Blog: 30th Anniversary of An Officer and A Gentleman
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman,” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a special screening of a brand new print of the film on Tuesday night at midtown’s Academy Theater at Lighthouse International. Following the presentation, the evening’s special attraction would be an interactive Q&A session with the film’s lead, actor Richard Gere, as moderated by Entertainment Weekly correspondent, and self-appointed ‘Oscar Nerd,’ Dave Karger. A cherished classic, the screening would be our first opportunity to have ever seen the film, while the candid conversation would provide some enlightenment into the legendary actor’s career.
With Paramount Pictures 100th Anniversary in mind, the Academy would present one of the studio’s most popular films of the 1980’s on this night. The sold out screening room was jam packed with cinephiles waiting to catch a glimpse of the iconic star. Gere arrived timely, joined by wife and fellow actress Carey Lowell (Law & Order), and was seated in the middle of the auditorium to watch his work in person. Co-star and winner of the 1982 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, Louis Gossett, Jr., was scheduled to be in attendance but was forced to cancel at the last minute, announced to the relative dissappointment of the audience.
“An Officer and A Gentleman” in 2012 is likely to be perceived much differently than upon its initial release thirty years ago, mostly because despite a moving message and a well written story, it contains much of the kitschy elements pervasive in 1980’s movies. Nevertheless, the film still manages to hold up quite well over time. It follows the story of Zach Mayo (Gere), a man born from a relationship between a Naval officer (Robert Loggia) and his mother during a short fling while in training. After we learn that his mother has committed suicide, a young Mayo travels to the Philippines to live with his alcoholic ‘father’ on a Naval base where he grows up before deciding to join the Navy himself, with the aspirations of becoming an Officer. There, he encounters a band of likeminded misfits in a class led by a ruthless Sargeant (Gossett, Jr.), who clearly sees something in Mayo, but is unrelenting in testing his mettle and pushes him toward quitting the program. Meanwhile, Mayo begins a relationship with a local girl named Paula (Debra Winger), even though he’s been warned that these girls often attempt to trap soldiers into staying in Seattle by purposefully getting pregnant, much like his own mother may have done. With little regard, the two seem to fall for each other, creating a romantic love story to fall behind the intense military training at the movie’s forefront.
Following the screening and subsequent crowd applause, Gere and Karger would join each other on the theater’s elevated stage for some light-hearted discourse. Gere revealed that this night was the first time that he’d ever watched the finished product and that re-visiting some of the scenes was a nostalgic and emotional experience for him. He recalled some insider stories from shooting the film- from his frustrations with Gossett, Jr. over perfecting their kung-fu style fight scene to their tendencies to improvise during filming. Gere looked back at the experience fondly as a collection of young, relatively unknown actors simply trying to make their way early on in their careers. What was perhaps most insightful however, seemed to be the little changes that helped improve the film from good to great- the change in tempo for the lead song and score (“Up Where We Belong”- Won 1982 Academy Award for Music- Original Song), the use of flashbacks to the Philippines placed perfectly during the film’s opening, and a seemingly intense gratuitous sex scene that didn’t make the final cut- for good reason.
The conversation was then opened to the audience who deluged the thespian with questions about his Buddhist upbringing, the staying power of “Pretty Woman” (it was only a matter of time), the most fun he’s had in film (Chicago), and the lasting infatuation with the eccentricities of Debra Winger. Polite and gracious throughout, Gere answered each question posed by the audience, seeming genuinely gratified in looking back at his lengthy career during the course of the thirty minute Q&A period. Our first screening of the film was a memorable one, made even more special by the presence of the iconic actor. Based primarily out of Los Angeles, The Academy hosts similar events in New York City quite often, giving film lovers the opportunity to participate in truly unique and exclusive experiences and inside looks at some of the most illustrious motion pictures ever created.
- Jane Van Arsdale