For reasons unknown, the Oscars seemingly have a bias against Richard Gere. Throughout his career, Gere has deserved nominations for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Pretty Woman (1990), or even more recently for his performance in Arbitrage (2012). Yet it was in 2002 that was the most glaring year of the Oscars snubbing him yet again. 2002 was the year he took part in the eventual Best Picture winning film, Chicago. Despite winning a Golden Globe for his lead actor performance, learned how to tap dance for the role, and doing his own singing, it wasn’t enough for the Oscars to nominate him. However, also in 2002, Richard Gere did another film that was equally challenging in acting range and should have guaranteed him an Oscar nomination: Unfaithful.
Unfaithful stars Diane Lane as Connie Sumner, who has a young son and a loving husband (Richard Gere). Her husband, Ed, despite his best intentions, is somewhat of a workaholic and misses the finer details of his relationship with his wife. Connie is immediately tempted with the prospect of having more when she stumbles into Paul Martel (Olivier Martinez). What starts as an infatuation with Paul soon turns into a steamy affair, all under the nose of Ed, who begins to suspect something is wrong. Ed’s suspicions are juxtaposed with Connie’s growing guilt over the affair that she seemingly cuts off before anyone realizes it. Unfortunately, Ed learns of the affair and it invites a new situation that nobody anticipated.
Richard Gere is astonishing in this film, vastly surpassing the acting he exhibited in Chicago. He provided a performance of a flawed individual, but not a truly bad person. Richard Gere was very strategic in having his character not be a passive husband nor be a jealous one. Admittingly the film’s script attempts to craft Gere’s Ed as such, but he chose to ignore the character having such attributes and instead constructed someone who is slowly becoming immersed in the realization that his wife is having an affair. Even more extraordinary in his acting was how Gere internalized Ed’s realizations, which forced him to offer a very subtle performance of someone enduring the knowledge of secrets he wished he didn’t know. More extraordinary is the the film’s pivotal scene at the conclusion of the film when all his character’s repressed feelings and sentiments explode in a physical and overtly emotional scene between himself and Diane Lane. It was acting at its finest and a definitive scene-stealer within Unfaithful.
With his performances in both Unfaithful and Chicago, 2002 should have been the year that Richard Gere finally got himself an Oscar nomination. Ironically, four cast members from Chicago would be nominated and Diane Lane was nominated for her role in Unfaithful. Despite being in two Oscar nominated films, one of them being a Best Picture winner, Richard Gere was unfairly snubbed by the Academy.