‘American gigolo’: how Richard Gere turned the male nude into an icon | ICON

‘American gigolo’: how Richard Gere turned the male nude into an icon |  ICON

The scene lasts two and a half minutes. A 30-year-old Richard Gere, naked from the waist up, his torso absolutely shaved, opens suit dressing rooms, tie drawers and shirt cabinets while choosing the combinations with which he is going to seduce his clients. In the background sounds the fluffy The love I saw in you was just a mirageby Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. It is the presentation of Julian Kaye, the protagonist of American gigolo, played by Richard Gere, probably the most famous company man in movie history.

Richard Gere on his full nude: “As far as I remember, it wasn’t in the script. It happened naturally while we were filming “

Of course, not everything was going to be a party and infinite dressing rooms. The film’s director and screenwriter, Paul Schrader (Michigan, 1946) lived in areas much darker than the character he had created. He had succeeded with the script of Taxi driver (Scorsese, 1976). He wrote stories of tormented and lonely individuals. Guys like him. As he confessed to Peter Biskind in Chill bikers, wild bulls: “When I was getting by on a half gram on a weekend, it was a lot of fun. But when I increased and started taking a gram a day, it was no longer funny. I wrote all night, and when I saw in the morning that it was only a page and a half, I realized that I was not producing. He had motor problems ”. But he would find out a little later. Meanwhile, he was writing a new collaboration with Martin Scorsese, the monumental Wild bull and, at the same time, your own personal project, American Gigolo, the story of a man who prostitutes himself and finds himself immersed in a crime.

The attractive suspect would have the face of Richard Gere (Pennsylvania, 1949). The actor was at that time a semi unknown. He was a long way from becoming the eighties superstar he later was. I had had a piece of paper in Heaven daysby Terrence Malick (1978) and little else. In fact, the producers were not counting on him, but on John Travolta. But Schrader loved Gere because he had loved it in Heaven days, in its incarnation of the murky and false incestuous. Also, Travolta was very hesitant about the script. It wasn’t just that the antihero, Julien Kaye, was a prostitute. It is also that he was flirting with a homosexuality from which Travolta fled because of rumors about his own identity.

Paul Schrader wanted Richard Gere in his film because he had loved it in ‘Days of Heaven’. The producers, however, preferred John Travolta. In the picture, Gere and Schrader during the filming of ‘American Gigolo’.Photo: Cordon

Gere himself recognizes it, in statements to Entertainment Weekly: “The script played with a gay component and I didn’t know anything about the gay community.” Gere soon understood that Julian Kaye was going to launch his career. In an interview with Rolling Stone During the filming, he states: “When I accepted the role, it was not clear to me that I wanted to become a sex symbol. But I suppose if you want to succeed as a movie star, rock star, or whatever, you partly want to be desired. And I guess that’s basically a sexual thing. I wouldn’t say I made the movie specifically for that reason, but it’s a part of why you want to succeed, to be watched and appreciated. “

And everyone looked, watched and appreciated Gere, the new sex symbolpartly because of the way she dressed. At one point in the film, Richard Gere addressed the team and, jaded by how beautiful and sexy his suit was, blurted out: “Who is acting in this scene, the American or me?” It was the first collaboration between Giorgio Armani and the cinema (later they would come One of ours O Gattaca), and would catapult the Milanese as the great menswear designer. In a recent interview on GQSchrader has confirmed the essential role of costumes in the film: “For me, the clothes and the character were the same. I mean, he’s a guy who uses a line of coke to decide what to wear ”. The funny thing about the case is that the person responsible for Armani being part of the project was John Travolta. As the protagonist of Grease He was chosen at first, he decided he wanted to wear Armani. When Travolta backed down, it was too late to recompose the look, so it was decided to continue dressing the protagonist of Armani.

And we get to the heart of the matter. Gere would be very handsome dressed, but the public preferred him naked. At one point in the film, Julian Kaye gets out of bed after doing his homework and philosophizes while gossiping through the slats of a Venetian blind, in the set designed by the Italian master Ferdinando Scarfiotti. The scene lasts barely a minute, barely a few frames, but in it Richard Gere shows his manhood openly.

The 'American gigolo' was the first major collaboration between Giorgio Armani and film.  Richard Gere became a 'sex symbol', in part, because of how he dressed.
The ‘American gigolo’ was the first major collaboration between Giorgio Armani and film. Richard Gere became a ‘sex symbol’, in part, because of how he dressed.Photo: Cordon

As stated by the actor to Entertainment WeelyIt was my own decision, probably the result of Gere’s nose about the importance of the project: “As far as I remember, it wasn’t in the script. It happened naturally while we were filming. ” It was a singular moment in Hollywood history. Until then (and even today), American commercial cinema had been reluctant to show male frontal nudity. Nobody remembered a cult film like Women in love, shot in 1969 by a British Martian named Ken Russell, in which Oliver Reed and Alan Bates fought in their underwear. It was another kind of masculinity, of course. More brutal and less Apollonian. American gigolo it was a crucial moment in the history of the uncovering and normalization of the male body on screen. A small step for our libido, a great leap to end the taboo of male sex in commercial cinema.

Richard Gere punishing his body in one of the scenes of the film.
Richard Gere punishing his body in one of the scenes of the film.Photo: Cordon

And as Richard Gere was putting on and taking off clothes on the screen, it played through the speakers Call meby Blondie. In reality, Giorgio Moroder, the music producer and track-breaker myth, wanted Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac to play her music, but she refused, so Debbie Harry and her band had to be turned to. Blondie were already famous, because they had succeeded with Heart of glass and with that great album that is Parallel lines (1978). But Call Me turned them into legend, being his single most successful. Moroder, yes, ended up fed up with the behavior of New Yorkers, as he has declared to Billboard: “There were always fights. I had to record an album with them after that song. We went to the studio and the guitarist had a hard time with the keyboard. I called her manager and I said goodbye ”. To Moroder, with everything, Call me convinced him that cinema was almost as good a platform as radio: in 1983 he would compose Flashdance… What a feeling, for Irene Cara, and it would bust the hit charts and half-universe leg warmers.

Blondie, the sacrosanct incarnation of eighties pop, was the icing on the cake. Rarely does a movie bring together so many different pop icons: from the Armani suits to the Blondie music composed by Giorgio Moroder and, of course, the body of Richard Gere. All of him.

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‘American gigolo’: how Richard Gere turned the male nude into an icon | ICON