Perhaps the seeds were planted early when Gere’s mother Doris made him costumes (Santa Claus and Davy Crockett) during his second-grade year in Syracuse, New York — little did she know her young son would enjoy one of the most prolific careers in Hollywood. “She made a lot of costumes when I was a kid, and I was always into role-playing and fantasy,” the acclaimed actor notes of what proved to be a defining moment.
As a young adult, the allure of fantasy caused him to forgo his philosophy studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (he was there on a gymnastics scholarship) and pursue acting. The doors to the theater soon opened, and he landed a part in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Cape Cod’s prominent Provincetown Playhouse in 1971. A role in London’s East End production of Grease in 1973 followed, and he won a Theatre World Award for his portrayal of a concentration camp prisoner in the 1980 Broadway production of the play Bent. He has starred in close to 50 films and television shows ranging from the artistic Days of Heaven (1978) and the action-filled The Jackal (1997) to the romantic Nights in Rodanthe (2008) and the political And the Band Played On (1993).
Though he received a Golden Globe award (Best Actor) for his role as Billy Flynn, the tap-dancing attorney in the Bob Fosse hit-musical- turned-film Chicago (2003), incredibly he has yet to be nominated for an Academy Award. Named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” (1999), Gere is also known for his musical abilities and can be seen playing the cornet and piano solos for the films The Cotton Club (1984) and Pretty Woman. An accomplished guitar player as well, Gere’s love of music started at an early age.
While somewhat guarded about his personal life, he appears to be content and happy, which can no doubt be credited to his quiet family life far from the movie-star trappings of Hollywood. He is married to Carey Lowell, a former fashion model, Bond girl, and star of NBC’s Law & Order in 2002, and the couple have a 12-year-old son, Homer. Gere is also famously known for his spiritual and philanthropic interests that resulted from a trip in his 20s to Nepal. “I had a very strong feeling in the Himalayas in the ’70s when I first met Tibetans in a refugee camp outside Nepal,” he details, “and a couple of years later I met the Dalai Lama.” Since this time, he has made a lifelong commitment that involves daily meditation, regular pilgrimages to India, and a dedication to Buddhism. He also wrote the book Pilgrim (Bulfinch Press, 1997) that features his portfolio of striking photographs of his travels to Nepal, India, and Tibet.
In 1991, he founded the Gere Foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on humanitarian issues (they have donated several hundred thousands of dollars in grants yearly), and is the co-founder of Tibet House, that dedicates itself to the preservation of Tibetan culture. Gere is also a supporter of Survival International, that aids in human rights of global tribes worldwide.