September 05, 2007
Gere-Ing Up For The Hunting
Disgraced TV news reporter Simon Hunt wants to get it right.
| (click for larger version)|
Returning to Sarajevo on the fifth anniversary of the war's end, Hunt's got a new mission – to find Bosnia's most-wanted criminal dubbed "The Fox" (based on real-life Serbian fugitive Radovan Karadzic).
Inspired by journalist Scott Anderson's article, "What I Did on My Summer Vacation," for Esquire Magazine, The Hunting Party, opening Sept. 7, stars Richard Gere in the pivotal role of Hunt. Gere, a Water Mill resident, recently spoke to The Independent about his role in the film.
Lending an assist in writer/director Richard Shepard's ("The Matador") dark comedy are Terrence Howard as Hunt's former cameraman Duck turned network big shot, with Jesse Eisenberg as Benjamin, a TV upstart producer on the track of his first big assignment. The trio is helped by a disaffected Serb police officer who inadvertently believes the journalists are a CIA hit squad. Mayhem ensues when the real CIA shows up.
Using black comedy as a guise, The Hunting Party is both a cautionary tale and a trenchant political comment. Soft-spoken, articulate and direct, the 57-year-old white haired actor points out, "We go into really dark territories of murders and abuses, the whole thing, mixed with some French Connection-like chase scenes. It's a unique meal that's been constructed by the chef, but not an easy one to pull off. Amateurs are not welcome to go to this territory and I don't know if we pulled it off, the degree of difficulty being what it was."
Because of budget restrictions, the filmmakers considered all the logical Eastern European locations such as the Czech Republic, Hungary or Romania. Gere interjected during an interview, "We bit the bullet and I'm glad we did because the film has a certain texture to it."
Shepard refused to compromise. The 42-day shoot was subsequently based in Sarajevo and Zagreb. Although Gere hadn't been to Bosnia before, he knew the territory. He explained, "I had a connection. I had been in Kosovo during that crisis in the late 1990s. When the border was opening and the Kosovoians started going into Macedonia I was at the border crossing the refugee camps in Albania. I had an instinct that there was much for us to learn.
"The world was going in that direction with these ethnic conflicts. I wasn't thinking directly of Iraq, but that's exactly the same thing. All the major religions and cultures found a way to coexist and help each other for hundreds of years at a time with no problems. That kind of richness is what this whole planet should be. How did they achieve that successfully? Then these ancient seeds of hatred found a way to manifest again. Why do we have to regress to stages that we should have outgrown and evolved way past? That's what interests me."
Aside from amassing screen credits like An Officer and a Gentleman, Pretty Woman, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, American Gigolo, Primal Fear, Shall We Dance, and his Golden Globe turn as infamous lawyer Billy Flynn in the film adaptation of Chicago, over the past three decades, Gere is equally prolific in the human rights realm.
A student and friend of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Gere has traveled extensively throughout India, Nepal, Zanskar and Tibet, Mongolia and China. An accomplished photographer, many of these images can be found in his 1997 book titled Pilgrim. The Gere Foundation is dedicated to the cultural survival of the Tibetan people.
Earlier this year, Gere garnered critical acclaim portraying author Clifford Irving in director Lasse Hallstrom's The Hoax. It hardly qualified as a financial blockbuster. Even with a creditable movie, Gere is savvy enough to realize that it's difficult to get moviegoers into the theater.
"Does that concern me? Yes, but we go in knowing. You make a movie like this that no studio would ever make and, of course, you get paid accordingly. You go into it saying, 'OK, I make enough to live on.' And if it does do well I'll share in that handsomely.
"I'm pretty clear about what motivates my actions. I don't see a reason for doing a movie unless it's a benefit, not just for others, but myself as well. It's not like you have to be telling the story of Jesus Christ or the Buddha every time out. The stories of little steps we make in that direction are important. We're not capable of big steps yet."
Next, Gere plays a federal agent pursuing a suspected pedophile in Hong Kong director Andrew Lau's first English language film, The Flock, co-starring Clare Danes.
A father himself, Gere had a vested interest. "I'd describe it as a character thriller. It's timely, but I was more interested in how I would react. What would we do as parents if something like that happened to our kids, or friends, people in our inner circle? Would we be able to be forgiving?"
Gere agrees that as a practicing Buddhist, revenge would appear to be antithetical, "It's impossible. We're so deeply interconnected. What are you avenging against? So punishment has no interest to me, understanding does – wisdom, deep compassion."
The operable word in Gere's vocabulary is "accountability."
"Sure, there are people we cannot allow to be on the street but does it mean we torture them in the meantime? Or do we make the compassionate types of explorations to find out how they turned out like that? What was it about their mind and heart, that they could be so devoid of compassion for another human being?" questioned Gere, who is married to "Law & Order" actress Carey Lowell.
With his boyish smile and leading man good looks, Gere still has the ability to set hearts aflutter. Reunited with Unfaithful co-star Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe, directed by George C. Wolfe, Gere plays Dr. Paul Flanner, who en route to see his estranged son sparks a romance with an unhappily married woman at a North Carolina inn. "Yes," he sheepishly conceded, "This is a ladies' movie."