Richard Gere is an actor and humanitarian who first rose to prominence in the 1970s with films such as Looking for Mr Goodbar and Days of Heaven. He soon became an 80s heartthrob thanks to his starring turn in American Gigolo, and female fans around the world fell in love with his performance as Zack, the US Navy Officer trainee in An Officer and A Gentleman. Since then he’s gone on to star in a number of hits and has also pursued humanitarian work in relation to his Buddhist religious beliefs.
There’s no doubt that Gere has had an interesting professional and personal life, so we’re bringing you a list of things you probably didn’t know about the Hollywood legend (and no, we’re not going to mention that infamous gerbil rumour!).
20. He even has fans in uncharted Borneo
Richard Gere’s 80s screen idol heartthrob status extends all the way to the remote jungles of Borneo.
There are still large areas of the island which have never been charted, but simple maps can’t match the speed of Gere-mania!
The actor revealed on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show that he once travelled to Borneo in order to visit the Dayak tribe.
Gere was dropped out of a plane into a desolate part of the jungle, only to be greeted by a group of tribespeople.
Some of the tribe members instantly started exclaiming “Officer, gentleman!” when they realised who it was.
Just goes to show that 1982’s romantic drama An Officer and a Gentlemen remains one of Gere’s best-loved movies.
19. He converted to Tibetan Buddhism in 1978
Gere is probably second only to the Dalai Lama as the world’s most famous proponent of Tibetan Buddhism.
However, Tibetan Buddhism was not always the faith that the famed actor prescribed to.
Gere’s parents were Christians, Methodists to be precise, and he was raised as an adherent of this church.
Gere was first exposed to Buddhism whilst studying philosophy, which was his major at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Initially Gere embraced Zen Buddhism, before visiting Nepal in 1978 and later meeting the Dalai Lama himself.
Gere says “it completely changed my life the first time I was in the presence of His Holiness,” and he has followed the path of Tibetan Buddhism ever since.
18. His middle name is Tiffany
Richard Gere was born in Philadelphia on the 31st of August 1949, but was raised in Syracuse, New York.
Gere’s father Homer worked in insurance, whilst his mother Doris was a housewife; he has three sisters and two brothers.
While he would grow up to be worshipped as a hunk all over the world, Gere doesn’t have the manliest of middle names.
The actor’s full name, you may be surprised to learn, is Richard Tiffany Gere.
Gere was given the traditionally feminine middle name of Tiffany as this was his mother’s maiden name.
Gere would continue the family tradition of passing on a name by naming his first son Homer in honour of his own father.
17. He plays several instruments and writes his own songs
Acting isn’t Richard Gere’s only notable skill, as he is also an accomplished musician.
Music was one of the fields Gere excelled in at school, and he learned to play piano and trumpet growing up.
Gere demonstrated his trumpet-playing skills in The Cotton Club, and plays piano in Pretty Woman.
What’s more, Gere is also a talented songwriter; the piano solo he plays in Pretty Woman, He Sleeps, is his own composition.
Gere put his skills to good use once again in Runaway Bride, his second collaboration with actress Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall.
Remember the scene where he plays his guitar alongside the locals as Maggie is driving past? That’s another one of his own songs!
16. He was once banned from the Oscars for speaking out against China
Gere has been a committed Buddhist for much of his adult life, and feels passionately about China’s occupation of Tibet.
The actor is a long-standing, vocal supporter of the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.
Gere spoke out publicly on the matter at the 1993 Academy Awards, making anti-China comments live on air which saw him banned from returning to the awards ceremony.
Despite his criticism, the Chinese government later invited the actor to one of its film festivals.
Gere accepted this offer on two conditions: that he be allowed to bring his own interpreter and that he would stay in Taipei, Taiwan – disputed territory – for the duration of his visit.
The Chinese government agreed to his demands and Gere has since reappeared at the Oscars.
15. He turned down the lead roles in Die Hard and Wall Street
Like many A-list actors, Richard Gere has turned down a number of famous film roles over the course of his career.
For example, he turned down the lead role in Die Hard, which later went to Bruce Willis.
Years later, Gere declined the roles which went to George Clooney in Intolerable Cruelty, and Michael Douglas’ role in Traffic.
However, Gere has said that there is only one role which he truly regrets saying no to.
That was the role of Gordon Gekko, iconic anti-hero of Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street.
This is another role which was ultimately played by Michael Douglas, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.
14. He can trace his ancestry to the Mayflower
Gere can trace his lineage back to the Pilgrims who arrived in America aboard the Mayflower in 1620.
His original family name, Geer, was given its new spelling by his great-grandfather George Lane Gere.
The Geres are descended from George Geer, who came from Devon, England to Connecticut Colony in 1638.
Gere has firm family roots in Pennsylvania, one of the earliest colonised states.
The actor claims to have a mixture of English, Welsh, Dutch, Scottish and French ancestry.
Gere’s ancestors include Pilgrims Francis Eaton, John Billington, George Soule, Richard Warren, Degory Priest, Francis Cooke, and William Brewster.
13. He became a father for the first time at 50 years old
Like a number of male Hollywood celebrities, Gere did not become a father until quite a bit later in life.
Carey Lowell – Gere’s girlfriend at the time, who he later married – gave birth to their son in February 2000.
Gere was 50 years old when he became the father of the child they named Homer James Jigme Gere.
While their son’s first two names come from Gere and Lowell’s respective fathers, Homer’s third name is of Tibetan origin.
Jigme means fearless in Tibetan; like Gere, Lowell is also an adherent of Tibetan Buddhism.
After splitting from Lowell, Gere later married Alejandra Silva, with whom he has fathered two more children – despite now being in his 70s.
12. He feuded bitterly with Debra Winger on the set of An Officer and a Gentleman
1982’s An Officer and a Gentlemen gave Gere a major breakthrough role alongside Debra Winger.
Audiences worldwide fell in love with the screen couple, swept up in their romantic chemistry.
However, as would later be the case with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, things were altogether different off-camera.
In reality, Gere and Winger didn’t get along at all, his co-star publicly describing him as a “brick wall.”
Gere admitted there was “tension” between them, which presumably only got worse when the film earned Winger a Best Actress Oscar while Gere was snubbed.
30 years later Gere and Winger patched things up at the Rome Film Festival, both insisting that there’s no longer any bad blood between them.
11. He blames China for his declining Hollywood career
In recent years, Gere has made considerably fewer appearances in major Hollywood films, and the actor has voiced some suspicions about this.
In April 2017, the actor told The Hollywood Reporter that he blames China’s increasing influence in Hollywood for his lack of major job offers.
Gere thinks this is down to his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government over Tibet.
The actor says, “There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him.'”
Gere claims he “recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”
Gere’s last studio movie was the 2008 Warner Bros production Nights in Rodanthe, and in the years since he has worked exclusively in independent productions.
10. He almost got into a fist fight with Sylvester Stallone over Princess Diana
By all accounts, there has always been a lot of tension between Gere and his fellow Hollywood superstar Sylvester Stallone.
This stems back to when the two actors were cast alongside one another in an early film, on which they clashed so badly that Gere wound up getting fired.
However, this was by no means the end of their feud. According to Elton John, Gere and Stallone were present at a dinner party in the rock legend’s home in 1993, where Diana, Princess of Wales (separated from Prince Charles, although still legally married at the time) was also in attendance.
There was reportedly “a strange atmosphere in the room” as Gere and Lady Di started to get friendly; John suspects “Stallone may have turned up to the party with the express intention of picking Diana up, only to find his plans for the evening ruined.”
John and his partner David Furnish later found the two actors outside “squaring up to each other, apparently about to settle their differences over Diana by having a fist fight.”
John says he and Furnish put a stop to this, Gere continued talking with Diana, and Stallone stormed out, declaring he would never have come had he known “Prince f***in’ Charming was gonna be here.”
9. He’s not actually vegetarian
As he has been a practising Buddhist for decades, the common assumption is that Gere is also vegetarian.
However, in some interviews – including an appearance on Live! with Kelly in 2007 – Gere has stated that this isn’t actually the case.
The actor admits that he doesn’t follow a 100% vegetarian diet, but stresses he hasn’t eaten red meat for over 30 years.
It should be stressed here that much the same can be said of the Dalai Lama, and that contrary to popular belief not all Buddhists are not required to be vegetarians.
Even so, Gere has done his part to promote vegetarianism, supporting the Tibetans for Vegetarian Society.
In 2010, Gere helped lead a campaign to make a meat-free zone out of the Indian town where the original Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment.
8. He allegedly had affairs with both Priscilla Presley and Kim Basinger
On top of his three marriages, Gere is reported to have been in many relationships with famous women.
According to some sources, some of the women Gere romanced were married at the time.
It was alleged by Kim Basinger’s ex-husband Ron Snyder that the two actors had an affair during Snyder and Basinger’s marriage.
Gere and Basinger made two movies together, 1986’s No Mercy and 1992’s Final Analysis.
It was also claimed by Michael Edwards, ex-boyfriend of Priscilla Presley, that she was unfaithful to him with Gere.
Edwards’ allegations were made in his 1988 book Priscilla, Elvis and Me, whilst Snyder’s come from 1998 book Kim Basinger: Longer than Forever.
7. He caused a scandal in India by publicly kissing Shilpa Shetty
In April 2007, Gere made an appearance at an HIV-AIDS awareness event in New Delhi, India, alongside famed Indian actress Shilpa Shetty.
However, whilst standing on stage alongside Shetty, Gere got a bit carried away and wound up inadvertently offending a great many people in India.
