Culture: In Top Gere; Now in His 50s, Richard Gere Has Left the Turmoil of the Past Behind, Turning to His New Family and Buddhism to Find Happiness and Harmony

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeff Hayward

Fatherhood and middle age seem to agree with Richard Gere. The hair is grey now, he wears bifocals and looks a bit chunkier but he still exudes an easy charm that makes women swoon.

The 51-year-old actor says he is now better able to handle the pressures of being a celebrity and he's enjoying being a new dad. Hollywood's most famous Buddhist seems to have survived fame and come out the other side.

It's not only in his personal life with partner Carey Lowell and their new son Homer that things are going well. Always dedicated to his craft, despite his sex symbol tag, there seems to be more weight to his screen work as well. While getting older is usually unkind to women in Hollywood, it appears to suit Gere.

The Pretty Woman star has two new films coming out in Britain in the next few weeks. First is the romantic comedy Autumn in New York, which was released yesterday. It has been deemed too lightweight and there's also the 20-year age gap between him and co-star Winona Ryder to deal with. Like his re-teaming with Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride in 1999, it doesn't really work.

But his performance as a popular gynaecologist whose personal life is a mess in Robert Altman's Dr T and the Women, which opens on July 6, shows Gere at his melancholy best.

Gere says the old cockiness he was once renowned for in films such as American Gigolo has faded and he has definitely mellowed over the years.

'I will still do those kinds of roles but audiences have seen enough of me now to know there's a difference between me and the characters I play. Sure, there has been a maturation process that we all go through, it's called life.'

He's particularly pleased with Dr T and the Women because, although the women patients seem to love his character, the gynaecologist is not at ease.

'This is one of the straightest characters I've ever played, a man uncomfortable in seducing women. He feels responsible for making everyone happy and one thing he learns is you just can't do it.'

When American Gigolo came out in the 80s it set Gere up as a female fantasy figure and he says he's still trying to live it down. 'I really don't think about sexual expectations on me, it's only something that comes up in interviews. What I am told is that there's a certain quality I have on screen.'

What he has had to contend with is other people's projections - and they have nothing to do with who he really is, Gere maintains. …