Arbitrage: Starring Richard Gere
Starring Richard Gere
Jarecki’s scriptof Arbitrage attracted an outstanding cast led by Richard Gere. “Richard is such a talented actor with an accomplished body of work and he comes to any project with substance and significance. In this role, he puts on the suit and immediately embodies this character, but as he told Nick from their first meeting, he wanted to explore the dark side underneath that glossy exterior. He has the same focus, charisma, passion and drive as Miller, and we get a sense of who Robert is just by the way Richard carries himself. And of course everybody knows” says Bickford, “that Richard has the best ‘walk’ in the business.”
The film went into production a year to the day the script was completed. “It was an aggressive turnaround,” admits Salerno. “But Nick is driven and he does not give up. He’s relentless, but he is open and he listens — he knows the parameters of what he has to do and from there he just plows forward.”
Gere as Robert Miller
Gere plays a charming, sophisticated billionaire. He’s also a conflicted man, living outside conventional morality, who uses his wealth to make his own rules. He enjoys a graceful loving wife and a beautiful young mistress, he’s good to his daughter and son, he’s charitable, he’s duplicitous — he has everything he wants and more. “Miller wears his entitlement like he wears his suit — easily, fitted, and well,” notes Bickford. “It’s this sense of entitlement you get throughout the film – because he is such a great benefactor, he can do as he pleases.”
For many years, Miller succeeds in every respect, building his family, his wealth and his empire. He then suddenly becomes a product of the market that crashed in 2008. He’s a man on borrowed time because he’s crossed over the limits of what’s acceptable. He was trusted with people’s money and chose to make irresponsible gambles with it. “Miller’s world starts to fall apart and as the delusion fades, the reality enters, very much like what happened to most guys on ‘the street’,” adds Jarecki.
“Miller isn’t necessarily the guy who built the best mousetrap, but he’s arguably the best salesman because he’s so charming and a hard worker,” says Jarecki. “But there’s also something a little nefarious about him. He’s not a rough-and-tumble street youth; he’s a guy who pulls himself up from his bootstraps, makes his own identity.”
The director never wanted to paint Miller as a villain. “He’s a complicated man and I think we are all complicated,” he suggests. “We all lie and cheat at times and we all do great things and selfless things. I believe altruism exists and its part of our DNA because we do things for others. So I think Robert is human but severely flawed and the film looks at whether he will ever give up the power he loves so much to preserve that one shred of humanity.”
Bickford admits that this is one of the things she found appealing about the script. “Miller’s a guy we find charming and we’re sympathetic to the fact that his mistakes might ruin his life, so we’re never quite sure who’s side we are on in the telling of this story. It’s a very realistic moral corruption that can happen to people instead of a caricature of good and bad.”
Turen notes that Miller’s decisions aren’t always conventionally moral “but he thinks that it is more important to do the pragmatic thing given his love for his family and the obligations and responsibilities he feels for those around him. A lot of characters in this film are doing the wrong things for the right reasons—at least they see it that way.”
“He loves his wife and children,” Jarecki concurs. “And he also loves the thrill of having a mistress and living at the top of the world. The real question is does he love himself more? And I think in the beginning we expect that he does.”
Richard Gere is an eminently watchable icon — one of the most charming people on screen and the director acknowledges he couldn’t have found a better fit for Robert. “Richard brings a real dynamism to the role. He’s such an attractive person physically and spiritually that even though his character is pretty dark and challenging you are with him and you understand his actions,” says Jarecki.
The director was first introduced to Gere through his agent Andrew Finkelstein who was familiar with the project and was following its progress. Jarecki was flattered that Gere wanted to read the material. “He was an actor I always had in mind for the role. He really has the slickness, confidence and humanity to bring to that world — to be that cipher, that double man.”
When Gere was told about the project, he reveals he was nervous about working with a first-time director. “The good news was my agent said it was a great script; the bad news was that it was with a first-time director. But when I read it and found it was a really terrific screenplay with a wonderful character, I became intrigued.” Gere also found the film’s themes compelling. “It was this feeling I got from it about the ethics of our time — what are the boundaries of acceptable behaviors? Not just in business or politics, but personally? So I was immediately engaged in the story and that was the entrance.”
“Robert Miller is incredibly charming, almost like Bill Clinton, and that’s part of the manipulation; the ability to control every situation and not because of one’s power, but it’s also force of personality, force of intelligence and with that the ability to read people in situations. He’s got 400 plates in the air and he’s trained his arms to juggle every one of them,” continues Gere.
The film’s star also empathizes with his character and understands where he comes from. “From one point of view what he does is highly illegal and immoral and from another point of view, it’s quite creative maneuvering to get himself back on his feet and save his company and his family.”
Jarecki admits he was surprised when Gere’s agent came back within 48 hours to set up a meeting. They met at the Bedford Post Inn in upstate New York. “At the time I couldn’t believe I was sitting in this remote place, about to meet Richard Gere, an actor I had loved since I was a kid at the movie theater,” recalls the director. “He was punctual to the minute, and once we began talking, before we knew it we were already running around the restaurant rehearsing.”
The meeting took over three hours and during that time Gere became more relaxed about working with him. “I discovered that Nick’s parents had been deeply involved in the world of commodities and hedge funds and how much he knows about the textures of money in this world and the lifestyles that go with it. He’s kind of a street guy in a sense with an enormous amount of energy but there’s also an emotional richness in what he’s written.”
“I remember we got to talking about Robert’s mistress,” Jarecki recalls. “For both of us it was really important that this relationship worked. Richard had an idea for one of the scenes between them and said ‘let’s stand up — how about we do it like this?’ We yelled at each other in character, then he grabbed my arm and pushed me up against the wall, staring deeply into my eyes. I said, ‘I would kiss you right now.’ The moment held a second, and then we burst into laughter. Right then I knew it was gonna work,” he laughs. “Later I heard Richard told me one of the producers that he thought I was a little crazy, but added, ‘Hopefully it’s the good crazy, the kind that will make our movie good so let’s take a chance together.’” From that point forward, they remained constantly in touch reworking the film’s story as Robert Miller came to life.
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