After first kissing Shetty’s hand, Gere then leaned in and kissed the actress on both cheeks before embracing her and leaning over.
Gere later explained he was simply re-enacting a scene from his film Shall We Dance, which had recently been a box office hit in India.
However, Gere didn’t seem to realise that such public displays of affection are frowned upon in India. Both he and Shetty were widely condemned, with protesters declaring the actions ‘obscene.’
Gere was taken aback by the response, and issued a public apology to the people of India, stressing “it has never been nor could it ever be my intention to offend you.”
Gere also defended Shetty, declaring her a courageous and wonderful woman who deserves high praise and support for her singular leadership against HIV/AIDS.”
6. His best-known roles were all turned down by John Travolta first
Richard Gere’s rise to fame was concurrent with that of another notable Hollywood superstar, John Travolta.
Before breaking into film, Gere’s first major acting role was in the role of Danny Zuko in a London stage production of Grease.
Gere and Travolta had both played supporting roles in Grease on Broadway, but Travolta would go on to enjoy the closest association with the musical after playing Danny in the 1978 movie.
Around that time, three of the films that made Gere a star – Days of Heaven, American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman – were all roles which had been turned down by Travolta first.
Nor was this the last time that Gere took a role which had at one point been earmarked for Travolta.
When Travolta turned down the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago, Gere took the role and won a Golden Globe for his efforts.
5. He runs a nonprofit with Uma Thurman’s father
Gere is a firm friend of another of America’s best-known proponents of Buddhism, the scholar and author Robert Thurman.
If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Thurman is the father of the renowned actress Uma Thurman.
The actress, famed for collaborating with Quentin Tarantino on Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, co-starred with Gere in the 1992 film Final Analysis.
Thurman Sr. played a major role in raising the profile of Tibetan Buddhism in the west in the 1970s.
Years later, Gere and Robert Thurman helped co-found New York City’s Tibet House in 1986 at the request of the Dalai Lama.
The non-profit institution was established to present and preserve the teachings and culture of Tibet.
4. The necklace snapping in Pretty Woman was an ad-lib
1990’s Pretty Woman is widely regarded one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made, and it’s certainly among Richard Gere’s best-loved films.
With box office takings of $463.4 million worldwide, Pretty Woman is the highest-earning film of Gere’s whole career, and it made his co-star Julia Roberts an instant icon.
It was revealed in 2012 by the film’s late director Garry Marshall that one of the most famous moments in the film was an ad-lib by Gere.
They were shooting the necklace scene early in the day, and Roberts – being a bit of a young party animal at the time – hadn’t quite woken up yet.
Without a word to Roberts, Gere and Marshall agreed that the actor would snap the box shut on Roberts’ fingers to wake her up; Marshall stressed, “it was a soft box, I would never hurt her.”
This had the desired effect, provoking a loud and spontaneous laugh from Roberts that is entirely genuine.
Originally Marshall and Gere had intended this simply as a blooper, but ultimately they decided to keep it in the final cut, and the director called it “the trademark of the movie.”
3. He’s been married three times
Gere was first married in 1991 to supermodel Cindy Crawford, one of the most recognised women in the world at the time.
Given the fame of both Gere and Crawford, their marriage was under constant press scrutiny, and the couple wound up divorcing in 1995.
Gere later began seeing actress Cary Lowell (best known for co-starring with Timothy Dalton in James Bond movie Licence to Kill).
Gere and Lowell wed in 2002, two years after the birth of their son Homer, but wound up separating 11 years later; three years of highly contested divorce proceedings followed.
Finally, in April 2018, Gere wed Alejandra Silva, a Spanish publicist and political activist 34 years his junior.
Gere and Silva have two children, the most recent born in April 2020 – when Gere was 71.
2. His face helped launched his photographer friend’s career
Richard Gere’s earliest headshots were taken by a childhood friend of his named Herb Ritts.
Ritts was, at the time, an up-and-coming photographer who was struggling to make ends meet.
However, Gere’s agents were so impressed with the photos that they began hiring Ritts for other assignments.
In the years that followed, Ritts became a major photographer, shooting many of the most prominent models and celebrities of the 80s and 90s.
Ritts also became a successful director of TV fashion commercials and music videos: notably, he directed the video for Jon Bon Jovi’s Please Come Home For Christmas, which featured Gere’s then-wife Cindy Crawford.
Sadly, the HIV-positive Ritts died of complications from pneumonia in 2002, aged just 50.
1. He owns a swanky hotel in New York
Like plenty of wealthy celebrities, Gere has made some investments in the hotel industry.
Along with his ex-wife Carey Lowell, Gere is the co-owner of the Bedford Post Inn.
As the name might suggest, this establishment is located in luxurious Bedford, in New York State.
It features eight rooms, two restaurants, a yoga studio and even a meditation centre for Gere’s fellow Buddhists.
As for the price: we’re going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably too expensive for the likes of you.