A versatile and well-established actor, Gere is the second of five children, born to Homer, an insurance salesman and Doris, a housewife, both strict Methodists.
An early interest in music found Gere playing a number of instruments (he excelled in piano, guitar, bass and trumpet) and writing music for school performances, at North Cyracuse Central High School.
Graduating in 1967, Gere won a Gymnastics scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He majored in Philosophy but left after only two years, in order to pursue acting. Gere performed theatrically in New York and Seattle, before winning the lead role of Danny Zuko in the London production of ‘Grease’ (1973). Following this, he had the privilege of being one of the few Americans ever to work with Britain’s Young Vic Theatre, in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ (1974).
Back in the United States, Gere’s screen debut came in the form of a tiny part, playing a pimp, in ‘Report to the Commissioner’ (1975). This was followed by a television role of State trooper in ‘Strike Force’ (1975) and then another movie, ‘Baby Blue Marine’ (1976) in which he played a Raider. He had to wait a further three years for onscreen recognition, when he played a violent hustler opposite Diane Keaton, in ‘Looking for Mr Goodbar’ (1977).
Gere found new interests, when he travelled with his girlfriend, beautiful Brazilian painter, Sylvia Martins, to Nepal in 1978, meeting many Tibetan monks and lamas. Humanitarianism was to become one of his life’s passions. In the early 1980s, Gere travelled with a doctor to refugee camps in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, during the war.
He continued to work in both theatre and film, establishing himself as an adaptable and worthy actor. 1978 brought his first starring role, in the lavish epic ‘Days of Heaven’, which itself received significant critical praise. 'Yanks' (1979) however, was a box-office disappointment. On Broadway, he portrayed a decadent, manipulative concentration camp prisoner in ‘Bent’, for which he received the 1980 Theatre World Award. However, it was 'American Gigolo' (1980) that established Gere as a major screen star. This was closely followed by further acclaim for his leading role in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ (1982), opposite Debra Winger.
It seemed superstardom was on the cards for Gere, instead, a series of less than successful films were to follow. ‘King David’ (1985) was critically savaged, ‘No Mercy’ (1986) described as lacklustre, ‘Power’ (1986) was moody and uninvolving, whilst ‘Miles from Home’ (1988) was ill-conceived. This conspired to diminish Gere’s star status somewhat but he was to bounce back with his portrayal of a corrupt and amoral cop in ‘Internal Affairs’ (1990).
Gere was once again in the limelight when he teamed up with Julia Roberts in ‘Pretty Woman’ (1990). Their onscreen chemistry was electric and the film, a huge box-office success. People Magazine chose Gere as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World (1991), and later as their Sexiest Man Alive (1999). Preferring to be known for his intelligence and personality, he became known as “the reluctant sex symbol”.
Gere married Cindy Crawford on 12 December 1991, at the Little Church of the West, Las Vegas. Following malicious rumours, they took out a London newspaper advertisement claiming they were heterosexual, monogamous and in love. Sadly they split a few months later and were divorced in 1995.
In terms of his career, the first half of the 1990s seemed a return to the doldrums he had experienced in the mid- to late-1980s. He did however make his debut as Producer, with ‘Sommersby’ (1993). ‘Primal Fear’ (1996) then pulled his career together again. Then came ‘Red Corner’ (1997), which whilst not a hit, gave Gere a chance to voice his pro-Tibetan stance in front of the Chinese president, at a premier of the movie.
2002 proved to be a year full of achievements and momentous occasions for Gere. After his second successful teaming with Julia Roberts in ‘Runaway Bride’ (1999), his next big hit was ‘The Mothman Prophecies’ (2002), an excellent thriller in which he plays a reporter who finds strange pictures drawn by his wife before she died. ‘Unfaithful’ (2002) reunited Gere with his ‘Cotton Club’ (1984) star, Diane Lane. They convincingly played a suburban couple dealing with the confusion brought on by an extra-marital affair.
Coming full circle, to his early years in London and New York, Gere appeared in the musical ‘Chicago’ (2002) with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger. It was also the year of his second marriage (this time in secret), to Carey Lowell, on 9 November 2002. They have a son, Homer James Jigme Gere (born 6 February 2000). ‘Jigme’ means ‘fearless’ in Tibetan. In 2013, they announced their seperation.
In ‘Shall We Dance?’ (2004), with Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon, Gere played a melancholy lawyer who finds a passion for ballroom dancing. Whilst he gave charm and insightfulness to the role, the film, a remake of a mediocre 1997 Japanese film about cultural repression, was not a huge success. ‘Bee Season’ (2005), a two-director film about family bonds and their spirituality, teamed Gere with Juliette Binoche and Kate Bosworth, where he played the role of the father with decency and calm. His latest film roles have included 'Arbitrage' (2013), 'Movie 43' (2013) and the sequel to 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' (2014).
A devout Buddhist, Gere is a founding member of “Tibet House”, a non-profit organisation for the preservation of Tibetan culture. He actively supports “Survival International”, a worldwide organisation supporting tribal people in protecting their human rights, their land and their future. Both on- and off-screen, Gere uses every opportunity to promote his political and ethical beliefs, particularly supporting the struggles surrounding the Dalai Lama. He was principal interviewee in two documentaries, ‘Shadow Over Tibet: Stories in Exile’ (1994) and ‘Return to Tibet’ (2003). In 1999, during the Kosovo crisis, Gere visited fugitives in Macedonia. If nothing else, he uses his star status to give greater voice to his heartfelt beliefs.
As an actor, Gere has proved himself many times over and passed the test of time. He is versatile and committed and after surfing the wave of being a sex symbol and experiencing some turbulent times professionally, he rides out on top. As a man, Gere has grace and style and enormous generosity of spirit. With a number of new movie releases already in the pipeline, we can expect to be watching him on our screens for many years to come.