Number 10 – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”.
The ruling on Gere’s performance in “Chicago” is that he was a lead. I disagree, but the Screen Actor’s Guild didn’t when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role, nor did the Golden Globes when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. But, the Teen Choice Awards did nominate him for best movie “villain”…even though he wasn’t… In any event, I seem to be in the minority on this, so I digress. In Rob Marshall’s “Chicago”, the role of Billy Flynn was the role that held the film together, in a predominantly female cast – Billy Flynn, the smooth talking, suave and charismatic lawyer was the role for a talented actor like John Travolta, or Kevin Spacey – an actor who could not only act, but sing and dance as well, and both Spacey and Travolta had that talent and I’m sure they would have made a fine Billy Flynn. Rob Marshall decided to go with an actor who hadn’t been in previous films where he sings and dances (although in Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” Gere does show some musical savvy). Gere, to this point hadn’t had a whole lot of hits, “Autumn in New York”, “Runaway Bride”, “The Jackel” and Robert Altman’s “Dr. T and the Women” were all films he had done prior to 2002. They were mostly forgettable films, it appear as if he played out his card in just starring in “chick flicks”. But that year Gere came out with two stellar films, with two great performances, one in “Unfaithful“, and the second of course being “Chicago”.
Richard Gere magically pulled off the dance and singing numbers that were required by this George Clooney esq character. Gere was perfect on the outside he had all the makings of Billy Flynn, a dashingly good-looking man, that oozes with wit and charm. But what Gere lacked was the vocal ability to sing the three numbers in the film that he is apart of. I remember first seeing the film in theaters seeing Gere gliding around in his first musical number singing in a campy Chicago accent. But Gere did pull it off. Then he pulled it off again, then again, and again. Gere proved something in this film that he hadn’t prior, and very well may not in the future either (although I’m calling a dark horse nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest”). He showed us he is an amazing talent, that he can act, sing and dance.
I tend to agree with Sean Penn that Golden Globes are meaningless, that they don’t hold much clout. I agree to a certain point (although if I won one, I would thank my Mom, and cry for joy) but in certain cases, I do believe that they mean a lot, they sometimes get it right. When Colin Farrell won for “In Bruges”, and the best picture going to “Babel” and when Richard Gere won his Globe for Best Actor (Musical/Drama) for “Chicago”. I was just pleased that he was recognized, and I was pleased that the SAG recognized him that year too. I am saying that Gere gave the best performance that year? Absolutely not. Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best performance that year in “Gangs of New York”, a close second would be a tie between Gere and Michael Caine for “The Quiet American” but the Academy didn’t even nominate Richard Gere, and completely ignored him. He must have had the Mickey Rourke syndrome of having burnt, no wait, blown up his bridges by being a tough star to deal with when he was younger. But of course the Academy was being political and making a statement with Awarding it’s Best Actor, to Adrien Brody for Roman Polanski’s holocaust film, “The Pianist”.
Gere’s outstanding performance in “Chicago” launched him back into the A list where he made “The Hoax” which in an incredibly underrated film where he gained weight and wore a prosthetic nose about a wannabe writer who sold his BS story to publishing companies about his character, Clifford Irving, was set to help Howard Hughes write his memoirs. He also stared in “I’m Not There” playing the Billy the Kid persona of Bob Dylan. I am very excited about Gere’s upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest” where in the restricted promo trailer shows Gere waking up to his alarm clock and sitting up in bed – quick cut to Gere at his kitchen table in front of a bowl of cereal where he sits, isolated, and reaches and puts the barrel of his service revolver into his mouth. My only fear is Gere peaked with “Chicago”, but I am hoping that his best is still to come.