"I go every year to India," he said, about his trip, "to get away for a while." He says he does "internal work" there. "When you are doing internal work you need nothing," he said, explaining why I would be permitted to load only one bag on his private jet.
As an activist Gere travels relentlessly, which is why he says he bought the jet (that and his often-repeated fear of missing connecting flights). He has been to Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua to promote democracy. Politically he is most famous for his support of Tibet and the Dalai Lama.
Hundreds of millions of people were stunned in 1992, when Gere, while presenting an Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony, asked the crowd to beam thoughts of "love and truth" to the Chinese leaders in hopes that they would free Tibet from China. It didn't work. Tibet stayed in chains and the press instantly attacked him as a brainless bimbo who should shut up, take his paychecks, and go back to the pool.
"Richard has wonderful technique," said his friend, the director Sidney Lumet, who hired him for his film, Power. "But when an actor is as beautiful as he is, its difficult to be taken seriously."
It is a problem that has plagued Gere throughout his career. Most critics agree he was at his best in his most unusual role: the sleazy cop and drug peddler battling Andy Garcia in Mike Figgis' homoerotic classic, Internal Affairs.
Nobody has yet compared Gere to Laurence Olivier--nor have most of his films been particularly well received by critics, but his Buddhism seems to have helped him control any anger he might express at bad reviews. Today we will stop in Katmandu, before moving on to India, because Gere has promised to appear at a charity event for the Dalai Lama. The two facts most Americans know about Gere is that he was married to Ms. Crawford, and that he is an ardent support of the Dalai Lama.
People ridicule him for it, but he no longer cares. When the Chinese president came to the United States this month, Gere was one of the only prominent people in the nation who was willing to say publicly that the man ran a police state and that Washington should be ashamed to treat him with honors
It is primarily that episode that has so wearied Gere.
"When I was younger ... I'd burrow into those emotions," he said, explaining his acting technique and his unique ability to shed his daily troubles. "I'd be crying all day in my trailer. If I was supposed to be angry, I'd be throwing things. ... I destroy my attachments to things, but they don't go away. Early on I thought if I achieved [the transcendent states of] kensho or satori, I'd disappear, baboom! In fact, it was a very juvenile way of seeing it. I realize now, the ego is always going to be there."
So when we land in Nepal ...
Michael Specter is a Moscow correspondent for the New York Times.