Richard Gere conducted himself like an officer, but not always a gentleman, on the set of An Officer and a Gentleman, Taylor Hackford's award-winning 1982 military drama released in theaters 40 years ago, on July 28, 1982.
In a 2017 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Gere said he got into arguably the best shape of his life to play Zack Mayo, a trainee at the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School who clashes with his hard-edged Marine Corps drill instructor, Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.).
“We worked. We were shooting all day. And then I would do an hour or two of karate, also, for the karate sequences in it,” Gere told us (watch clip above, or full Role Recall below).
“So I was incredible shape. I was in Navy SEALs shape in that one.”
Gere may have gotten too tough for his own good — or his co-star’s good, anyway. One of the most infamous tales from the film’s set involves a moment in which Gere struck Gossett so hard in the stomach that the actor abruptly stormed off set and didn’t return for two days.
“I love Lou, but Lou didn’t work as hard as me to learn the karate,” Gere explains. “I got a little frustrated with him once and I actually clocked him in the gut.
“Lou walked off. He said, ‘I’m done. I’m outta here!’”
Gere and Gossett eventually buried the hatchet, and remain friends today.
The latter’s forgiveness paid off, too. Gossett won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his intense portrayal of Foley, becoming the first Black man to win the category.
In his biography An Actor and a Gentleman, Gossett wrote that Gere and co-star Debra Winger (who played Zack’s “townie” love interest, Paula) didn’t get along on set.
But Gere says they had no problem dialing up romantic chemistry.
“We were just like young animals, then. It was an animal attraction. It was an animal physicality between the two of us.”
Watch our full Role Recall interview: