Sept. 14 2006 11:00 AM

3
Event 3: The First 1,000 Words of a Vanity Fair Profile


Cheat
Sheet


Malcolm
Gladwell


Hanna
Rosin


Michael
Specter


Geoffrey
Wheatcroft

Richard Gere: Between Heaven and Earth

Advertisement

By Michael Specter

       Richard Gere--of Hollywood, Katmandu, and Calcutta--has fallen deep into thought on the top of the world. After an 8-hour flight from London we are finally dancing across the peaks of the Himalayas in the actor's brand new Cessna Ultra Citation.

       We stare, in dazed awe, as the jagged summits of the world's highest mountains pass beneath us. As the jet stream crashes against Mount Everest--we are flying only 5,000 feet above its black, ghostly pinnacle--the mountain sends an enormous plume of ice crystals trailing like a comet into the sky beside our plane.

       I close my eyes and pray that the pilot isn't mesmerized by the most audacious sight on earth. Gere senses my distress and breaks out of his reverie. "Freedom," he shouts, sipping from a bottle of Highland Stills mineral water, then running both hands through that famous hair, which almost looks like gray cashmere. "Always freedom. I'm always trying for the adventure."

       No news there, really. Richard Gere has been on a roll for two decades, ever since he got his break as Diane Keaton's handsome, high-risk pickup in one of the signature films of the late '70s, Looking for Mr. Goodbar. From there it was a short hop to American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, and a permanent role as an emblem of the suave--sometimes cynical--modern urban American. These days he earns $12 million a picture and is starring in two films that have just been released. In The Jackal, he plays an IRA soldier freed from prison in order to bring down one of the world's most notorious assassins. Red Corner is about an American in China framed for a crime he did not commit.

       Neither has been a hit. Yet Gere seems oddly not to care. And that is why we are on our way to India today, where Gere retreats each year to purge himself of the obsessive materialism that he says begins to defeat him when he works too much. It has been a time of much publicity for Gere--his criticism of Chinese President Jiang Zemin made news for days last month during Mr. Jiang's state visit--and Gere, whose boyish and serene face never betrays exhaustion, says he has had enough publicity for a lifetime.

       So each year he retreats to the Ganges, where he spends time in a hut--sharing a bathroom--and living without television, hot water, or a telephone. He leaves his wondrous wardrobe at home, taking only the clothes that can fit into a carry-on bag.

       "I am on my way to India," he told me when I called and asked to visit with him in California for this story. He argued that his movie life and his public life--the disastrous marriage to Cindy Crawford, the endless rumors of his homosexuality, even the bizarre myths about his sexual behavior--were not subjects he was willing to dwell on again at length. He suggested that I might have some fun looking for his other side and I was too much of a coward to admit that he had always been my hero because I, too, had prematurely gray hair.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

What Hillary Clinton’s Iowa Remarks Reveal About Her 2016 Fears

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.