Richard Gere Interview, The Hoax

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline recently sat down with actor Richard Gere to talk about his latest film, The Hoax, in which he plays notorious author Clifford Irving who perpetrated one of the most audacious and outrageous hoaxes ever on the media and American public. Inspired by Irving’s untrue story, the suspenseful thriller is directed by Lasse Halstrom ("Cider House Rules,” "Chocolat”) from a screenplay by William Wheeler and also stars Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Julie Delpy, and Eli Wallach.

In 1971, Clifford Irving achieved the very heights of American journalism, nabbing a series of unprecedented interviews with the most famous man in the world – ultra-reclusive, immensely powerful, superstar billionaire Howard Hughes – revealing his most intimate memories and controversial secrets. But it was all a lie. Claiming to have obtained Howard Hughes’ long sought-after memoirs, Irving pulled the wool over the entire publishing industry’s eyes, and nearly made off with major cash and worldwide fame, until his clever yarn unraveled into a serious crime. Jumping off from the still controversial facts surrounding Irving’s ruse into a fictional reverie, the film mischievously and imaginatively explores how a man, an industry and an entire nation could become intoxicated by a good story that never really happened.

Golden Globe winner Richard Gere takes on the roguish role of Clifford Irving, an ambitious yet struggling writer who’s been looking for that one big story for so long, he brazenly decides to make one up. At first the idea is just a savvy artistic prank. Shrouding himself in a clever cloud of secrecy, he drops the news to a major publisher that he has been approached by the one man the entire world most wants to know about – aviator, movie mogul, ladies man and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes – to ink his priceless biography. Irving has never so much as seen a glimpse of the real Howard Hughes, but he banks on the idea that Hughes’ seclusion and notoriously thin hold on reality will allow the con to succeed.

Hughes, a total recluse, has not been seen or heard from in public for over a decade. Irving relies on this fact to protect his bogus story – as Hughes refuses to confirm or deny anything so prevalent is his fear of appearing in public. Recruiting his anxiety-prone but loyal best friend Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) and European artist wife (Marcia Gay Harden) into the scheme, Clifford soon finds himself in a wild maze of treachery, as he is forced to dodge the fallout of his falsehoods at every turn. What started as an adventurous lark soon turns into a seemingly inescapable maze of forgeries, thefts, tall tales, deceptions and impersonations when the real Howard Hughes shockingly emerges to pull the rug out from under him. Only now, Clifford is so caught up in the tale he created that he may no longer know where his incredible story ends and reality begins.

Clifford Irving is a charming husband, an affectionate friend and a very smart and talented writer. He is also a philanderer, a betrayer and outright lying fraud. To play such a character -- one full of charisma and playful mischief but who winds up trapped in a increasingly dark, thick web of his own making -- the filmmakers turned to Richard Gere, who recently won acclaim for his razzle-dazzle performance as smooth-talking, tap-dancing, Jazz Age attorney Billy Flynn in the Academy Award winning adaptation of Chicago, a performance which earned him widespread accolades and a Golden Globe. "I’ve always wanted to work with Richard and he was a perfect fit for this character,” says Lasse Hallström.

Gere, who is one of the most well-known and respected actors of his generation, found himself wrapped up in the story from the get-go. "It was one of those rare scripts where you go, ‘Wow that’s really interesting and fresh.’ I was intrigued by the idea that this story was about being a fake on all kinds of levels – a personal level, a psychological level, a political level. Also, I thought the script really captured the schizophrenia of that time in America, and the coming together of all these elements of that period – the New York publishing industry and Watergate and Nixon and Vietnam and Pop Art – in a wonderful way that just called out to be made,” he says.

Richard Gere is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his latest role:

Q: WHAT WAS THE MOST FUN PART ABOUT PLAYING A CHARACTER THAT'S ENGAGING AND CHARMING, BUT THEN BETRAYS HIS FRIENDS AND IS COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE ALL ROLLED INTO ONE?

GERE: (Laughs) You make him sound so attractive. I think that a decision that I felt strongly about when we started the picture was that he had to be kinetic. He's got to be in motion all the time like a shark. He can't stop. The water has to be going through the gills. Part of that is too, and this is kind of a death wish on his part, is that he's always putting himself into the worst possible situations where he can fail the largest and it demands that he come up with something extraordinary to get out of it. I guess the fun part of watching the movie is thinking, 'How is he going to get out of this?' And then he comes up with something that's even more out there than what he just had before. That kind of spontaneous improvisation was fun as an actor, certainly.

