Five Favorite Films

Richard Gere's Five Favorite Films

The Star of Norman discusses why he wouldn't have cast himself in the title role, his love of Sunrise, and New York living.

by | April 12, 2017 | Comments

Richard Gere (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
(Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Richard Gere admits he wouldn’t have thought to cast himself in Norman aka Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer — which opens Friday in limited release. Yet critics are hailing the role as one of his strongest, most likable performances, right alongside his work in Pretty WomanDays of Heaven, and Primal Fear. It’s really no wonder the versatile actor chose two of his own movies — his first and his latest — as part of his Five Favorite Films; they are landmarks not only in his acting career, but in his personal life. See the full list below:

Days of Heaven (1978) 92%

OK, so, I’m gonna start with my first film, Days of Heaven, because it’s my first film. It’s probably, unfortunately, my best film. It’s very hard to follow up on a film like that.

Why do you say that?

It was the first film that Terry Malick made that kind of became Terry Malick in that movie. It also was the first film of mine at the Cannes Film Festival. So, everything about that film kind of was important to me as an actor and as a person.

Life changing.

Absolutely.

Norman (Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer) (2017) 88%

And the second one is my last film — so 50-something films later — is Norman. Norman is probably the least obvious casting choice of me one could ever make. I think because of that it ended up being such a terrific experience. Sort of completely working in another territory.

It’s one of my favorites of your performances — despite the fact that it reminds me so much of my family. I didn’t even realize how Jewish it would be. It was so authentic. I was like, “Maybe he is Jewish.”

You know, when I first started, some woman came up to me — I remember this very clearly — and saying, “Your name is really Gara, isn’t it?” And I said, “No.” And she winked at me and said, “I know you’re Hungarian.” Then I went through a period where everyone thought I was Italian. So, now, clearly, I’m Jewish.

That’s the sign of a brilliant actor. Plus, this movie just keeps you thinking. I’m still thinking about it.

We had a screening last night. [Writer-director] Joseph Cedar and I’ve been doing Q&As after. They’re always fun. People are just kind of flipped out by it. And it does continue. I have a feeling it’s the kind of movie that the dinner conversations are interesting.

Babette's Feast (Babettes Gæstebud) (1987) 97%

I actually just talked to Joseph about this last night, one of my all-time favorites is Babette’s Feast. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. It’s very pure. It’s not tricky at all; the filmmaking is almost invisible. I think for the most part, it feels like there are non-actors in the piece — although I’m sure they’re actors — but it’s not an actor-y piece at all. It’s just beautifully conceived with a really generous heart at its center. It just really moves me, I saw it again last week.

And it holds up.

It does; it’s the purity and the simplicity of it. And the sentiment of community and excellence. The idea of excellence and generosity as real things. Something, obviously, that’s in danger these days. The idea of truth and excellence and compassion. And kind of a willingness to accept the other. Forgive. So I think it’s a really deep, timeless film.

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) (The Bicycle Thief) (1949) 98%

What else comes to my mind? Bicycle Thieves was always one I loved, too. Again, deeply moving, operatic Italian story. Impossible to see the film and not weep. The simple life of people just trying to get through the day in very hard times. High unemployment after the second world war — a bicycle is the ticket out of unemployment and poverty. That’s a film that also still works. I see it every couple years. I look at that again.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) 98%

One more. How about another film that Joseph and I were talking about last night, which is a wonderful film: Sunrise by Murnau. It’s a silent movie — I think it’s from 1927, something like that. And it’s one of the most beautifully shot movies you’ll ever, ever see. Just the pinnacle of silent film art photography. Deep emotions of, again, almost operatic story. There’s a lot of nature in it, there’s a lot of water, fire, sunrises, and sunsets that are connected to the story. Human emotions and consciousness and yearnings and failings and karma. It comes from a short story, and a very beautiful film.

It won the first Cinematography Oscar.

Is that true? Well it’s worth it. If you ever see that film, it’s a “wow” experience.


