We have always been told that doing good is what makes this world go round, but no one warned us that offering kindness can sometimes put us into trouble.
Actor Richard Gere is just an example of that, but no matter what, he never stops being the change he wants to see in the world.
The prestigious actor has turned to Buddhism years ago, and even met Dalai Lama, the highest spiritual leader of Tibet, and spoke of the encounter as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Today, the two are close friends, but Gere can never forget the first time he met His Holiness.
“We started out with a little small talk, and then he said, ‘Oh, so you’re an actor?’” the Pretty Woman star recalled.
“He thought about that a second, and then he said, ‘So when you do this acting, and you’re angry, are you really angry? When you’re acting sad, are you really sad? When you cry, are you crying?’
“I gave him some kind of actor answer like it was more effective if you really believed in the emotion that you were portraying. He looked very deeply into my eyes and just started laughing. Hysterically. He was laughing at the idea that I would believe emotions are real, that I would work very hard to believe in anger and hatred and sadness and pain and suffering.”
His love for the “Roof of the World” affected Gere’s career a great deal and it all started when he decided not to follow his prepared speech during the Academy Awards ceremony in 1993 but used the occasion to protest against China’s occupation of Tibet and its “horrendous, horrendous human rights situation.”
Gil Cates, the Academy Award’s producer, swore to ban the actor from any future Oscar broadcasts.
Gere, however, didn’t care. He believed speaking his mind was more important of all.
Knowing how huge of a market the Chinese TV industry is, Gere missed a huge number of roles in successful movies only because the Chinese banned every project he was part of.
“There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him,’” Gere explained.
“I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”
It was one particular movie, Red Corner, which made Gere fully aware of how important China’s opinion was when it came to making movies.
“Everyone was happy with the film,” the actor spoke of the project.
“I get calls from the heads of the studio. Went on Oprah. Then, out of nowhere, I get calls saying, ‘We don’t want you doing press.’ MGM wanted to make an overall deal with the Chinese. China told them, ‘If you release this film, we’re not buying it.’ And so, they dumped it.”
In 2019, Gere found himself in the center of attention once again, this time because he tried helping migrants stuck at see. As it turned out, he was on vacation with his family when he learned that more than 100 migrants on board had been left stranded because Italy’s right-leaning Lega party leader, Matteo Salvinien, forbid the ship to disembark, leaving the migrants without food or water for days.
Gere and his son headed to the migrant’s vessel, but their boat wasn’t allowed anywhere near. That, however, didn’t prevent the actor from providing food for the scared and confused people.
Speaking of the event and how he angered the Italian government, Gere told The Guardian:
“We saw more than a hundred people on board. I felt ashamed that we have so much and are not able to embrace these fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters who were starving, traumatized.
“If they were told the boat was going back to Libya, they would jump in the water and drown themselves, and I felt it was our responsibility to bring as much light as we could.”
Eventually, the migrants got the permission to step foot on the soil of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Now Gere is about to appear at court to tell what had really happened in a case against Salvinien who’s now accused of “using his position as the interior minister to detain the migrants at sea.”
“It’s very simple, I’ll just tell the truth; I’ll just tell what I experienced. I’m only here to speak for people who don’t have a voice. It’s not about me. I’m completely irrelevant here. I’m honest with you. I can be invisible. All I am is a witness,” Gere said in an interview.
Salvini was reported to have been extremely mad at the actor for taking a stand against him in the behalf of the Open Arms organization.
“First of all, I don’t know these people. I’ve never met them, but I highly doubt they’ve taken the time to go on a boat and have a human experience and understand the real people they have their influence over,” Gere told The Guardian.
“If they did that, then I think there’s probably another conversation to have. You see, I don’t see myself as a movie star. I’m one of 7 billion human beings on the planet, that’s it, no more. I’m no better or worse than anyone.”
“But in terms of the politics of it, I’m not advocating one way or another, of what the Italian people should do,” Gere added. “That’s completely up to the Italians.”
Whether you like his acting or not, we all have to agree that Richard Gere is one of the few people who are willing to put everything on the line for the sake of those who need his help.