Q: WHY DIDN’T YOU THINK AT FIRST YOU WERE RIGHT FOR THE ROLE?

GERE: I don’t know. This is a script that’s been around. I first read it a couple years before we made the movie, and like anything that is real quality, people hear about it. This script came to me and I admired it. It’s a beautiful script that Bill Wheeler had written, but it somehow didn’t connect with me, and then a couple years later when Lasse called me up and sent it over, I read it and said, yeah, absolutely. I know what I can do with this. I don’t know what happened.

Q: SO WHAT WAS THE APPEAL?

GERE: Well, first off it was a really good script with beautiful structure, beautifully written, a lot of surprises in it. I think that in particular the appeal was the characters were real. They all have their own issues, issues that we all have, but it also resonated in a much larger universe meaning Nixon and Watergate, the world, the Supreme Court and much bigger stuff. I thought that was really interesting to play with for an actor, for someone who's lying all the time.

Q: HE DIDN'T NEED TO DO THIS. WHY DID HE DO IT?

GERE: He did it because it was fun. Under the surface it was fun. I don't think that he thought he was hurting anyone. I think that he really felt like every step along the way I think that he figured he was going to get caught and he'd give the money back. You have to understand that the time it came out of too was a time that was different.

Q: HOW WAS IT DIFFERENT?

GERE: It was a time in the art world, a time where it was the end of the '60's. Literally, '71 is when the story takes place, but they came out in the '60's and he was kind of never a hippie, but he was like a college professor who had hippie students and was kind of looked up to. He was kind of a Timothy Leary in a way. He was a cross between Timothy Leary and Hemingway, I think, with his self-vision. Though I never heard him say Timothy Leary, I think he kind of saw himself that way inside.

Q: LIKE SORT OF A GURU?

GERE: Like a guru and there were always women around and he had his salon in Ibiza. What we do in upstate New York was Ibiza where all that took place, where he came up with the idea.

Q: IN THE FILM IT SEEMS LIKE REALITY AND FANTASY BLUR DUE TO SEDUCTION.

GERE: Seduction? Well life functions that way. If you want to get more philosophical about it, in fact there is nothing here right now. There is energy. There is not a table here. It’s a function of energy. And because we have a sight organ we see things in terms of shape and hear sounds etc. That doesn’t mean there is anything literally there that corresponds to it, but we see the appearance of objects and sounds and sights, etc. So we live in this constantly. We live in this kind of false universe that we take to be true. Your idea about seduction, I’m not sure where you are getting to,and it might be too early in the morning for that.

Q: HOW WAS IT IMPERSONATING HIM?

GERE: That was really fun. But again with Howard we had a lot of source material. There was a lot of film and radio stuff on him. We had a lot of recordings and it was literally just listening to it over and over again. There was a guy in New York I was working with. Also we were trying to find the right difference between the voice I was doing for Clifford and what I was doing for Howard. I felt like it was important to improvise how we get into that too. The script is a little more abrupt the way it started doing the impersonation of Howard. And we just started playing with that more and improvising, how to organically let that happen. I think it informed how we ended up shooting that stuff as well. It was just looser. It was like, just play. We were just playing. I think much of this movie, what actually happened in real life that we are portraying, just happened that same way. They were just playing and it got bigger and bigger and bigger. And like kids caught in a lie, you have to come up with a bigger lie to cover up the small lie. And the peculiar thing here is the lies actually were true when it came to Nixon and Watergate, it was true.

Q: THERE WAS A SCENE IN THIS WHERE HE HAD HIS HAIR SLICKED BACK AND HAD THE MUSTACHE AND WAS LOOKING VERY MUCH LIKE HOWARD HUGHES. WAS THAT YOUR IDEA?

GERE: I think that was my idea. I wanted to actually ... I said, 'Let’s get a jacket like the ones that you see on "The Aviator.'" I said, 'What about if he's starting to put a mustache on.' It didn't feel too crazy at that point, but then he's standing over the mirror and kind of improvising it and then obviously it becomes progressively crazier when you see him do that.

Q: YOU ACTUALLY DID THE HOWARD HUGHES VOICE IN THE MOVIE TOO. THAT WAS INTERESTING.

