Skip to content

Richard Gere Threatened to Sue Talk Show Over Being Called "Sex Symbol"

Talk show host Michael Aspel claims the actor wanted to take legal action over his introduction.

To some people, being considered a "sex symbol" probably doesn't sound like it would be so bad. But, back in the '80s, Richard Gere considered suing a talk show after they used that term to describe him. Gere was a guest on the British talk show Aspel & Company when host Michael Aspel called him the—apparently—dreaded words. The host recently looked back on the Pretty Woman actor's disgruntled reaction in an interview with the Daily Mail, including explaining why he believes Gere resents the label.

The now-74-year-old actor has also addressed his heartthrob reputation and his discomfort with it over the years. Read on to find out more.

RELATED: 8 Classic Movies That You Can't Watch Anywhere.

Aspel said Gere threatened to sue him.

Michael Aspel viewing The British Evacuees Association Memorial in 2017
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In an interview with the Daily Mail published on Sept. 30, 90-year-old Aspel opened up about his years as a talk show host, including meeting Elizabeth Taylor and Paul McCartney. He also shared the story of his interview with Gere which, according to him, ended with the actor threatening him with legal action.

"When Richard Gere came on the show, I introduced him and at the end I said, and 'he's done this, he's done that,' and I used the phrase 'sex symbol,'" Aspel said. "After the interview, we had a phone call from his agent saying if I didn't remove the sex symbol thing, they were going to take it up with their lawyer."

The host did not elaborate on what happened next. Best Life has reached out to a representative for Gere for comment.

RELATED: Elton John Says Richard Gere & Sylvester Stallone Got Into a Fight Over Princess Diana.

He thinks he knows why Gere reacted that way.

Richard Gere with monks at the American Museum of Natural History in 1989
Rita Barros/Getty Images

According to Variety, Gere appeared on Aspel & Company in 1989. (The show ran from 1984 to 1993.) At the time, he had already starred in hit movies including American Gigolo (1980) and An Officer and a Gentleman (1984) both of which contributed to his sex symbol status.

Aspel told the Daily Mail why he believes Gere objected to being referred to this way. "He would not be known as a sex symbol. It was very odd," Aspel said. "But he took himself very seriously, because he did a lot of stuff for the people of Tibet."

According to the International Campaign for Tibet, since the early '80s, Gere has "vigorously advocated for human rights of the Tibetan people and the preservation of Tibetan culture," and he co-founded Tibet House US in 1987. He joined the board of directors for the International Campaign for Tibet in 1992.

RELATED: Trump Says He Loves Air Force One—Here's How Harrison Ford Responded.

Gere has called the focus on actors' looks "absurd."

Richard Gere in New York City circa 1980
Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images

In 1980, Rolling Stone interviewed Gere when he was promoting his starring role in American Gigolo. At the time, he was also appearing in the play Bent, which is about gay men in Nazi Germany. To the outlet, Gere addressed the contrast between the roles and how he looked while playing them.

"Isn't it ridiculous that I look sexy in American Gigolo?" he said. "I laughed out loud when I saw the print of it. I mean, each night I put on my makeup and I look like this—a lobotomy victim. Then I see what I looked like eight months ago. You can see the absurdity of appearance."

He also spoke more explicitly about American Gigolo potentially making him "the male sex symbol of the Eighties," as Rolling Stone put it.

"I never consciously thought about becoming a sex symbol when I accepted the part," he said. "But I suppose if you want to be up there—as a movie star, rock star, whatever—part of that is, yes, you want to be desired. And I suppose that is basically sexual. I wouldn't say I did the movie specifically for that reason, but it's part of wanting to be up there, of wanting to be watched and appreciated."

But he accepts that it comes with the job.

Richard Gere at the 2019 Golden Globe Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Gere also talked about being one of the most iconic sex symbols of the '80s and '90s in some more recent interviews. In 2015, he told Hello! (via The Arizona Republic), "At no time in my life have I ever felt like a sex symbol. It's an illusion. But the work you do and the spirit that you give to it does have an impact on people and that I can take pride in."

In 2017, he said that he has accepted the attention he's gotten for his appearance, because it comes with being a movie actor.

"I have never actually wanted to be a celebrity, let alone a sex symbol, but it goes with the acting career if you are successful," he told The Sunday Post. "Films are all about image and box office. When you come into the movie business, be prepared for that. I enjoy acting and movie production, it's what I do, so I accept what goes with it."

For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
Filed Under
 •  •  •  •