|Event 3: The First 1,000 Words of a Vanity Fair Profile|
A Vanity Fair Profile
Go ahead. Make fun of Richard Gere. His eyes are too close together. He's a college dropout who expounds on geopolitics--Tibetan independence and tribal rights. He practices Buddhism and can't shut up about it. He divorced Cindy Crawford. He hasn't made a good movie since Days of Heaven, which came out almost 20 years ago. Currently running in theaters are two more Gere travesties, The Jackal and Red Corner.
And yet, there is something quite wonderful about Gere. We invite our Hackathletes to find it in this week's assignment: the first 1,000 words of a Vanity Fair profile of the actor/activist. Our Hacks are invited to imagine a location for their profile, as well as incidental events, but they must rely on the public record--or the "cheat sheet" we've provided--for all quotations and facts.
They should also be mindful of the instructions offered by Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter this week on how to write a celebrity profile. "You can only have so many tough things in an issue and I think it's foolish to waste it on an actor," Carter told the Wall Street Journal. "A searing investigative piece on an actor?"
Born: Aug. 31, 1948
Salary: $12 million per picture
Mr. Showbiz fan site
Survival International interview (scroll down on the left side of the screen)
Report to the Commissioner (1974); Baby Blue Marine (1976); Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977); Days of Heaven (1978); American Gigolo (1979); Bloodbrothers (1979); Yanks (1979); An Officer and a Gentleman (1982); Breathless (1983); The Cotton Club (1984); KingDavid (1985); Power (1986); PrettyWoman (1990); InternalAffairs (1990); FinalAnalysis (1992); And the Band Played On (1993); Sommersby (1993); Intersection (1994); First Knight (1995); Primal Fear (1996); Red Corner (1997); The Jackal (1997). In development: Manhattan GhostStory and the Coen Brothers' Intolerable Cruelty.
Provincetown Playhouse; Young Vic acting troupe; Seattle Repertory. Sam Shepard's Killer's Head; London production of Grease, Lincoln Center's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Also starred in Bent in 1979, a play about a gay man's efforts to survive in a Nazi concentration camp.
Gay and lesbian rights; AIDS research; Tibetan independence; human rights; tribal people.
He's Only in It for the Money: He once accepted $75,000 for appearing at Harrod's annual "white sale."
Gere's Rap Sheet:
Arrested: for blocking the demolition of two historic Times Square theaters, 1982; urinating in public, 1983.
Up Close and Personal:
Known as Dick Gere in high school. Attended the University of Massachusetts for two years on a gymnastics scholarship. Eighth Biggest Box Office Star, 1982. Wears an expensive wristwatch on his left wrist and a Buddhist mala (prayer beads) on the right one. Meditates two hours each day. Travels to India for teachings. Girlfriends over the years: Diane Von Furstenberg, British socialite Sabrina Guinness, jewelry designer Tina Chow, actress Penelope Milford, and model Laura Bailey, whom he met at a party hosted by the Dalai Lama. Current squeeze, actress Carey Lowell. Days of Heaven, American Gigolo, and An Officer and a Gentleman were all developed for John Travolta. Shattered over losing the lead role in The Lords of Flatbush (1974), which went to Sylvester Stallone, Gere spent three days in bed recovering. He once heckled China apologist Henry Kissinger at New York City's Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, crying out, "What about China, Henry!" as he began his speech.
That he's gay and has a penchant for gerbils.
Hanging With the Dalai Lama:
The Dalai Lama once asked Gere if he really felt the emotions he displayed on the screen. Gere answered yes, and the Dalai Lama laughed. Gere still ponders the meaning of the Dalai Lama's laughter.
Missing connecting flights. Summer thunderstorms. Suffering, "which is a state we all find ourselves in."
Gere was introduced to model Cindy Crawford by Vanity Fair photographer Herb Ritts. The couple married in 1991 in a Las Vegas chapel, making wedding rings out of aluminum foil. Rumors of the couple's demise accelerated in 1994, with the gossip press claiming it was a marriage of convenience. That May, the couple placed a $30,000 full-page ad in the London Times: "We are heterosexual and monogamous and take our commitment to each other very seriously. ... Marriage is hard enough without all this negative speculation. We both look forward to having a family." In December they announced their split, and they divorced in 1995.
Gere on Inner Peace Through Buddhism:
"It's a philosophy that has no givens. It questions everything. It acknowledges the state we're all in, which is a state of incompleteness or damage or suffering. Suffering is the state where we all find ourselves. If you realize you suffer, you can begin to remove the causes of the suffering."
Don't you ever read People in the checkout stand? He's been a Buddhist for more than 20 years!
Cindy Crawford's Religion:
Herb Ritts on Richard and Cindy:
"In the end, they're two different people. ... As much as they did care and love each other, it didn't work on a day-to-day basis, in finding out what each person was like."
Henry Kissinger, China apologist, on Gere:
"I think that Richard Gere is a better actor than he is a political analyst."