GERE: Yeah, it was fun. He’s such a recognizable thing. The twang. I don’t think anyone is ever going to know Howard Hughes. I think it’s still a mystery. At the time that this happened in ‘71, he was still vital to the culture. Everyone knew this story and the kind of images that were being… You would see these drawings, these crazy drawings of him in the paper and almost every news magazine, and people would say, ‘I had a glimpse of him.’ You know, someone who was a busboy took some food up to his hotel room or something like that and they would make this crazy sketch of this lunatic with long fingernails down to here.

Q: WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH ALFRED MOLINA?

GERE: Alfred is the top. There is no one better than him. There is no one nicer than him. There is no one more creative or choosy than him. This is a love story between two men, basically, and I mean, he's the best lover I've ever had (Laughs).

Q: DID YOU AND ALFRED AD LIB A LOT?

GERE: We did a lot of stuff. You get to the point where I would start a sentence and he could finish it which is really fun. What I really enjoyed [is] one day we were improvising… We improvised a lot and the reality is most of the improvisations are not in the movie, but they created an atmosphere of invention even when we went back and did the script which was really good. It had that sense of invention and spontaneity to it. There was a long sequence in that when I’m in the office up at Time magazine, I think it is, and I’m telling them the story. ‘I think it was the craziest thing, you know. He told us to come down there, we waited at this place, blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and then finally we go to this room and it’s dark in there and there is Howard Hughes and I see this hand come out and he offers a prune, but this was not in the script – I was supposed to take the prune but I went [gestures to show how Alfred took the prune]. But we were able to because of that – you know we really liked each other so much that we were able to be spontaneous in a real way like that continually throughout the film. It was a joy.

Q: HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN SO DEEP INTO A ROLE THAT IT STARTED TO BLEED INTO YOUR REAL LIFE?

GERE: When I was younger, it certainly did. I think most young actors have this need to, it’s almost muscular, you are holding onto a character so tight that it’s very hard for it to breath in and out. But I think with maturity and being more comfortable with the process of conjuring up another person, it comes and goes more easily. And what you want to stay, stays. What you don’t want to stay, goes away, hopefully.

Q: WAS THERE ONE THING IN PARTICULAR THAT WAS TOUGH TO SHAKE?

GERE: The first thing that occurs to me was a play I did on Broadway called Bent and it was just a very depressing, difficult piece. It was painful. I saw pictures of myself when I started the production and then when I finished it, and I was a totally different being. And we all lived on the same block. The other actor, David Dukes and I, we lived on the same block and as chance would be, the director and the writer were on the same street one block away. And we were all kind of hanging on our stoops the morning after doing a performance just so depressed, just hanging in New York on a stoop. I think that probably had the most affect on me. And that was a fairly long run. I think it was 7 months that I did that show, so it does take a toll. I think theater is more that way because you are doing 8 shows a week of the entire thing. In film, you have a couple of difficult scenes, you shoot them one or two days a piece, and you are done with it. The repetitive nature of a habitual belief system kicks in with repetition in our lives, in our regular lives, but certainly in our work as well. There is a thing about muscles as well, when I was learning tap dancing, I think it’s if you do any action 127 times in fairly quick repetition, the muscle memory is there forever, whatever it may be. But that happens with our brains and our hearts as well. The kind of repetition makes it feel real.

Q: WHAT WAS THE ATMOSPHERE ON SET LIKE?

GERE: Very loose. I think we were all of a certain work experience that we all like to keep it loose. The best work comes when it’s loose. Like the muscular tightness we discussed, I had much more of that when I was a beginning actor holding onto a character 24 hours a day. You let that go. And Lasse also, I don’t like to rehearse how we will do a scene exactly over and over. I like to sneak up very easily and just talk about it, read through it a bit, look at some things together, start to play, and there is an unconscious process that is very organic that starts to take over. We just met, but we knew when we first met that he was playing this part and I was playing this part, but we met as human beings and we met as fellow actors who respected each other, but clearly from the first moment we met each other, we were moving toward the performance of this movie. It was a very easy process and I think the ease that Lasse also likes and the other actors like allows it to be deeper and more mysterious when you actually do it in front of the camera.

Q: HOW FAMILIAR WERE YOU WITH THIS CHARACTER BEFORE?

