an American businessman working in China who is accused of murder: “Everyone was happy with the film… Then, out of nowhere, I get calls saying, ‘We don’t want you doing press.’ MGM wanted to make an overall deal with the Chinese. China told them, ‘If you release this film, we’re not buying it.’ And so, they dumped it.”
This has led to Gere being unable to make anything but independent films nowadays, but even working under these conditions is not without its problems for the actor.
“There was [an independent film] I was going to do with a Chinese director, and two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it.’ We had a secret phone call on a protected line.”
Gere claims, “If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work.” Reportedly, the film in question had not even been intended for release in China.
Still, Gere concedes he’s happy to work in the independent arena, remarking “I’m not interested in playing the wizened Jedi in your tentpole. I was successful enough in the last three decades that I can afford to do these [smaller films] now.
“The studios are interested in the possibility of making huge profits. But I’m still making the same films that I was making when I started. Small, interesting, character‑driven and narrative‑driven stories. It hasn’t impacted my life at all.”
Gere’s most recent independent feature, ‘Norman,’ is out now in the US.