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Richard Gere tackles the financial crisis

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

media captionRichard Gere: "I would work more if there were better scripts"

The Richard Gere of today looks wistful as he reflects on the Richard Gere of the '70s who enjoyed one of his first successes playing Danny Zuko in the London production of Grease.

"It was a joyous time, a good time to be young. It was all fresh, everything was new.

"I was a 23-year-old kid and I was starring in a big hit in the West End.

"I remember I borrowed a motorcycle from the Triumph Factory and I tootled around London on it.

"It was a great, wide open time, when everything was possible."

But then he has had cause to be nostalgic of late, having reached the point in a movie star's career when people start giving them tributes, career retrospectives and lifetime achievement awards.

"I see these compilations which inevitably they do, and some of them are very good," he tells the BBC News website.

"I don't think about it much, but I'm reminded that yeah, there are a lot of good films in there."

Days of Heaven, American Gigolo and An Officer and A Gentleman are a few of the credits that spring readily to mind, along with the inevitable Pretty Woman and 2002 Oscar-winner Chicago.

Gere reunited with his co-stars from the latter movie at this year's Academy Awards, to which the actor was preparing to fly at the time of our interview.

"To be honest with you I'd rather be going home," he said. "But I have a lot of friends out there, so I'm happy to do it."

Had things panned out differently, however, Gere might have been at the Hollywood ceremony as a nominee as well as a presenter.

image captionGere was reunited with his former Chicago co-stars at this year's Oscars

Earlier this year the Philadelphia native was shortlisted for a Golden Globe award for his role in Arbitrage, a New York-based drama set in the risky world of high finance.

Yet that nomination did not lead to an Oscar consideration, something Gere accepts with good grace and equanimity.

"It would have been nice for the film," he shrugs. "It's a good way for a small film to be seen by a lot more people.

"And I wish that Nick had been more recognised for his screenplay. It was that good of a screenplay it should have been."

The Nick to which Gere refers is one Nicholas Jarecki, a 33-year-old writer-director who drew on the financial crises that rocked the global business community in 2009 while writing the film.

Gere did his own research in preparation for his role, meeting some of the brokers and traders who form part of the world to which his character, hedge fund magnate Robert Miller, belongs.

"There was a guy on the floor of the [New York] Stock Exchange, I would guess that he was 80 years old," he recalls.

"He was filled with energy, vibrating with it. I said, how long have you done this? He said since he was 17. He couldn't imagine being any place else.

"The common denominator with all these guys is they are gamblers. It's the bartering, the deal-making. They're cowboys.

"What happened with the crisis is we demonised these guys. Before they were heroes, we admired them - until everything fell apart."

Gere's character Miller has his own problems to deal with in Arbitrage: a mistress he's trying to keep secret from his wife, a hole in his company's balance sheet he's trying to hide from his investors, and a potential buy-out that looks on the verge of collapsing.

image captionThe actor is well known for his support of the Dalai Lama (l)

The film's title refers to the simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities or commodities in different markets, in order to profit from unequal prices.

"On the simplest level it means you buy cheap and you sell dear," explains Gere, who admits his character might not seem sympathetic given the current financial climate.

"I hate to admit it, but it might be a special thing that I can do - play really difficult-to-love people."

Arbitrage represents a relatively rare big-screen outing for Gere, whose last vehicle as a leading man, 2011 spy thriller The Double, was not shown in UK cinemas.

Some may wish the same could be said for Movie 43, a critically reviled sex comedy released earlier this year in which he made a fleeting cameo appearance.

"If there were more scripts I wanted to do with directors I wanted to work with, I'd be working more," he reveals.

"I wasn't particularly looking for [Arbitrage], and I expect the next thing I do will be another script that comes out of left field."

Could that be another film with Julia Roberts, his co-star in 1990 crowd-pleaser Pretty Woman and 1999 romance Runaway Bride? "I can see it happening," he says.

"But it's foolish for us to think the kind of magic factor that was in Pretty Woman can be recreated somehow. So it's probably best that we do something totally different."

Arbitrage is out now in the UK and Ireland.

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