GERE: Well I knew about him. Am I the oldest one in the room? Yes I am. I actually remembered it. This was in the early 70s, like 1971 I think. I remember it quite clearly and it was a big deal. It was on the cover of Time magazine and it was in the news constantly. It was a big deal, bigger than anything else. So much so that I remember I made the movie American Gigolo a few years later after that, Nina Van Pallandt was in the movie with me and played my madam in the film. I liked her a lot. I thought she was a very nice person and a quality person, kind of a quiet and private person, but I did ask her about this one time and she didn’t want to talk about it. So I just kind of let it go and didn’t push on her.

But obviously when you start making a movie on something like this, you search out more material and we had a lot of material. We had a couple of 60 Minutes episodes that Clifford was on before the fraud came out and after the fraud came out. And probably the strongest one was the film that Orson Welles made, F for Fake, which is supposed to be about Elmyr de Hory, who we mention in the movie, who is probably the greatest art forger of the 20th Century, but he lived in the same community with Clifford in Ibiza, this island in Spain. And Clifford is really the center of that movie. It’s not a great movie, but what Orson had done, I don’t know how he got engaged in this, but someone had done a documentary on Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving was the entrance to that. They were very close friends and Clifford was very charming. He seemed to be kind of the center of the ex-patriot community in Ibiza. They all knew each other well. They all had kind of a Hemingway feeling with what they were trying to create there in Ibiza.

And Orson took this footage that someone else had shot and fashioned it into one of his throw away films. It’s not a great film, but it was really interesting seeing Clifford and talking about the nature of fake, because he had written a book called Fake about Elmyr de Hory, and why this wasn’t a light bulb coming on for anyone else. But there were so many things like this in this whole episode that any relatively rational person would look and go, this doesn’t feel right to me. But at every point people were so needful that this be true and had something to gain by it being true that they suspended their disbelief.

Q: THE BOOK HE WROTE SEEMED SURPRISINGLY UNAPOLOGETIC. DID YOU READ IT?

GERE: Really? I did read the book. He was a funny character. He was going to do an interview with me in New York and he cancelled so I still haven't met him.

Q: WERE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE BOOK BEFORE THE MOVIE?


GERE: No. But again, to take it a little further, it was a time when people did things just to shake it up. People's lives and actions and schemes that they had were like, 'Lets take this and turn it upside down.' It wasn't negative, but it was more like, 'Let’s just find the humor in our world by flipping it upside down.' I think that in a way I believe he thought of this as a Happening, as a kind of an art object, an expression. At the same time, I think it was fueled by a lot of frustration and maybe anger on his side that he was not getting the kind of attention that he thought he deserved as a writer.

Q: WERE YOU AFRAID THAT YOU'D HAVE TO DO A PERFORMANCE THAT WAS TOO CLOSE TO WHO HE ACTUALLY WAS?

GERE: Well, yeah, but he's obviously a highly manipulative person and I had the good sense of what I wanted to do with the role. I'd done enough research. I don't think that this movie is pretending to be a documentary on him. There is one scene that clearly did not happen. The whole thing with the prostitute did not happen, but was a scene used as a dramatic device to show how far this guy would go.

Q: DID THE HELICOPTER SCENE ACTUALLY HAPPEN OR WAS THAT ANOTHER ONE OF HIS INVENTIONS?

GERE: He said that it did and then he said it didn't. Almost everything was taken from notes that he had given the producer when he was developing the script. So he was very contradictory about many of the things that he said. He invented almost everything as he went along and continues to I'm sure. In any event I would be happy to meet him. I think that there is some wonderful writing in the fake autobiography. There is some wonderful writing in there. Aside from whether or not it was all fake, there was wonderful writing, just the quality of writing, about himself. He talks about himself. He talks about himself as a journeyman writer and it seems to be a really interesting self-exploration of Clifford, and then talking about the connection that he had with Howard (Hughes). It was kind of like, 'Why me? Why did he pick me?' It was a wonderful writerly improvisation, the whole why me thing. There is some really beautiful stuff in there.

Q: DO YOU THINK CLIFFORD IRVING’S AFFAIR WITH NINA WAS AS MUCH AS HE CLAIMS IT WAS IN HIS BOOK OR IN THE MOVIE?

GERE: More than in the movie. I think much more than in the movie.

Q: SO IT WAS A REAL THING?

GERE: Oh yeah. Yup. It was definitely real.

Q: WHO INTRIGUED YOU MORE IN THIS MOVIE? CLIFFORD IRVING OR HOWARD HUGHES?

GERE: Intrigued me?

Q: BECAUSE THEY’RE BOTH DIFFERENT KINDS OF ENTITIES.

