Richard Gere’s long legacy spans across more than four decades and encompasses music, theater, television, films, and humanitarian initiatives. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gere grew up in upstate New York. Though he enrolled in the University of Massachusetts with a gymnastics scholarship, he dropped out of college in order to pursue his passion for music. The young musician performed with several popular bands and his popularity as a local pop star helped him to move on to theater. Gere started his acting career with the summer programs in and around New England.
Gere’s first major role was Danny Zuko in the musical ‘Grease’ in London stage in the early ’70s. He got the career breakthrough with the 1977 thriller ‘Looking for Mr. Goodbar,’ in which he played a rugged vagabond who crosses paths with a mild-mannered schoolteacher. Gere earned critical acclaim for his short but powerful role, while the movie opened up doors to more roles in bigger projects. The next year, Gere joined the cast of ‘Days of Heaven’ directed by Terrence Malick. Set in the pre-modern era of American History, the 1978 epic emerged as one of the most significant movies made in America in the 20th Century.
“I was 26 when I made Days of Heaven — 28 when it was released ’cause we went back and shot another movie,” Gere remembered those days in a previous interview. “I was a kid in regional theater and off-Broadway, so I was working a lot before that!”
Roger Ebert praised the movie and the stellar performances in his review: “Days of Heaven is above all one of the most beautiful films ever made. Malick’s purpose is not to tell a story of melodrama, but one of loss. His tone is elegiac. He evokes the loneliness and beauty of the limitless Texas prairie,” wrote Ebert. Though ‘Days of Heaven’ garnered widespread critical acclaim, Gere had to wait two more years to taste box office success.
The ’80s saw his meteoric rise into the league of A-listers in Hollywood. In 1980, he played the lead role in the crime drama ‘American Gigolo‘ directed by Paul Schrader. The actor played the character of Julian Kaye, a charming male escort in the movie. The plot follows the ups and downs of Kaye’s life when he falls head over heels in love with a beautiful woman who is the wife of a dangerous political kingmaker. The character inaugurated Gere’s iconic image of a romantic hero with polished demeanor and swag. Both the movie and Gere’s character went on to become a sensation for the distinctive fashion style and attitude.