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A (Richard) Gere shift for Oscars?

By JD Cargill, CNN
updated 1:57 AM EST, Wed December 26, 2012
"I've never wanted for something and then was able to make it happen. Life doesn't really work like that," Richard Gere told CNN.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Richard Gere's career spans four decades
  • He's starred in blockbusters such as "Pretty Woman" and "An Officer and a Gentleman"
  • The actor hasn't won an Oscar but recently scored a Golden Globe nod for "Arbitrage"

(CNN) -- Richard Gere is one of Hollywood's most recognizable and prolific movie stars.

In a career spanning four decades, he's starred in more than 50 feature films, including blockbusters such as "Pretty Woman" and "Runaway Bride." In the early '80s, back-to-back performances in "American Gigolo" and "An Officer and a Gentleman" raised temperatures worldwide and cemented Gere's status as a heartthrob and sex symbol.

But for all his accolades, one thing missing from the star's resume is an Academy Award. Many critics were certain a nomination would come for his memorable turn as Billy Flynn in the 2002 Best Picture Oscar winner, "Chicago." The movie musical earned a whopping 13 nominations, including acting nods for Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly. It sent Catherina Zeta-Jones home with a statue -- but nothing for Gere.

Hollywood has once again shifted into awards gear, and for the first time in a decade, the iconic leading man could get another swing at Oscar. This year, Gere flexed his dramatic muscles in Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage," playing a brilliant but troubled Wall Street tycoon. His performance has received widespread praise from critics as well as a Golden Globe nomination.

With the film now available for home viewing and Oscar voters turning in their ballots, Gere opens up about what a nomination would mean to him; why things such as power, money and beauty don't really matter; and the best decision he's ever made about his hair.

CNN: In "Arbitrage," you play a hedge fund fat cat with a lot of personal and professional secrets. Since the economy took a nosedive, these guys are usually the villains, but somehow you make him sympathetic.

Richard Gere: I wouldn't say he's sympathetic; I was trying to make him human. He does a lot of bad things, and I didn't want to sugarcoat that, but I don't know how you could sustain this story, if the guy was a capital "V" villain. The world has gray areas for all of us. We all compromise constantly. Most of us don't have the opportunity to compromise to the degree that this guy does with that much power and money, but the impulse is the same -- it's just a question of degree. That's what I wanted to do with this. I wanted to be a mirror for ourselves.

CNN: In the first scene, you're celebrating your 60th birthday, and I thought, "There's no way Richard Gere is 60!" But you're 63. ...

Gere: I'm actually 83. (Laughter) I'm very well-preserved. I had six hours of makeup before I came in here.

CNN: That would be a headline. But seriously, aging in Hollywood is famously difficult, and you've managed to do it seamlessly.

Gere: We were laughing about it before. Someone told me recently, "Oh, you never colored your hair." I know a lot of actors and directors who seem to get darker hair every year, and mine gets more paper white all the time. But I'm very glad I made that decision, and it seemed to work out.

CNN: Was there a time in your life when you knew you had a certain impact on the opposite sex?

Gere: Not at all. The only difference in my life over anyone else is that I've gone through this kind of scrutiny for a long time. But we all have hopes, fears, angers, jealousies -- we're all the same. It's like my character in the film; look at the package of this guy -- that car, those suits, the haircut, the mistress, the way he moves. In the end it's all meaningless. There are some core issues that we all go through. It doesn't matter how poor or rich or whatever, if you've done that kind of internal work that can open up genuine doors to selflessness -- which is the root of some kind of happiness that is real and that you can hold on to. That's the point.

CNN: Some might say it's a bit easier to have that opinion when the surface looks so nice.

Gere: Yeah, but nobody looks in the mirror and goes, "Oooh, nice!"

CNN: Really? I might argue that point.

Gere: Nobody. Nobody. Look, I've been married to two of the world's most beautiful women, and I never remember them looking in the mirror and going, "Oooh, you look good." It's all relative.

CNN: There's a theory that the grumpy old men in the academy are jealous of matinee idols, like you, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, and that's why you don't win Oscars. It's only when you cross over behind the camera like George Clooney, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford that they take you seriously. Have you heard of that?

Gere: (Laughter) No.

CNN: What would it mean to you to be nominated for your performance in "Arbitrage"?

Gere: It would feel great, of course. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. I like the movie, and I think Nick Jarecki, who wrote and directed it, did a really great job. I'm happy with my performance in it. I don't think any actor is ever totally delighted with what they do, but you get easier on it later.

CNN: You've accomplished so much, but do you still dream and set goals for yourself?

Gere: I've never wanted for something and then was able to make it happen. Life doesn't really work like that. I think the process of getting older is just to let it happen. While you're focused on trying to make something happen, you're missing out on so many other things around you. So I think in my own case the process of maturing is to just be more open -- to feel the whole thing.

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