GERE: Well they become each other at a certain point, you know. Clifford morphs into him. I liked him. Clifford I found to be a really fascinating character because he is grounded. I don’t think there’s any way that Howard Hughes can be grounded in reality. He’s so ‘off planet.’ But Clifford is a real person. Clifford Irving makes a sandwich, and he eats it, and he mows his lawn, you know, he’s a real person. I can’t imagine Howard Hughes doing anything like that. To see someone like that deteriorate or let themselves go. The boundaries of the known comes so expanded. You can see that in many of our lives when that boundary gets expanded, the possibilities go ‘pfffttt’ and what happens to that individual who was in that position? Do they implode, explode? Do they go with the expansion? Is it positive? Is it negative? Is it scary? It’s all those things. That was the fun of playing him, of seeing that all the rules are gone. In the movie we took him into madness which I think was appropriate for him and for us and we bring him back. You know that sequence that we have of him walking down the street after prison and seeing Dick Susskind just grounds it back into ‘okay, life goes on.’

Q: BASED ON YOUR RESEARCH, DO YOU THINK HUGHES AT SOME POINT MANIPULATED THE SITUATION AS SUGGESTED IN THE MOVIE BECAUSE THAT’S A VERY INTERESTING POINT?

GERE: Yeah. I think he was the smartest guy in the room, for sure. He was smarter than Nixon. He was smarter than the Republican Party. He was smarter than Clifford, for sure. He was a god-like figure. Clifford at one point told the writer and producer when they were working on the script… He was in Danbury prison and two of the guys that were, not the big names, but two of the guys who were in the second Watergate break-in, they came up to Clifford in the prison yard and said, ‘You’re the reason we’re in here.’ But that line goes all the way back to Hughes.

Hughes was smart enough to make a loan pay off to Nixon and slush it through Donald Nixon and do just smart stuff to cover his own ass in the process. But he knew that there were favors that would have to be paid for that down the road. So he kept this whole sham going. He could have stopped it a lot sooner than he did, so I think he just took advantage of realities of what was happening. I take him at his word when he did finally call. We do have the footage in the film of him calling up the reporters and you could hear his voice going [imitating Hughes voice] , ‘In all my years in Hollywood, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I wish I’d made a movie of this. I never thought of something that crazy.’ I think that’s all true. I think it was exasperation at that point and saying, ‘Okay, enough. I don’t want this guy making money off this. I got what I wanted. You know the Supreme Court overruled the anti-trust laws and I got my merger with TWA and va voom.’

Q: HUGHES WAS A PART OF THE MEDIA THEN? EVERYBODY WAS VERY AWARE OF HIM?

GERE: Very aware of him. It wasn’t that long [ago that] he had a movie star girlfriend. He was in the oil business. He was in the aviation business. He was in a lot of power structures, at the top of those power structures.

Q: DID HOWARD HUGHES’ STRANGE MYSTIQUE MAKE IT EASIER TO PERPETUATE THE LIE?

GERE: Yeah, sure, as I say in the movie, whatever I say is going to be fine because he’s not going to say anything about it. He’s not going to come out of hiding. And even if he does, all I have to do is say he’s crazy. He tells you this, but we have this ideal of whatever. The guy is a maniac! Everyone knows that.

Q: DID THE WHOLE WORLD KNOW HOW CRAZY HOWARD HUGHES WAS SUPPOSED TO BE?

GERE: Yes. The world hadn’t been Us Magazined and People Magazined to the extent it is now, and a character as outsized as that, everyone was speculating about it. There would be drawings of people that claim that they have seen him, this kind of shriveled up creature with long fingernails, and we play with images in the movie, and quite effectively, of what people thought was going on with this guy. And the Hughes thing was mixed up with incredibly complex powers and sexy powers. He was a film guy, but also he was an oil guy. His father ran the beginning of the oil business. He was also involved with politics and there was antitrust stuff going on in the Supreme Court. There was a huge mixture of things. He had invented a new airplane that no one had ever conceived of before. So aviation, oil, Hollywood, sexy girlfriends, and he was meant for the tabloid mentality. So of course when this kind of thing happened, it just exploded.

Q: WAS IT MORE EXCITING WITH LESS INFORMATION AND MORE MYSTIQUE?