"Freedom. Always, freedom. I'm always trying for the adventure."
Gere on the Spiritual Life vs. Hollywood:
"It's important to go back and forth," he says. "People in monasteries deal with the same things people do making a movie."
The Gere Foundation, which concentrates on Tibetan causes. Co-founded Tibet House in New York.
Gere Turns Political:
While presenting an award at the 1992 Academy Awards ceremony, he asked the crowd to beam thoughts of "love and truth" to the Chinese leaders in hopes that they would free Tibet from China. He followed this demonstration with a New York Times op-ed titled "We Win No Oscars for Tibet." China sucked up to him with an invitation to appear at their version of the awards. "I thought, 'They're going to kill me,' " he says, but friends said he was too important to snuff. He visited China. The Chinese did not snuff him. He then made a movie, Red Corner, about an American in China framed for a crime he did not commit.
Gere on President Clinton:
He spoke to the president during the '92 campaign about China and AIDS. "And on both of them he has been a disappointment. He's spent no money on AIDS, and he said it would be a priority like the Manhattan Project. And he is caving in on human rights in China."
Buddhist Monk Sonam Wangchuk on Gere:
"I've known him in my heart for a long time. ... He gives such good support. He loves the Dalai Lama so much." Wangchuk, who has never seen a Gere movie, agrees with the actor's self-assessment that he is "already a monk." "It doesn't mean you wear a monk's robe or shave your head. It's in your heart," Wangchuk says. "A monk's motivation is to help human beings. To be kind."
Raised Methodist. Studied Transcendental Meditation, then Zen Buddhism. Met the Dalai Lama while visiting India in 1982, and calls the meeting "a kind of falling-in-love moment. I felt safe."
Friends and Lovers on Gere:
"He's a charming guy," says Sidney Lumet, who directed him in Power. "You can't direct charm. I hired him because the film was about a business in which appearance is substance. Richard has wonderful technique. But when an actor is as beautiful as he is, it's difficult to be taken seriously, especially early on in your career."
"It was difficult for Richard early on," says designer and former girlfriend Diane Von Furstenberg. "In those days, he was the person who was not John Travolta."
"Richard was never really a rotten boy," Von Furstenberg adds. "He looked like one and felt like he should be one. But it was all an act."
"He's a real drama queen," says Sylvia Martins, his girlfriend for eight years. "He is also the most ambitious person I've ever met."
Selected Gere Quotations (All Authentic!)
"One proper conversation is worth a hundred hurried ones."
"I don't do anything from a Buddhist perspective. I have no dogma. I am certainly a product of my teachers. But I prefer not to be a product of didacticism or any kind of catechism."
"I don't pretend to have a depth of experience," he says. "But my level of patience has got much higher. I used to have an extremely short temper."
"Buddhism has helped me ease up in my attitude to acting and to the characters I play."
"I have been practicing Buddhism for 22 years in many forms, from Japanese to Tibetan."
"I have a black-hole theory of filmmaking," Gere says. "I don't want a movie to go into a black hole. It takes too much energy to make. I make a movie to communicate."
His response to tabloid stories: "I don't read that stuff. ... If I could stop it, I would. But it doesn't affect me. I actually lead quite a normal life."
"I'm on my way to India," he explains. "I go every year, to get away for a while."
"Emotions are energy," he says. "I console myself with the idea that anything that stimulates energy--even a bad emotion--is a good thing."
"I haven't aged much. I run. I don't eat red meat. I'm trying to give up fish."
Gere spends more and more time in India "doing internal work and working on the content of my mind." While there he lives in a hut with a shared bathroom and no TV, movies, or air conditioning. "When you're doing internal work, you need nothing."
"Stay happy," Gere says. "Happiness releases good energy into the universe, and we can never have enough of that now, can we?"
"When I was younger ... I'd burrow into those emotions. 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."
"The illusion of security is nothing I ever craved. I think there is a touch of the gypsy in all of us. Some people do it in dreams, some people do it in life. I think it's there. There's a need in everyone to explore, to expand, to try, and for adventure, for sure."
"I think you want to explore things you're feeling. I don't think I was ever a particularly bad person, but I think when you're in turmoil, you want to be exploring the turmoil. In my 20s, like most men in their 20s, I was in a lot of turmoil and confused. This confusion would go in many different directions. It would go into mental problems, and to violence and to revenge--the whole gamut of things that are in all of us. But I think a man in his 20s is in a particularly chaotic time."
"We found guys who had dug holes and stayed in them overnight just so they could get a picture of me the next day," he says, referring to a situation on a First Knight set outside London.
"They are apocryphal, the stories about me," Gere says angrily. "Usually they can't find anything negative about me, so they keep pulling up these tabloid things over and over again."
"There is an emotional congruency I have with gymnastics," he says. "There's an enormous amount of rehearsal--physical, mental--and then there is 'your moment.' Acting in film is very much the same thing."
"What affects one, affects all."