Happy birthday, Richard Gere - Still starring (and sexy) at 70
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Can you believe that Richard Gere is about to turn 70? We’re looking back at his career, and at other stars who are still in the limelight as they move into their eighth decade.
Hearing that Richard Gere is about to celebrate his 70th birthday, on August 31, seems almost incredible.
I can vividly remember the first time I saw Gere on the big screen, in 1980, when he starred in romantic crime drama American Gigolo.
I was a student at the time and had a German penpal staying with me. When we went along to see the film, she sat there almost swooning, and I could hear her whispering under her breath once or twice: "Ist er schoen!" (English translation: "Is he handsome!")
Actor and humanitarian Richard Tiffany Gere (Tiffany was mother Doris's maiden name) was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New York. He paid his dues in theatre, before moving into films in the 1970s.
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Since his early days as a sex symbol, he has become recognised for his power and passion as an actor, but has still retained his leading man looks through the decades. People magazine named him as the "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1999,when he was 50 and had greying locks.
Of course, away from the screen, Gere has become almost equally well-known as an activist. He has worked tirelessly for a whole range of causes that he believes in passionately, including ecological charities and AIDS awareness.
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A Buddhist, he has had a long friendship with the Dalai Lama and has continued to speak out about human rights in Tibet - something which, he has said, has cost him roles in major Hollywood movies over recent years. He was also banned from being an Oscar presenter after his comments about the Chinese government while announcing nominees in 1993.
However, even if offers from the major studios are lacking, Gere has been happy to take on smaller and indie projects over recent years, gaining some fine reviews along the way.
This year he took his first major TV role, playing a newspaper magnate in a British series, MotherFatherSon.
He also became a father for the second time in February, when his third wife, Spanish activist Alejandra Silva, gave birth to a baby boy.
Although Richard Gere has never had an Oscar nomination to date, he has been nominated for four Golden Globes and won one, for Chicago.
10 of Richard Gere's best films
Gere has appeared in more than 50 films since his debut in the 1970s, including many fine performances, but these are 10 of the most memorable.
- Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978): This must be one of the most visually stunning films of its era, and deservedly won the Oscar for cinematography. Gere stars as Bill, who travels to the Texas Panhandle with his lover. The couple pretend to be brother and sister, and are then tempted into a dangerous deception, tricking a dying farmer into a marriage.
- American Gigolo (Paul Schrader, 1980): This glossy thriller established Gere as a leading man, and was also unusual because it was one of the first Hollywood films to feature full-frontal nude shots of a male star. He plays the narcissistic Julian, who finds himself accused of murder.
- An Officer and a Gentleman (Taylor Hackford, 1982): The film which sealed Gere's stardom, now seen as a romantic classic. Gere, who received his first Golden Globe nomination, Debra Winger and Louis Gossett Jr, who won the Oscar for best supporting actor, are all great. And it's hard to watch the famous ending, to the sounds of Up Where We Belong, without it bringing tears to your eyes. The film is so well-remembered that it inspired a stage musical, which visited the Ipswich Regent during its tour last year.
- Pretty Woman (Garry Marshall, 1990): This updated Cinderella story launched Julia Roberts to stardom, but Gere is also perfectly cast as wealthy businessman Edward Lewis, and received a Golden Globe nomination. Just in case there is anyone left who hasn't seen it, he hires prostitute Vivian (Roberts) to be his escort at a series of events, but their relationship develops into more. The couple were reunited nine years later for another rom-com, Runaway Bride, which was also a hit, but didn't have quite the same magic.
- Internal Affairs (Mike Figgis, 1990): This crime drama set in the LAPD's internal affairs department is one of many thrillers Gere has made over the years. He plays patrolman Dennis Peck, who is supposed to be a model officer - but internal affairs agent Raymond Avila (Andy Garcia) becomes increasingly suspicious of his methods.
- Sommersby (Jon Amiel, 1993): An American remake of acclaimed French film The Return of Martin Guerre, this period drama is set in the years following the American Civil War. Gere plays a farmer who is presumed dead, but apparently returns several years on - but is it really him? There is simmering chemistry between Gere and Jodie Foster, and the cinematography and score are both stunning.
- Primal Fear (Gregory Holbit, 1996): This courtroom drama, which was a box office and critical success, is one of Gere's best thrillers. Gere plays a defence lawyer who defends a teenage altar boy accused of murder (Edward Norton, in his film debut).
- Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002): Gere had sung and danced on stage early in his career in a production of Grease. He finally showed these talents on film in this smash hit musical, taking the role of money-grabbing lawyer Billy Flynn, and giving it all that old razzle dazzle. While his singing voice might not be quite up there with his acting talent, he still carries it off, and deservedly won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical.
- Arbitrage (Nicholas Jarecki, 2012): One of the best films about the financial crash, this thriller sees a great performance by Gere as a totally unscrupulous 60-year-old hedge fund magnate, who somehow manages to make everyone trust him. This role saw him gain a fourth Golden Globe nomination.
- Time Out of Mind (2014): After playing many rich and suave characters over the years, Gere took on a completely different role in this drama, as a homeless man wandering through the streets of New York, who refuses to admit he needs help. He certainly does not look glamorous or sexy in this, and reportedly only two passers-by, out of thousands, recognised him during extensive filming on the streets.
