Eye on the Oscar: The Actor - Lead Actor Contender

In his 40-some years as an actor, Richard Gere has honed a reputation for playing a good guy.

He was gallant as both a naval aviator in “An Officer and a Gentleman” and as Julia Roberts’ savior “Pretty Woman.” Even in his shadier roles (“Chicago,” “American Gigolo”), Gere projects a basic decency that short circuits true evil intentions.

But in “Arbitrage,” Gere’s shades of gray as Robert Miller, a hedge fund manager juggling cooked books and a dead mistress, take a much darker turn. Because of that, he understands that audiences may have mixed emotions about his role.

“I have friends who called me up after seeing the movie and they were angry. They knew how bad (Miller) was, and yet they were pulling for him,” he says. “I don’t judge characters as being bad or good. To me, he’s a human being and failed like we all have.”

The part was a gamble, in that veteran Gere would be working with first-time feature writer-director Nicholas Jarecki. But he says he went on instinct and grabbed the role.

“In the end, the deciding factor was I looked into his eyes and saw he would not let himself fail,” Gere says.

And perhaps some good may come out of the bad guy Miller: Gere is being buzzed about for his first-ever Oscar nomination. But after 40-some years, Gere knows not to get too excited.

“I’m happy when people are generous about the performance, but I’ve been around this a long time,” he says. “I’m not a kid.”

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