Richard Gere has played his fair share of smooth talkers over the years, in films like An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman and Primal Fear. And yes, his latest character, the Manhattan “business consultant” Norman Oppenheimer, can talk his way into any room ¾ but he’s not exactly smooth enough to stay there.
In fact, under Oppenheimer’s shaggy white hair, glasses, schlubby demeanor, and thick New York-Jewish accent, Gere is downright unrecognizable at times.
The 67-year-old actor described his reaction to getting the offer from Israeli director Joseph Cedar (Footnote), who makes his English-language debut with Norman: “I read it and it was a brilliant script, but I was like, ‘Why me?‘” Gere told Yahoo Movies (watch above). “If I was directing or producing this, I wouldn’t cast myself in this.”
There is also the fact that Oppenheimer, a wannabe dealmaker itching for an entry into high society who wills/lucks his way into a relationship with the Israeli prime minister (Lior Ashkenazi), is Jewish, while Gere was raised Methodist and became a practicing Tibetan Buddhist as an adult.
“I think [Cedar] was looking for a universal quality,” Gere said. “The specifics had to be right. I had to be Norman… and very far away from me… But I think he wanted some quality that wasn’t stuck in the Jewish experience, but that would flow beyond it.”
Norman is now in select theaters.
Watch Gere talk about his most memorable roles in our Role Recall interview:
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