Other actors who have that star power at 70 - and beyond
There are many actors who have no intention of putting their feet up at 70, and are still taking leading roles with great success. Here are just a few:
Samuel L. Jackson: The iconic actor came top in our Twitter mini-poll for favourite male stars over 70. As with Gere, it's surprising to realise that Jackson is now 70, having reached the milestone age just before Christmas. He has had an amazing career, having appeared in more than 100 films, and is the actor who has made the most money at the US box office. He is probably best known for his roles in Quentin Tarantino films, including Pulp Fiction, where he received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor, Jackie Brown and Django Unchained. But he has also starred in a host of other films, Far from slowing down or looking to retire, he is still starring in blockbusters and has appeared as Nick Fury in no less than three Marvel Avengers movies this year.
Helen Mirren: Acclaimed for her film, stage and TV roles, Dame Helen Mirren came top in our Twitter mini-poll for favourite female stars over 70. She is now 74, and as busy, and glamorous, as ever. Mirren has a role as a criminal mastermind mother in the new Fast and Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw, released this month, and also starred in another release this summer, French thriller Anna. But of course she is best-known for her roles in Prime Suspect and as the Queen, in both the Stephen Frears film The Queen and the stage play The Audience. It is currently rumoured she might play the Queen again, eventually taking over from Olivia Colman (who has only recently taken on the role herself) in Netflix series The Crown. Harrison Ford: Now 77, Harrison Ford, who came second in our male actors mini-poll, is another actor who has been a star ever since the 1970s. It's hard to remember that he was actually something of a slow starter, turning to a career as a carpenter when it proved difficult to find roles. All that was forgotten when he starred in American Graffiti and was then cast as Han Solo in Star Wars. Despite having more than 70 film and TV credits to his name, he is still best-known as Han Solo - a role he reprised in 2015 in Star Wars: Episode VII - The force Awakens - and of course as Indiana Jones. Ford and Steven Spielberg are said to be working on a new Indiana Jones film for 2021, when Ford will be 79.
Meryl Streep: Can you believe that Meryl Streep turned 70 in June? Looking many years younger, she gave a show-stealing performance in a key scene of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last year. She also showed her singing prowess once again as Cousin Topsy in Mary Poppins Returns - and is just about to star as a widow investigating an insurance fraud in Steven Soderbergh's forthcoming drama The Laundromat. Like Gere, she is also making a rare move into TV, with a role in the second season of hit US series Big Little Lies. To date, Streep has won three Oscars, and been nominated an amazing 21 times. She came second in our actresses Twitter mini-poll.
Jeff Bridges: He isn't quite 70 yet, but Bridges will reach that milestone later this year. Ross Bentley writes: "Like a fine wine, Jeff Bridges has matured well and gets better with age. His performances tend to be understated but always of high quality and he's been doing it a long time - he first received an Oscar nomination in 1971 playing Duane in The Last Picture Show - a coming of age tale set in a small Texas town - and then an impressive 45 years later was again nominated for Best Supporting Actor after portraying Texan Ranger Marcus Hamilton on the trail of two bank robbing brothers in the excellent Hell or High Water.
"Mainstream recognition has come late for Bridges, who won his sole Oscar in 2009 as the washed-out country and western singer Otis "Bad" Blake in Crazy Heart, but he has appeared in some cracking films over the years, including The Door in the Floor, The Fisher king and True Grit - Bridges pulling off a role that John Wayne had made his own with a wonderful turn as Rooster Cogburn.
"It's apt though, that many will know Bridges best as the Dude in the cult classic The Big Lebowski. My mates and I watched it numerous times when it first came out in the late 1990s. It's a crazy, hilarious movie with a bunch of memorable one-liners. The Dude abides."
Diane Keaton: It's 42 years since Diane Keaton starred in classic Woody Allen film Annie Hall. But she doesn't look all that different at 73, and is still playing the lead in romantic comedies - though she has played many fine dramatic roles too. In 2017, she starred opposite Brendan Gleeson in bitter-sweet British film Hampstead, and last year she joined forces with three other actresses of a certain age, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, in the comedy Book Club. Her latest film, Poms, about a group of women from a retirement community who start a cheerleading squad, is due for release next month.
Michael Douglas: The actor will turn 75 this year, and is one star who possibly does look his age, although still handsome. As he grows older, his likeness to his father, Kirk Douglas, now 102, is ever more striking. He is yet another star to have embraced television, and has won an Emmy nomination for his role as an ageing star turned acting coach in Netflix series The Kominsky Method, with Alan Arkin as his friend and agent. This year he also has a cameo in Avengers: Endgame, following on from his role in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Cher: She is famous for undergoing plastic surgery, so it's possibly no surprise that Cher looks younger than her age. While she is best-known as a singer, she has appeared in a number of films over the years, including The Witches of Eastwick, Moonstruck and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Although she played Meryl Streep's mother in the Mamma Mia sequel, Cher is actually only three years older than her at 73.
Al Pacino: Now 79, Pacino is yet another legend who is not retiring yet. He won a Golden Globe just four years ago for his performance as an ageing rock star comedy-drama Danny Collins. Pacino stars with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino's new comedy-drama Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and he is also due to star in Martin Scorsese's crime film, The Irishman, which is due for release this autumn.
Robert De Niro: After more than half a century of film-making, two Oscars, seven Oscar nominations and more than 100 movies, Robert De Niro is still taking starring roles. Like his Godfather 2 co-star Pacino, De Niro, 76, is also due to star in Scorsese's The Irishman - and he also has three other films in the pipeline.
Susan Sarandon: The actress, now 72, has appeared in a great range of roles over the years, from starring in 1980s and 90s dramas like Bull Durham and Thelma and Louise - which may still be her best-loved film - through to portraying Bette Davis in the acclaimed TV mini-series Feud: Bette and Joan. As busy as ever, she currently has several films and TV productions in pre-production, and will soon be seen in her new film, Blackbird, with Kate Winslet.