Gere still travels with the perks of movie stardom - the private
plane, the limo from the airport, the hotel manager waiting to
greet him, and the butler assigned to his suite. Young and
attractive women still wait for a glimpse of him in hotel lobbies
and seem to gasp when he walks by, some of them voicing
disappointment at the presence of his wife, actress Carey Lowell.
But he is more likely to be dealing with global health issues or a
political impasse than with matters related to his film career.
Sometimes Gere pushes his celebrity too far, as happened earlier
this year when his efforts to increase voter turnout in the
Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip seemed to
fall flat. But he is undaunted, expanding the work of his two
nonprofit organizations (the Gere Foundation and Healing the
Divide) to address a variety of problems. His strategy usually
revolves around an effort to get politicians, creatives, and
business titans to work together for a common educational goal that
relies on access to the media to get the message across. And he
knows this media exposure depends, to a large degree, on his own
He admits that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. At
first, he thought charisma alone might be enough to galvanize the
fight against AIDS in India, but he found that much more hard work
was needed to get programs started.
"I've been involved in the AIDS fight since the very earliest days,
right in the beginning, when friends of mine were dying," he says.
"This is clearly the worst pandemic ever to hit the human race, and
our grandchildren will be asking, 'What did you do? Who did
something and who didn't?' And I insist on being someone who did
something. Through my constant trips to India, it became clear that
India was the place it would go next. So I dove into that, kind of
naively, thinking if I just brought my movie-star thing to it - do
some events, do some interviews - it would create a tipping point
for action, and the people who do these kinds of things would do
their job. It was foolish and naive on my part because there was no
mechanism in place for people to do anything; it had to be started
from ground zero. That's what we've been doing the last five years.
We needed to expand, we needed more money, and Bill Gates funded
us. He's got serious energy and serious money."