GERE: People aren’t really fooled. I think people understand there is more mystique than you read in a magazine. If someone gives an interview, you know, you are not really getting the whole thing. There is definitely more information now but it doesn’t mean it’s true. I think everyone is a little skeptical about it. It’s just volume, but it doesn’t mean there is anything intimate about it. I think that’s an important thing about our world to understand, the volume of information doesn’t mean that it’s true or intimately meaningful.

Q: FOR SOMEONE WHO'S INTERVIEWED A LOT, IF YOU FOUND YOURSELF IN THE HOWARD HUGHES POSITION LIKE IN THIS MOVIE, HOW WOULD YOU DEAL WITH IT?

GERE: It happens constantly. Constantly. It happened just last week. I read a thing and I was like, 'What?!' It was in a major publication, one that you would think was above reproach. It happens constantly. Do I get pissed off about it? Sure, I do. The time that's wasted doing the interview to begin with when this thing doesn't reflect at all what was said. Then there are the ones that are just made up whole cloth where I've never even met the person.

Q: CAN YOU NAME THE PUBLICATION?

GERE: No.

Q: WHAT IS OUR BIGGEST MODERN HOAX?

GERE: Our President, absolutely.

Q: DOES THAT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOU TAKING THIS ROLE?

GERE: No, in fact there was a moment early on. We’d finished the film and the studio was thinking about how to promote this and I was saying we should be outrageous with this. This is not a normal movie. Don’t present it as a normal movie. We are trying to do something outrageous about outrageous people. And they actually had one which I thought was very promising. They had a clip of Richard Nixon at a press conference saying, your president is not a crook. And then they went to Clinton saying, I never had sex with that woman, then they had Bush saying, we know where weapons of mass destruction are. It was like the full range of the most respected people, supposedly, in our world, lying outright.

Q: SOME PARTS OF THE FILM ARE REFLECTIVE OF OUR TIME. IN WHAT WAY DO YOU THINK THAT THIS FILM IS REFLECTIVE OF WHAT'S GOING ON RIGHT NOW IN OUR WORLD?

GERE: Oh, well, look at the newspapers. We have a President, a Vice-President and a Secretary of Defense and an Attorney General; obviously these are people who lie constantly, constantly. The ramifications are that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are dead. Are they in jail? Clifford was in jail, I think, for a year and a half or something. You'd have to ask Marcia (Gay Harden) because I think she would know better than me.

Q: DID THE PARALLELS OF THE SCRIPT TO TODAY'S WORLD ALSO INTEREST YOU?

GERE: Sure. Of course. We were using Nixon, but really it's any president in that same position. We've had some really incompetent administrations. Probably none as incompetent as this one though. I was talking about this earlier, but everyone here would admit that we have a President who's incompetent and we elected him twice. We also are responsible in that we didn't call enough people out to try and convince them otherwise. We didn't go out into the streets enough. You have to take responsibility for this. We didn't do enough. We all could've done more.

Q: DOES THIS DRIVE YOU DEEP INTO SPIRITUALITY?

GERE: These things are really childish to me. This is kids stuff. Those kinds of lies, you just can’t…they are running the world, but we are letting them run the world. We are as responsible as they are. We elected them. I talk to my European friends and they said, you elected this guy twice? I said, I’m so deeply sorry. And it’s true. Those of us who knew better, we were not in the streets enough. We did not speak enough. We didn’t make enough phone calls to all of our friends and relatives, and we didn’t go door to door. We didn’t do it. And maybe things would have changed if we had done more. So we are all responsible for this, but in any event these are really low-level childish lies that they do. The lies that are universal lies, which are more about the illusion that we are separate egos, separate human beings, to me is the underpinning of why everything is screwed up. That’s a lie, but that’s a universal lie of such mammoth proportions that all others are just specks, little gnats. All of our problems that we think we have a separate universe to protect and you have a separate universe to protect allows all this craziness that people can starve to death, they can be tortured to death, all of that comes from there. If we believe the truth that we are deeply interconnected none of these things could happen. That’s the big lie.

Q: COULD THE TRUTH BE BOTH?

GERE: We are an individual expression, but there is no self that is individual. It’s quite different. It’s just apparent and most of it is through habituation, through infinite lifetimes, if you will. We’ve come to believe that and our eyes tell us that. Our eyes see form. This form is separate from that form. We hear sound here and another sound there, so they are not connected. So our senses tend to feed the lie, but our senses only give an approximation of information, they give us an appearance of reality. They give us a version, a movie, of reality. But it’s not reality. There is a famous painting by Rene Magritte and it’s a painting of a pipe and it says underneath it, this is not a pipe. And it isn’t. It’s a painting of a pipe. And that illustrates better than I’ve heard anywhere exactly what I’m trying to say. This is not reality. This is a painting of reality. That’s the lie.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT LOVE IN THE LAST 10 YEARS?

