He defines himself as a “dinosaur”, happy to be, but, when he addresses the issues that are close to his heart, peace, war, international politics, he uses kind ways and unchanged charm to say plainly how he thinks. And his thoughts have nothing old-fashioned: “Common sense and defense of the rule of law. NATO and the European Union are the two bodies capable of re-affirming these concepts, we must be unanimous, we have seen that this is the right way to react, Putin did not expect such a homogeneous international reaction “. Guest of honor, in Catanzaro, of the Magna Graecia Film Festival directed by Gianvito Casadonte, Richard Gere has combined immense popularity with his creed as a non-violent Buddhist, an active supporter of the cause of the Dalai Lama, banned by the People’s Republic of China after publicly siding with the Tibet Independence Movement. For this reason, he has a lot to say about what is happening today.
He has always declared himself a pacifist, unfortunately, in recent months, we have before our eyes the horror of a new war. What do you think?
“We are living in an extremely difficult time, I was born after two world wars and I know how hard it is to rebuild countries that have ended up in pieces. After the last war, everyone repeated that there would never be one again, that those things would never happen again. Instead it was not like that, you know me well, you know that I am a total pacifist, but we all have to protect each other. Ukraine, at this stage, needs friends, people who defend the population from the disastrous Russian invasion, the condemnation of Putin’s actions by all of us has put him in the opposite condition to what he wanted. There is no need to hate the Russians, we must repeat to Putin, as is done with children, that certain things are not done ».
These are difficult hours also for the crisis between China, Taiwan and the USA. How do you see the situation?
“China has always had this attitude, not only in Taiwan, but also in Tibet, in Mongolia, in Hong Kong. Each time it has torn apart the rules of democracy and civil coexistence, continuing to pursue its goals, violating human rights. What has already happened should serve as a lesson. They have a plan that has lasted for a hundred years, we must stop them, but, to succeed, we too must do our part, offer support and make sacrifices, including economic ones ».
He is committed to the cause of refugees, in Italy the question of landings is on the agenda.
«I have been dedicating myself to these problems for some time and I know what happens in Italy. I think that non-governmental organizations such as Open Arms can play an important role, but also that everyone, in their own way, can offer their own contribution. I appreciate, for example, what the Spanish chef Josè Andrés does, he cooks for those who need it, in short, everyone can play the part of him ».
Do you see any potential for improvement in the overall picture?
“Yes, but it is essential that at the head of democratic countries there are people who think like us, we must elect people with altruism and a sense of responsibility”.
If you could go back and review your path, would that change something or are you completely satisfied?
“I know it’s not possible to do this and so I don’t think about it. I am convinced that we are all called to fight a battle, that life is made up of ups and downs. At certain moments we may have the impression of being completely happy, without suffering, but we must know that the moment is fleeting, that immediately afterwards we will start fighting again, to fulfill a desire, to react to a deprivation, to oppose the wickedness of irresponsible people. We do not all follow the same path, but the direction is the same, towards light and love ».
How much has being a Buddhist helped you?
“How many are we in the world? About 8 billion? Here, I think there could be 8 billion different religions, everyone finds their way to be happy. I don’t think everyone should become a Buddhist. I can say that my faith tends to establish connections between the various religious beliefs, that we all aim to be in harmony with the universe and that motivation is the fundamental element, what unites us “.
The pandemic has put the cinema in the hall in crisis, the one that has given it its great success. What is your impression?
“I was a frequent visitor to cinemas, Covid has changed everything, even I find it hard to remember the last time I saw a film in a theater. For small independent films, however, there are many more opportunities to be seen. What is missing is the sense of community that only viewing in cinemas offers ».
We celebrate 40 years of Officer and gentleman what do you remember of that experience?
«The meeting with director Taylor Hackford, the reading of the script, the ending that seemed a bit too sentimental to me. And then Bernardo Bertolucci’s response when I asked him his opinion on the film: “I like the story – he said -, but not the political sense”. I didn’t understand, and he “in the end, when the army enters the factory, all the workers applaud” ».