‘Oh, Canada’ Star Richard Gere Says ‘Artists Will Find a Way to Communicate’ in the Face of Oppression

Cannes 2024: Gere, Uma Thurman and director Paul Schrader talked about inspiration and impact at the press conference for their new film

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Richard Gere and Paul Schrader at the Cannes Film Festival (Getty Images)

“Oh, Canada” premiered to a four-minute standing ovation at the 77th Cannes Film Festival late Friday night, signifying a defining moment for legendary director Paul Schrader. For his latest film, the “First Reformed” filmmaker adapted the novel “Foregone” by the late Russell Banks about an American man who flees to Canada during the 1968 Vietnam War draft.

When Schrader was confronted at the Cannes press conference on Saturday for the movie about his advice for young filmmakers protesting for their right to freedom of expression in countries that don’t always allow it, he said, “You only have what someone else doesn’t have: Your own narrative.” 

Actor Jacob Elordi, absent from Cannes, portrays the draft dodger in 1968 sequences that are weaved together with his older self, played by Richard Gere, in 2023. The film explores confessions to lies buried for decades and the confrontations of unjust wars by heroes who don’t always believe they did the right thing along the way.

At the press conference, Richard Gere added to his director’s comments by noting, “Artists will find a way to communicate. It’s not a question of money, it’s a question of having something to say.”

Getting into character wasn’t a difficult process for Gere, it seems, as he channeled his real-life experiences to portray a man confessing his truths while staring death in the face.

“My father passed away a few months before Paul [Schrader] came to me to make this project,” the actor said. “He was in a wheelchair and he was clearly on his last days. But his mind was coming in and out of many different realities and many levels of consciousness. I think that’s what I related to pretty much in the script. I wanted to capture that for this movie.”

The first collaboration between Gere and Schrader since 1980’s “American Gigolo” made the former a movie star, “Oh, Canada” also stars Uma Thurman as Gere’s long-suffering wife. The “Pulp Fiction” actress praised Schrader’s immense knowledge of film: “His film literacy and his leadership is palpable and a pleasure.” 

Though Elordi was absent from the press conference as well (he’s shooting Guillermo del Toro’s “Frankenstein”), his presence was still felt. Even if Elordi and Gere don’t look alike, especially considering Elordi’s towering height of 6’5″ and Gere’s 5’10” frame, that didn’t stop Gere from praising the young Australian talent.

“We had a reading of the script. He reminded me very much of my son, which was great. He has an incredible warmth to him and a humility to him. He’s genuinely sweet and he works hard and comes to work hard.” He laughed, “I’m much taller than him.” 

Thurman, always eager to compliment her costars, noted, “I did notice Jake captured the old Richard Gere strut.”

Bringing the conversation back to the themes of “Oh, Canada,” Schrader was asked if he intends to reveal his own secrets later in life. “I suppose you don’t know until that moment comes. When you say ‘I’ve lived this lie long enough. Before I die, I’d like to tell the truth,’” he replied.

The press conference also turned to the impact of Schrader and his ilk — the filmmakers who defined the 1970s and 80s cinema like Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and fellows Cannes competitor Francis Ford Coppola. When asked if he thinks they changed cinema, Schrader replied simply, “Yes.”

“Oh, Canada” is currently seeking distribution.

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