Kerr Lordygan for Rotten Tomatoes: How did you end up working with Joseph Cedar on Norman

Richard Gere: We met through Oren Movermen. I knew Oren because he co-wrote I’m Not There with Todd Haynes, the Bob Dylan movie. He and I became good friends. We were at an Academy cocktail party for new members. I was asked to come and talk to the new members in New York, and they were both there together. Oren introduced me to Joseph and asked if I knew his work, and I hadn’t known Beaufort. It was a terrific Israeli film that he had made. So it just started the dialogue. I said, “If you ever want to do anything in the Middle East, and I’m right for it, give me a call.” So. That’s how that happened.

RT: Were you worried about it, scared of it?

Gere: No, I wasn’t. I was kind of perplexed and bemused, and my first question to him was, “Why me?” And I said, “Look, as a director and as a producer, I wouldn’t cast myself in that.” He didn’t want the usual with this. He wanted someone who’s gonna bring — I mean, what he has told me, who knows what he really wanted — I think he wanted to avoid the clichés of a Woody Allen approach to it. So we didn’t have a lot of time; we had eight or nine months to work on this before we started shooting.

RT: How did you prep for it?

Gere: Living in New York since I was 20. The best preparation. 47 years of having Normans around me all the time.

RT: It would be so easy for him to turn into an unpleasant character, but you made him so endearing.

Gere: I think there was a quality to him — and I didn’t realize it — we did talk about it a bit when I was trying to get a sense of where Joseph was coming from with this, and I at one point said, “Let’s think about the pulls, of what this could be.” It could be Woody Allen — he doesn’t want Woody Allen. And I said “Well, the other pull was Charlie Chaplin.” And he said, “If it has to go anywhere, it would go in that direction.”

And there is a kind of sad, sad quality about him. We never see his home. The film almost — although there’s an almost nonstop dialogue — the film actually works as a silent film. There are sections of the film that are completely silent. There’s the whole dumbshow when Norman and Eshel meet outside of the shoe store. Where he cuts out the dialogue and we just see it as a physicality.

RT: I loved that.

Gere: Yeah me too, it takes a really brave director to do that. The camera doesn’t move. There’s a soundtrack that kind of identifies the quirky circus quality of the movie, and forms that. But we just kind of see the physicality of the two people getting to know each other.

RT: And was that scripted?

Gere: It was partly scripted as dialogue — and we shot it as dialogue — but with the intention that he may pull it out, he’d have to look at it. Now I think he did a couple of different cuts, with the dialogue and without it. And it was way more interesting without it.

RT: It was fascinating, because we are trying to figure out how you were going to do this — how you were going to get him in your pocket.

Gere: Yeah, and it actually worked with the dialogue too. It was just so much more interesting without. And without the camera moving; no cuts. It’s a long sequence — it’s about a minute and a half, two minutes.


Norman opens on Friday, Apr. 14, 2017, in limited release.

