He is a physically beautiful man who has the vanity to halfheartedly try and disguise it with specs perched on the end of his nose, well-worn sweater, jeans and a retiring attitude. Yes, if he checks the time it's on a gold Rolex but for a couple of decades he has otherwise disdained the more obvious trappings of Hollywood glamour in search of a higher plane.
Zen not Lear jet, you understand. His is an Eastern mind caught in a Western time zone where star billing is a competition between your higher and lower self. No agents or ten percent involved.
Richard Gere is a screen idol who wants pauses in his career and life so he can stop and smell the saffron. A Tibetan Buddhist for twenty years he works for the Dalai Lama and by doing so, he suggests, for himself. His inner, spiritual self.
Oh, he's had his socko secular moments like marriage to supermodel Cindy Crawford (now in limbo) and displaying his still lean, familiar ( to cinemagoers) body since his debut in Terence Malick's elegiac ‘Days of Heaven' (1977). Career landmarks -- good and bad -- like ‘Looking for Mr Goodbar'(1978), ‘American Gigolo' (1980) , ‘An Officer and a Gentleman(1982), ‘Breathless' (1983') to his rogue cop and arguably best role in ‘Internal Affairs' (1989) and ‘Pretty Woman' (1990) followed. Recent lows like box office downers ‘Intersection' and ‘Final Analysis' did not phase him.
For all along he has been on a Dalai high. Almost every morning he devotes at least forty-five minutes to Zen and Tibetan meditation which he says helps him become ‘very centred and focused'.
While most Hollywood headliners concern themselves with fudging time for their private exercise trainers Gere keeps strict priorities and is emphatic:' Even if I don't really have time I'll just say:'' Forget everything else, I'll be late.'' ‘
For years he was reluctant to talk at length about his need for Buddhism but now, at 46 with those shock waves of silver hair the only blatant age indicator, he is less remote, more comfortable and relaxed about it.
When his marriage to Cindy Crawford collapsed last year -- they had a rough marital time including claims that he was gay and their relationship was a sham -- he went to India and Mongolia seeking further spiritual development. He is not shy about his beliefs.He is guarded. Cynics like to gnaw.
‘I had not interest in talking publicly about my Buddhist practice. It was too important to me, too private. There camed a point when His Holiness ( the Dalai Lama) said:'' We need help.'' He asked me to do it.
‘Essentially, the gig is to get past the ego -- any way you can -- to achieve wisdom and compassion and there are incredible levels of that. My ultimate goal is to get rid of all the anger, hatred and jealousy in my life, to become everything I want to be.'
He says he wanted to be an actor ever since playing Santa Claus at the age of seven. He was born in Philadelphia, brought up with three sisters and a brother in upstate New York; his grandfather was a farmer, his father Homer an insurance salesman and his mother Doris a housewife. ‘I had an all-American suburban upbringing. Church on Sundays, sports, music, boy scouts and so on. Typical middle-class.'