Richard Gere knows how to woo over an audience. He made his second grand entrance to Sicily (the first time was with the Dalai Llama in 1996) at the Taormina Film Festival to pick up a Taormina Arte Award and teach a masterclass.
“Italy is my favorite place on the planet,” he told the gushing crowd. He recounted his first trip to Rome after winning a David Di Donatello best foreign actor award for Days of Heaven in 1979, and fondly recalled brushing shoulders withFellini’s muse Giulietta Masina backstage, who he called “one of the great, great actresses of all time.”
The Italian love was mutual. Grandmothers traveled from all over Sicily to catch a glimpse of the actor, and patiently waited for over an hour for him to arrive on stage. Hundreds of fans packed the auditorium and filled the aisles, obstructing all fire exits. Cameramen effectively blocked off anyone’s view of the stage, causing much hissing and yelling during Gere’s rather calm talk.
The actor focused his chat on the changing dynamics of the film business. “I just made four movies back to back,” he said. “All of these movies, in the 70s when I started making movies, would have been made by studios.”
He went on to explain that back then all the large studios, whether Warner Bros., Paramount or Fox, were all making difficult films that had an independent feel to them. “The studios don’t make these movies anymore. So now the independent route is the only one that could make those kind of movies. And of course, no one’s getting paid. We used to get paid.”
Gere’s masterclass swiftly turned to politics. He was eager to discuss his upcoming film Time Out of Mind, which opens September 9 in the U.S. and sees him play a homeless man…