Richard Gere Opens Up to 'Arbitrage' Costar Susan Sarandon
During his working hours Richard Gere is a film icon with Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Independent Spirit awards to his credit. But here, at his home in North Haven with his wife, Law & Order actress Carey Lowell, their son, Homer, and Lowell’s daughter, Hannah, Gere is simply a neighbor, dealing with many of the same issues other nonfamous residents must face. “I was just outside with these workmen who were putting in a deer fence, and they were doing it all wrong,” says Gere. “I’d gone over it with them a hundred times, and Carey said, ‘Is that really want you want to do, what they’re doing out there?’”
Yet, a troublesome deer fence is minor in comparison to the plot twist of Gere’s latest film, Arbitrage, opening in theaters September 14. In the thriller, Gere plays a hedge fund mogul racing to sell his empire before the many facets of his duplicitous life are revealed. A suspenseful thrill ride of greed, infidelity, and deadly consequences by writer and first-time director Nicholas Jarecki, Arbitrage taps into the emotional roller coaster this country has been experiencing in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal and the backroom dealings of the CEOs of this country’s most prominent banks. Here, Gere talks exclusively in Hamptons to his costar, Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon, about the film’s timely plot, summers on the East End, and how these two Hollywood stars are helping change the world.
RICHARD GERE: I have to tell you, you are terrific in Arbitrage, really, it could be the best thing you ever did.
SUSAN SARANDON: Thanks. I haven’t seen the finished film, but I thought you were very multilayered and very handsome. I really believed you.
RG: Everyone was terrific. I think it was certainly one of the best ensemble movies that I’ve made.
SS: Well, besides the fact that I was involved, what attracted you to this part, Richard?
RG: It was nothing other than that, really.
SS: (Laughs) I mean, was it the moral dilemma?
RG: Well, what’s really funny is that it reminded me so much of [Bernie] Madoff when I read it, and I was a little bit fearful. [Writer-director] Nicholas Jarecki thought that maybe it wasn’t going to be topical by the time the movie came out, but the reality is this relates to Jamie Dimon and a lot of these other reputable bankers who everyone trusted….
SS: I just watched Too Big to Fail on the plane, which shows that whole side of what was going on, and what I like about Arbitrage is that you present such a reasonable argument.
RG: We were really clear that this film was about someone like us—who, when he shaves the limits of the law, the ramifications are very big, but he’s not a sociopath. Like Jamie Dimon—he’s well known for being a risk taker but winning (he’s not a loser)—and it’s the same with this character, Robert Miller; he takes measured risks, sometimes bigger than others, but he’s a winner. But this time he loses.
SS: I thought Nick did an excellent job, especially as a first-time director. He balanced the telling of the family story with the business, and they don’t seem like separate movies. I felt like your character’s plight becomes so entangled between the business and the personal, and I really like that.
RG: Nick knew this world impeccably. His father is a commodities trader.
SS: And our house in the film was his house in Gramercy Park. Do you think as Richard Gere, if you had chosen another path and found yourself in business, you could have gone that far into this mode of operating as your character?
RG: I never would have been in business; there was never any interest in that with me.
SS: And you’d be hanging with different people. So you’re out in the Hamptons now, and you have a little time off before you start your next project?
RG: This is really Carey’s place; Hannah, her daughter, grew up in this area.
SS: Is Homer attending camp?
RG: Just basketball, tennis—he keeps himself active, but he doesn’t really want to go away to camp. I don’t want him to go away either; I like him around.
SS: What I want to know about—you have a serious, very yummy place upstate, Bedford Post Inn, which I’ve eaten at a number of times. What restaurants in the Hamptons do you go to?
RG: It’s funny, the other night, I took the Jitney back from New York; I like taking the bus because I can work, but I met my…. I probably shouldn’t say this because now it’s going to become a place....
SS: This is a place you don’t want anyone to know about?
RG: They know about it—Yama Q—it’s a really wonderful Japanese restaurant that’s not just Japanese. I just get off the bus at Bridgehampton and walk over to meet my family at this restaurant.
SS: I always found you to be quiet in the Hamptons. One of the problems that I have with the Hamptons is that it’s such a socially buzzing place, and I’m kind of shy that way. Do you get privacy out here?
RG: Well, compared to you I live under a rock. I don’t even answer the phone. We live in a very quiet place out here; it’s not in the middle of it all. It’s just all nature and it’s quiet. The other stuff is what I like to do, but it’s not my life. Carey has her first ceramics show at the Celadon Gallery in Water Mill. There was a certain amount of hysteria preparing for that.
SS: When I lived in the Hamptons with Louis Malle, we were in Water Mill in China Machado’s house.
RG: Do you remember the house? The reason I ask is because we had a house in Water Mill for a while; and it turns out that everyone at some point has stayed there.
SS: What do you have in the fall?
RG: I’m rewriting two scripts right now, and we’re doing some Tibetan things, it’s a very profoundly disturbing situation in Tibet right now. There have been more than 40 self-immolations [when one willingly sacrifices themselves, often by fire] already this year alone…. I’m going to Washington, DC, with my organization, the International Campaign for Tibet.
SS: What are you hoping to accomplish?
RG: We’re consolidating a point of view. We do a lot of talking to congressmen and senators, the administration, and the state department. We work with policy, and there’s only so much one can do with China, but we make sure that we bring it up all the time. Hillary Clinton has been really great at it. A lot of the information that’s gathered actually comes from us, from the International Campaign for Tibet; we’re the main information intelligence gatherer for the world. This may be the worst time for intellectuals, for human rights workers, artists, poets, any freethinker. It’s martial law everywhere.
SS: I’m really glad you brought that up, and maybe I can get some of the information from you and tweet it out. I had to start tweeting because someone else was pretending to be me, so I had to take my tweeting spot, verify it, and become a tweeter. So what I use it for is to do things like that—to give people information.
I think we’ve picked your brain enough. You’re great, and I’m happy that everybody’s recognizing you for Arbitrage, and you’re probably going to get offers to be a hedge fund person after this. When people ask me about you—and Shall We Dance—I just say that I love the way that you think of the whole thing and not just your part. You understand how important it is that all the pieces go together. That’s why it’s always a joy to work with you because you have that overview like Sean Penn or Robert Redford has. Why don’t you direct, by the way?
RG: Well, if I can get one of these scripts together that I’m working on, I’ll probably do that.
SS: Wow, look for a part for me, would you please?
RG: There is a part for a really eccentric actress.
SS: Oh, I can do that. (Laughing) I have to stretch, but I can do it.
Photography by Nigel Parry; Grooming by Birgitte Philippedes for Sally Harlor; Shot on location at Channing Daughters Winery