Richard Gere talks new indie film ‘Norman’

Gere meets Steve Buscemi in “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.”

The man once known as the “American Gigolo” was waiting for amNewYork in a hotel room. Seems smarmy, but it was to promote his new independent film, a whimsical drama with a mouthful of a title — “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.”

Richard Gere plays a businessman on a merry-go-round of favors and schemes. He’s a good person, but he’s a hustler. Armed with a cellphone and all of midtown as his office, he’s working a plan that will either help everyone or bring down a government. It’s the funniest and wisest Gere role in years. In theaters Friday.

You must have “Normans” in your own life.

We joke about that. “You’re my Norman.” “No, you’re my Norman.” But he’s not a dark person. He would never knowingly hurt anyone. When confronted by the Rabbi [Steve Buscemi] his only thought is “I thought I could make it work.” He’s a bit of a holy idiot. But he’s also very clear, “I want my 7%.”

Will this movie make people more trusting?

There’s no free lunch. The free upgrade is not so free. How many saints do we meet in a lifetime?

The film focuses on the Jewish community in New York and its relationship to Israel. Neither you nor most of your co-stars (Buscemi, Michael Sheen) are Jewish. Did this come up?

I said to [Israeli-American director] Joseph [Cedar] “why me?” There are so many wonderful Jewish actors but he had his reasons. He wanted to avoid cliches, and maybe bring a new point of view. It’s not Woody Allen.

We showed it in Miami and the Latinos in the audience loved it. Every culture has a Norman. That guy who you don’t really want to invite. Slightly pathetic, but you are stuck with them. The root is, he wants to belong. Everyone wants to belong.

There’s a bit with jarred herring …

The first time it was me. That hit of ammonia and [makes face] that was real.

As an actor, it helps to taste it.

Sure, why not? I’m not rushing out to buy more though.

Jordan Hoffman