Somebody, please cast Richard Gere in a science-fiction movie! Sure, it's hardly the first genre that comes to mind when you think of the suave, intellectual star of "Pretty Woman" and "An Officer and a Gentleman," but he says he's game. And who wouldn't want to see the man who taught Julia Roberts how to be classy shoot lasers at an invading army of mutants?
The topic came up during a discussion of "Star Wars," which -- hard as it may be to picture -- Gere saw in theaters back in 1977. But we'll have to wait to see him in a galaxy far, far away, because right now he's promoting "Arbitrage," out Friday, in which he stars as Robert Miller, an über-wealthy hedge-fund executive frantically trying to keep the pieces of his complicated life from falling apart. The first feature from writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, "Arbitrage" also stars Susan Sarandon as Miller's wife, Brit Marling as his daughter, Tim Roth as a hard-boiled police detective on his trail and Nate Parker as a family friend who pays a heavy price for helping Miller in his hour of need.
Ahead, Gere explains why his character isn't really like Bernie Madoff, remembers watching "Pretty Woman" with Julia Roberts and singles out the movie from his past that still means the most to him.
My favorite line in "Arbitrage" is when Robert asks, "What's an Applebee's?"
[Laughs] Do you want to know the truth? I didn't know what it was. I kept saying the line wrong. I said, "Applesbee? "Applebee's? What is it?"
I was worried this movie was going down that Bernie Madoff-type road, but that's not what this is at all. He's trying to make everything right while not going to jail, which seems reasonable.
Well, he's not a sociopath -- that's a different universe. We used to have a line where I talked about Madoff. Nick and I made a point of that because, when we made the movie, it was so much on everyone's mind -- this was a year and four months ago. And I said, "OK, let's just do it head-on." And we talked a little bit about him, [how] he's a sociopath, he's crazy. But he's not as relevant anymore. The Jamie Dimons of the world are more relevant. And that's more like this character.
The CEO of J.P. Morgan ...
Yeah. It's the guys who are winners. The guys who make big bets and win. Not the ones who Ponzi scheme and lie. It's the hubris of, "I can't lose. And if I do, I'm going to fix it because I'm a lord of the universe."
Am I a bad person because I'm rooting for him to succeed?
He does some terrible things.
Yeah, but we all do. That's why you're rooting for him. The things he does are human. The scene in the park with my daughter, where I explain to her what happened -- I certainly spin it in my favor. But, in the end, they were in the realm of rational business. He just lost the bet. He made a big bet and he lost. He broke the law in a big way, but it's understandable. It's large compromises with ethics and morality the guy does, but it's all within the realm we all do. We all shave taxes -- white lies to our wives and lovers. Everybody does. And I think that's why, in a way, we root for this guy and we identify with him. We all make bad decisions.
**SPOILER ALERT: Skip the next three questions and answers if you don't want to know about a key plot point that happens early in the movie.**
And then the car accident that results in the death of his girlfriend happens. It's early in the film, but we don't see that coming.
I liked it because when I first read the script it resonated with Bernie Madoff and Ted Kennedy ... Chappaquiddick. And Ted Kennedy was one of the most responsible Senators that we've ever had. I've worked in Washington now for almost 30 years. The best people working in Washington came through his office. They're working on human-rights stuff, they're working on health stuff, they're working on civil-rights stuff. The best people were trained in his office, came through the stuff he was pushing and working on his entire life. But he made one horrible decision. Horrible, horrible decision. So I liked that gray area of someone like that, and adding that to the financial thing, to me, was the perfect storm of a character for two hours.
But there's already a lot going on.
I think it took you off of that one track that, maybe, you felt like, "I know this very well." You don't see it coming.
After the accident, Robert flees the scene. What do you do in that situation?
Well, let's assume he didn't mean to do any of it. What's the fault? These are Shakespearean characters. They really are. This is like "Coriolanus" or something -- "Richard II." Big characters. On a human level, who would just run away from that situation? How many people would have just run away? Very few.
When you're filming a movie like this, can you tell if things are going pretty well? Or even on "Pretty Woman" or "Unfaithful," do you feel, "People are going to like this"?
