Richard Gere and Director Joseph Cedar Candidly Tell Us What It Means to Be a ‘Norman’
“Norman” is the tale of a fixer, a small-time operator. Norman is the kind of guy who plays it by ear, says he can get someone into a party on the phone and sweats the details of his own invitation after he hangs up. We’ve all met a “Norman” in our life. The challenge for actor Richard Gere and writer/director Joseph Cedar was finding the humanity and compassion in this character. Gere and Cedar sat down with Entertainment Voice for a conversation about the film and how Normans’ are all around us.
Our first question for Richard Gere what drew him to the character Norman. For the famous charming leading man, this role was quite a departure for Gere.
Richard Gere: I hadn’t done anything like it before. This was a completely unique character, and I could see it was going to be quite a challenge. We thankfully had a lot of time; we worked together for eight or nine months before we started shooting. Looked at it from every angle. He (Joseph) wanted me to know what the roots of this were. The historical precedence this came out of. Look, the reality is I’ve lived in New York since I was twenty, so I’ve seen Normans in the broad sense most of my adult life. I was looking for the specifics of him – the details that made him unique.
Joseph Cedar: There were two things that interested me about Norman. The first was the personality of this character we sometimes call “Court Jew”. The kind of man who can push his way into a circle of power without really wielding any power himself. The second is the arc of this kind of character. Historically, that’s always been tragic. He finds his way into influence out of a survival need. He does something that’s great and important and wouldn’t be possible without his funding or his ability to move money from one place to another. Then, when he’s no longer needed, it’s easy to get rid of him.
RG: I tend to take a romantic view of him. And he (Joseph) doesn’t. I just see something of a holy fool aspect to him. Something Charlie Chaplain-esque. But the guy still wants his seven percent.
Gere, a long-time resident of New York, felt that he had spent a lot of his life encountering “Normans,” but when we asked him and Cedar if there were any specific “Normans” that had inspired them, Cedar’s answer surprised even Gere.
JC: I am a Norman.
RG: [laughing] That’s the first time he’s said that all day! We started today with him saying that he didn’t know any Normans, then said he had a few Norman-like tendencies, and now we’re here!
JC: I think you have to be a bit of a Norman to make a movie. Making any movie requires Norman’s skills, at least the kinds of movies that we’re making. You’re connecting an idea with money because of an interest that is, at first, not up front. None of my movies would have happened without a Norman-ness, connecting the right people with the right project at the right time.
RG: Certainly we rely on agents for that.
JC: The difference between Norman and an agent is that an agent is officially doing that. Norman can’t say that up front. Everyone in this town knows how important agents are, Normans are as important, but they’re not acknowledged.
RG: I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I would say ninety-nine percent of the people who say they’re producers in this town have never produced anything. But everyone knows them as a producer. It has saturated everything more than one realizes. This sense of exaggerating one’s power and importance to the world.
JC: But is it cleaner to be an agent and admit that you’re not creating something? I kind of like that guy you’re describing. All he wants is to get a movie going and he wants to prove his value without actually having any. There’s something endearing to those people. But you don’t like those people.
RG: No, you can feel it. When they walk in the room, you know it. I can be extremely naive about these things, and now I have a short hand. I can say “Norman?”
JC: Hopefully in a complimentary way, though. The Normans we’ve met together, we’ve both spoken of them as a Norman in a positive way.
RG: Yeah. Well, most of these guys have to have something loveable about them or they couldn’t succeed at being a Norman.
“Norman” slips into New York and Los Angeles Theaters on April 14 with a national release to follow.