On this day in 1949, Richard Gere, the star of such hit films as An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman and Chicago, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Gere was raised in the Syracuse, New York area and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on a gymnastics scholarship. He left college before graduating to pursue a career in theater. On the big screen, Gere’s early credits included roles in 1977’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar, with Diane Keaton, and 1978’s Days of Heaven, with Sam Shepard and Brooke Adams. In 1980, Gere cemented his image as a sex symbol in the hit film American Gigolo, in which he played the male escort Julian Kaye. His next movie, 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman, co-starring Debra Winger, was a huge commercial and critical success and received six Academy Award nominations. (Louis Gossett Jr. won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a drill sergeant and An Officer and a Gentleman’s theme song, “Up Where We Belong,” collected Best Original Song honors.)
In 1990, Gere played an uptight businessman to Julia Roberts’ prostitute with a heart of gold in the mega-hit romantic comedy Pretty Woman. The movie, directed by Garry Marshall, made Roberts an international star. Also that year, Gere portrayed a crooked cop in the popular thriller Internal Affairs, which co-starred Andy Garcia. Gere teamed up with Roberts and director Marshall again for 1999’s Runaway Bride. Poorly received by critics, the film was nonetheless an impressive box office success.
In 2000, Gere trotted out his comedic side, and his singing and dancing skills, to play the slick lawyer Billy Flynn in the movie musical Chicago. He received overwhelmingly positive notice for his performance, including a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards; it won for Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction and Best Editing. Gere followed up his performance in Chicago with appearances in such films as 2002’s Unfaithful, with Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez, and 2004’s Shall We Dance, with Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon.
Off-screen, Gere became known for his advocacy work for human rights in Tibet as well as AIDS awareness. The actor was married to the supermodel Cindy Crawford from 1991 to 1995 and since 2002 has been married to the former Law & Order actress Carey Lowell. They have one son, Homer.