"Pretty Woman," yes. The mix of people and story, and the way Garry Marshall was able to kind of corral it within his worldview, felt really good. Whether it would communicate to other people? I didn't have a clue. None of us did.
So that was a surprise?
The degree that that has been embraced universally, the whole planet ...
That's true. And you're not exaggerating.
No! I lived with that! And I'm proud of it. I like the movie. I remember Julia and I saw it together in a preview and we were sitting next to one another laughing and moved with everybody else. We were carried away by the story, watching it.
That was my first date. I was 15 and had to sneak in by buying a ticket to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" instead.
[Laughs] How did the date go?
It went well, so thank you. Do you ever feel a film is not going well?
Usually, what happens is you've gone over the script a million times and you go in really feeling confident about your script, [but then] you're shooting and you realize that this scene doesn't work. At all. And either it doesn't fit the story or it's written all wrong or something, and you get a sense that there's something that's not really happening. I certainly have had very few times, but I've had times where an actor and I did not fit. But you'd never see it in the film.
Can you give an example?
No. But you'll never see it in the film. I've never -- those few instances, it didn't show up on film.
So you're feeling, "I don't know about this"?
Yeah. A certain blockage comes up. You don't get along. This person doesn't work.
When you were coming up as an actor, what movies did you see? Did you see "Star Wars" with everyone else in 1977?
For some reason, I can't picture you in a theater enjoying "Star Wars."
I remember it very well! I remember sitting there at an early showing of "Star Wars," and the first time that the going-at-light-speed thing happened -- which was new; now it seems silly -- that was like, "Whoa!" I remember that very well.
So Michael Fassbender does a movie like "Shame" and that leads to something like "Prometheus." I feel like you never went down the sci-fi or action-movie role. Except for maybe "The Jackal." Did that interest you?
The action thing was not an interest to me. But sci-fi? Yes. The only vaguely sci-fi thing I did was "Mothman Prophecies." Not a terrible movie. There's some things in that that are ... not a great movie.
It's creepy, though.
It's creepy. And that's what I liked about it. It's creepy. And I wanted to be genuinely creepy. Not tricky creepy, but sick creepy. So I think we did achieve that in places in that movie. But sci-fi is something that interests me a lot, and that's one of the genres that, for whatever reason, I haven't been in.
Around the era when you were doing "American Gigolo" and "An Officer and a Gentleman," nothing like that came up?
This comes down to scripts, you know? There are good version, there are bad versions. And either I wasn't open to it in the moment or, who knows? A movie like that, it was just timing of when a script comes. "The Hoax" is one of my favorite movies that I've made, and very few people have seen it. But I'm really proud of that movie. Lasse Hallström is, too. That script came to me about two or three years before, and I read it and said, "This isn't for me." I didn't get it. When Lasse called me up and said, "Look, I'm involved with this movie," I said, "I read that script." And my first thought was, No, it's not for me. And then I read it and thought, What was I thinking? This is perfect.
What movie was most important to your career? "An Officer and a Gentleman" or "Pretty Woman"? Or maybe "American Gigolo"?
It was the first one, for me. Terry Malick called me up in my hotel in L.A. and said, "Let's make this movie." It's "Days of Heaven." That, to me -- it didn't have anything to do with anyone else; it had to do with me. So I've never thought about the marketplace at all, honestly. But that was a moment where there are a lot of auditions and trying to put people together to make that cast work -- but when he asked me to make the movie, I realized that my world was going in that direction of making movies. These other things, I don't really think about it, to tell you the truth.
Maybe that's for the best.
I've never conceptualized a career.
"Arbitrage" played at Sundance and didn't come out of the festival with the hype of something like "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Can too much festival hype be a bad thing?
Well, you know, that was a festival movie. This isn't a festival movie.
But it was there.
It was there, but that's one of the bizarre things about this. This is a movie with an independent distributor. It was made with independent money; it didn't have a distributor when we made it. It's not a festival movie by design. It's a movie that Sidney Lumet would have made in the 70s. A studio picture. So it's just really well-made on all levels: It's well-conceived, well-written, well-acted, well-shot, scored. Unfortunately, the companies that make movies don't make these anymore. So this stands out, in a way, as being: "Wow, this is a rarity."
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. You can contact him directly on Twitter.