Mothman Prophecies, The : Star Of The Week

"The Mothman Prophecies"

Interview RICHARD GERE - Regional Q&A

You haven't made a supernatural thriller before, is that why you wanted to do this?

"No, it was the script itself. I didn't say, 'I want to make a scary movie'. The script came and I could see the possibilities, although it went through a lot of drafts to find the balance between a scary movie and a smart movie. "

What did you like about the script?

"The emotional stuff was rich. In the beginning, my character's in the perfect job, he has a beautiful wife, they're talking about babies, they're buying a house, everything's great and then literally in the middle of laughing, there's a car accident and she's gone. Now if you put that on top of the metaphysical story of 'Is there anything out there?', then you have something that has a lot of power. "

You wanted to avoid the cliches of the genres, is that why we don't see the mothman?

"That's the B-movie version of this. The assumption is that this is a metaphysical story, not a ghost story, meaning that we're making the adult's thinking version. So the trick and brilliance of director Mark Pellington was finding a visual vocabulary that would suggest a presence and give you the kind of chilling feeling that was much deeper and larger than 'Don't open that door!'. This was more like a dream and dreams aren't usually 'There's something behind the door', they're more a feeling that seems to take over everything. "

You normally play characters who are in control but your character in this, John Klein, thinks he's going mad.

"I don't think the people I play are in control. I think the characters always strive for control and it's the fact that they can't have it that makes drama. They have the illusion of control but the universe never gives any of us control, otherwise there'd be no drama at all. You know, people think they're on balance, life puts them off-balance and they have to find someway to re-establish balance. "

Since the success of "Sixth Sense, The (1999)" there seem to be more and more movies with supernatural themes, why are we so fascinated by it?

"I don't think it ever goes away. It's part of our collective unconscious, whether we're tribal people or we're urban people. I think it's genetically-coded in us and, in a way, that belief is more powerful in urban people who are continually having it cut out of their lives. So that need to express it is always there. "

What's your favourite scary movie?

"Well the scariest movie I ever saw had no ghost in it and that was "Servant, The (1963)". It was a Joseph Losey film from a Harold Pinter screenplay and it was the same kind of terror that "Mothman" deals with: it calls into question the nature of identity. I think that's scary to everyone. "

Do you believe in psychic phenomena and have you had any personal experience of ghosts?

"I have no interest at all in that, although if someone came up with the Loch Ness Monster I'd be interested. As for ghosts, there's been nothing that shook me to my marrow. "

Your co-star is Laura Linney, who you worked with on 1996's "Primal Fear (1996)" when she was still unknown, was it fun working with her again?

"I was delighted that she agreed to do the film because she helps elevate it to the right level. We're very good friends and now, after "You Can Count on Me (2000)", everyone realises how good she is. "

You don't seem to dominate your co-stars like some big movie stars?

"No, I like the collaborative process. I like people working together and what the project says and does is equally important to me as what I do. Do I have ideas about it? Of course I do and I've been around long enough now for people to listen to me, for better or worse. But the satisfying thing about doing this movie was working with all these extremely talented, hyper-creative people who were also very trusting and open, which was important because this had to come together quickly; we didn't have six weeks of rehearsal time.

You started out doing stage musicals like "Grease" and now you're making the film of "Chicago", is that fun?

"It's a total delight and it's something I haven't done since I was a kid. Even then, I was working in musicals but they were never this kind of Broadway show. I get to sing and dance with beautiful girls and I have a big tap-dancing number at the end. "

You're a New Yorker, how did you react to the events of September 11th?

"Well that was so shocking that, again, it kind of calls into question the nature of identity on many levels. The skyline of New York literally changed in one hour. It's just mind-boggling. Just to imagine that's gone, something that we thought was going to be there as a monument forever. And the identity we had as a country totally changed and so did the people. As the anger and vengeance came up, that shocked our identity as well. You know, we're Christians, we're Buddhists, we're not supposed to feel this way. "

Do you think your efforts on behalf of the Tibetans and your criticism of China have ever had a negative effect on your career?

"No, no effect at all. I never really think about it. You know, you say something that wasn't popular but I'm not aware of it when I'm doing it and then, quite often, I get these letters from my co-workers, other actors or musicians, thanking me for saying what ever I said. "

When you were a teenager, did you think that at 52 you'd be a major star?

"Oh, I never saw past probably 25. How can you project that far ahead? I had no idea. I mean, it's like asking a rock star if they think they'll still be prancing around at 55. It's like no, you think you're going to be dead at 26! "