GERE: All the clichés are true. You just have to let go and surrender. But this goes back to what we initially talked about, this false sense, this lie, that we are separate egos, there is something to protect. There is nothing to protect. There is no ego anyhow. There is no self in the sense that we always seemingly instinctively knew there was or are sure there is self. But the peculiar thing is the more you look for the self, the farther away it gets. I think you find that with maturity, with age. It’s all about surrender. It’s all about giving up ego, not giving up love or compassion or wisdom, but giving up this hermetically sealed idea of self, it’s in a package and therefore needs to be protected at all costs.

Q: ARE YOU MELLOWING ON POLITICS?

GERE: Yeah, again I think a sense of maturity is that you, the designation of friend and enemy are adventitious. They are positive and they change quite quickly. Today’s demon is tomorrow’s angel. And I tend to see things in a more human light than maybe I did 20 years ago or 25 years ago. Everyone is redeemable. And that’s the promise of life. It can all be changed. It can all be redeemed. We can all become better.

Q: ARE YOU MORE DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT WITH POLITICIANS?

GERE: Not at all, I’m down in Washington all the time. As a matter of fact, I was just there a few days ago testifying on Tibet. I think Nancy Pelosi has radically changed Washington. I was there when she was first swearing in and it was a kind of a giddy moment in Washington -- first of all for women for sure on both sides of the aisle. And I didn’t know if it would last. And I was just there a few days ago and that giddiness is still there. I was testifying in the Foreign Relations Committee in the house and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, who is a Republican, who had been the chairman of the committee, Tom Lantos is now, he’s a Democrat. They get along like they are brother and sister. That didn’t happen last year. That didn’t happen in all those committees that there was a sense of belonging and listening and I think that comes from Pelosi. The Speaker has really done something extraordinary there.

Q: IS THE WAY YOU CHOOSE YOUR PROJECTS DIFFERENT FROM 10 YEARS AGO?

GERE: It’s the same. It’s whatever touches me. There are many moments in our daily lives where you can go this way or that way, but something pulls me this way. You pass 50 people on the street and one you look at and you turn around and stare. There is a certain amount of love or something, and reading a script is the same way. You read this one and you don’t fall in love. You read this one and you do. And that’s based on your interests of where you are at that moment of your life and what you are thinking about. It maybe relates to a problem that you’ve had. Maybe this is it unconsciously, I want to explore this. I don’t want to be too objective about it, but I feel this is touching something in me I feel I can explore and learn from. Or maybe I know about this, so I think this is something I can offer through what I’ve learned.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?

GERE: First of all I have 4 movies coming out, which is crazy. I woke up in a sweat the other day and I told my wife I have to do 4 junkets in the next 6 months! But we are starting a film called Nights in Rodanthe, me and Diane Lane. It will be the third time for us.

Q: YOU LIKE WORKING WITH DIANE LANE, DON’T YOU?

GERE: I’m crazy about her. She was only eighteen when I first…when we did "The Cotton Club.” She told me when we did "Unfaithful,” she was the same age then that I was back then. [Laughs]

Q: WHO’S YOUR CHARACTER?

GERE: He’s a surgeon. He’s kind of an alpha personality-wise which goes with the territory of surgeons. [Laughs] A real kind of rock star surgeon whose life is falling apart. It’s about a few days in the lives of these two people who happen to be stuck together for essentially a weekend and how it changes their lives.

Q: WHAT NEW STUFF ARE YOU HOPING TO EXPLORE WITH DIANE THIS TIME?

GERE: I don’t quite go into it that way. I just have a feeling. It’s an adult love story. And it’s people who meet seemingly randomly and the 3 or 4 days they spend together changes both of their lives. The adult part of this is I think you can be more honest in a way with strangers than you can with people you are close to. These two people who at this time in their lives can be honest with someone and honest with themselves and it leads to some very honest intimacy. So hopefully that’s where we’ll go with it.

Q: SO PEOPLE WILL FEEL THIS MOVIE?

GERE: Yeah, and it’s in that vein. It’s an honest film. George Wolfe is directing it who is a theater director in New York, but he did Lackawanna Blues which was a wonderful piece. It was a theater piece that he did turn into a movie. And he’s excited about this material and he wants to make it as deep and adult and mysterious as it can be.

Q: YOU PLAYED BOB DYLAN IN A PROJECT YOU SHOT, RIGHT?

GERE: Not literally. Not any of us literally played him. This was a pretty expressionistic part in the movie. It was great. It was really fun to shoot.

Q: WHAT PHASE OF DYLAN’S CAREER DID YOU PLAY?

GERE: Obviously the 18 year old. [Laughs]

Q: ARE YOU DYING TO DO ANOTHER MUSICAL AFTER DOING "CHICAGO”?

GERE: I would be open to that. That was really fun. That was really fun.

Q: WEREN’T YOU IN "GREASE” AT ONE POINT?

GERE: I did a lot of musicals. That’s how I started in New York. That was a time when I was very lucky. I was kind of the right guy at the right time in New York so I came and I worked and I could sing and play instruments and act, and rock musicals were happening, so the first three or four things I did were musicals.

Q: WHEN DID YOU ARRIVE IN NYC AND WERE YOU FRIENDS WITH WRITERS AND JOURNALISTS?

GERE: Writers and journalists, that wasn’t my thing in the part of the theater I was involved in. It would have been the late 60s when I first came there. It was musicians. That’s what I was first doing when I came to New York, I was doing rock musicals and that world. And it was Warhol’s influence that was everywhere, and that whole thing. So the most established journalists and writers, that was not my scene.

Q: ARE YOU IN TALKS TO PLAY AMBASSADOR JOE WILSON, VALERIE PLUME’S HUSBAND?

GERE: No. I’ve had no communication. It’d be a fascinating movie. In fact I was just reading her testimony today. Unfortunately we came to do interviews. Maybe we should stop now and just read it, speaking of smoke and mirrors. [Laughs]

Q: THAT WAS INTERESTING TESTIMONY YESTERDAY.

GERE: Did you see it?

Q: I SAW PART OF IT AND I LIKED THE ONE QUESTION FROM THE REPUBLICANS: "ARE YOU A DEMOCRAT OR A REPUBLICAN?” AS IF THAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

GERE: [Laughs]

Q: IS THERE A CHARACTER THAT YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED THAT YOU’D LIKE TO PLAY?

GERE: Madeleine Albright. [Laughs] I don’t know. I’m always kind of amazed when things come up and I’ll go, ‘That’s interesting. I haven’t done that before.’ Look, I’ve done maybe 40 movies. That’s 40 characters. How many interesting characters are there in the universe? But they’re usually surprises, you know. It’s not like… The times that I’ve said, ‘Okay, I want to make a music movie,’ and I’ll burrow away and read everything and it doesn’t happen. You don’t find the right thing or the script doesn’t work out or whatever. And then while you’re doing that, this script comes in from over here and you go, ‘I don’t want to read that. I’m working on this here,’ and finally you end up reading it and you go, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’ Nothing to do with music, nothing to do with anything, nothing to do with politics. ‘Oh, it’s a girl and a guy and they’re…oh, that’s kind of adult and intimate. Yeah, let’s do that.’ That’s how it works.

Q: WHERE ARE YOU SHOOTING NEXT?

GERE: In North Carolina.

Q: WHAT DO YOU HOPE AN AUDIENCE WILL TAKE FROM THE HOAX?

GERE: I never think about that kind of thing. I’ll think it through with you right now, but I don’t go into a project thinking I hope the audience gets this. My job is to make it human. And I objectively look at a script and I say, okay, this is a value. We’ll take this trip. We’ll take a voyage of discovery. Some it’s a boat and you kind of float with the boat. With others you have to take a machete and you are hacking your way through a jungle. That’s the voyage. I think this one had that sense of you get in a car and you go. You buy into the characters. You know the shape and structure of the story. You know the elements that it’s dealing with, private lies and public lies, individuals and governments lying, and you run with it and make it as believable and as entertaining as you can for two hours. You assemble a cast of players that you can run with like Marcia Gay playing a part that was a very underwritten part. She did an amazing bit with a couple of scenes. She has the stuff. You cast a small part with someone that talented and it becomes something wonderful.

"The Hoax” opens in limited release in theaters on April 6, 2007 and goes wide on April 13th. I invite you to read my interview with the film’s director, Lasse Hallstrom.

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