Tag Cloud

spider-man strong female leads Family Showtime Kids & Family boxoffice CNN Superheroes asian-american Pet Sematary Peacock romantic comedy Food Network Apple TV Plus TIFF talk show Spring TV Red Carpet robots child's play south america Tarantino hist 2020 Marathons social media cars rotten Ovation Television Critics Association zombies Turner Classic Movies Syfy Chernobyl discovery IFC Oscars Hulu Shudder Western WGN E! TruTV anime Rocketman what to watch adventure biography VOD unscripted Winter TV period drama political drama X-Men Tumblr Premiere Dates Writers Guild of America Television Academy Amazon Prime Super Bowl nfl based on movie Paramount Ghostbusters nature Amazon Studios die hard TV Land PaleyFest Song of Ice and Fire screenings Cosplay Hallmark Christmas movies Cartoon Network FXX MTV DC Comics 71st Emmy Awards crime APB Valentine's Day Nickelodeon a nightmare on elm street latino Year in Review Lifetime BET Awards Best and Worst toy story Dark Horse Comics dark spy thriller crossover remakes Holidays Disney HBO Go Infographic Country serial killer sequels cartoon vampires Heroines OneApp Marvel Studios quibi Comic Book Netflix SDCC Warner Bros. Awards Tour Hallmark Shondaland Black Mirror USA Watching Series Star Trek Mystery Election zombie A24 war DirecTV 4/20 adaptation Polls and Games renewed TV shows movie Photos name the review Schedule Music Musical richard e. Grant Tubi Disney Plus versus Black History Month slashers politics indie Grammys Winners BAFTA casting laika worst Christmas Brie Larson theme song The Witch venice Logo cinemax Masterpiece hispanic comedies Rom-Com worst movies stop motion Sony Pictures classics Stephen King USA Network teaser Paramount Network romance Emmys CMT Avengers golden globes Amazon Prime Video TCA 2017 Marvel blaxploitation Amazon Character Guide Pirates ghosts dceu sag awards technology Sci-Fi HBO free movies crime drama mockumentary Pixar 2015 Bravo Starz reboot History CBS All Access Disney Channel Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt El Rey cats Binge Guide anthology thriller cancelled Britbox witnail New York Comic Con ABC Family documentary halloween stand-up comedy Comics on TV satire Crunchyroll 2016 LGBT twilight breaking bad Podcast blockbuster WarnerMedia nbcuniversal canceled TV shows Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spanish language criterion critics HBO Max justice league Mary poppins MSNBC 2018 GoT all-time PlayStation video YouTube Premium 21st Century Fox movies psychological thriller christmas movies video on demand Drama zero dark thirty Nat Geo Rock mission: impossible dogs Spike See It Skip It ESPN Columbia Pictures RT History cancelled television TBS Mary Poppins Returns Set visit BBC One BET ratings 2017 Esquire Funimation SundanceTV Mindy Kaling Creative Arts Emmys Box Office book Acorn TV children's TV Martial Arts ITV Fall TV scorecard animated Animation miniseries 2019 Walt Disney Pictures Women's History Month TV indiana jones binge revenge FX on Hulu Toys Anna Paquin game show Extras crime thriller Universal Arrowverse Thanksgiving psycho facebook Action festivals FX Endgame Quiz IFC Films Lucasfilm Disney streaming service cops reviews FOX festival universal monsters OWN Fox News cancelled TV shows doctor who First Reviews true crime chucky The CW Comedy franchise science fiction Hear Us Out Turner supernatural Crackle jamie lee curtis independent Reality comics Disney+ Disney Plus Interview Sundance Now VH1 spinoff finale Reality Competition TLC Fantasy best ABC Mary Tyler Moore dragons TNT Mudbound Elton John Pop TV transformers kids fast and furious YouTube Holiday DGA BBC sports 20th Century Fox Awards disaster 24 frames 45 President Adult Swim Sundance TV renewals streaming football Baby Yoda Opinion AMC Vudu rotten movies we love docudrama dc Netflix Christmas movies 72 Emmy Awards TCA Winter 2020 Pride Month police drama Classic Film Comedy Central Summer Trivia VICE GIFs parents spain award winner RT21 Lifetime Christmas movies werewolf SXSW Star Wars Apple TV+ news tv talk Discovery Channel space Ellie Kemper Marvel Television Epix Emmy Nominations Sundance TV Spectrum Originals E3 Film Festival composers Travel Channel comiccon hollywood medical drama Pop Film LGBTQ toronto DC streaming service Apple The Walking Dead scary movies GLAAD Countdown dramedy sitcom concert green book Sneak Peek A&E documentaries joker sequel screen actors guild cults TCA Awards YA National Geographic CW Seed MCU First Look Calendar Horror 007 historical drama superhero stoner Tomatazos Musicals natural history travel Teen Captain marvel directors elevated horror television foreign The Arrangement Trophy Talk Video Games mutant Trailer canceled YouTube Red BBC America emmy awards NBC Biopics Superheroe series PBS batman TCA cancelled TV series San Diego Comic-Con NYCC DC Universe diversity Freeform Rocky comic cooking CBS The Purge Certified Fresh obituary Nominations singing competition American Society of Cinematographers films TCM Lionsgate game of thrones Academy Awards harry potter aliens Cannes