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Richard Gere’s Iranian Lookalike Makes News in Taiwan

The Iranian businessman gained Taiwanese media attention after retrieving his lost wallet –do you think there is a resemblance?

Richard Gere has starred in all sorts of Hollywood movies, from "Pretty Woman" to "Red Corner," and his face is well-known in Asia — and especially in Taiwan. While he hasn't visited this island nation very often, he's a very '''hot recognizable face'' among Taiwanwese movie fans.

So when a visiting Iranian businessman named Vazir Nia Mahzen made the news in Taipei the other day after losing his wallet in a local taxi, he was said by local people to look a lot like Gere.

The media had a field day with the story — even going so far as to call the Iranian man the ''spitting image'' of Richard Gere! A lookalike, a doppelganger, Richard Gere's Iranian double. 

The news made the newspapers, the TV shows and the very active Taiwanese internet, as you can imagine.

Here's the story, culled from a media montage: Hamzeh, a 28-year-old business manager for an electronics company in Iran, arrived in Taipei for a two-week stay, his first visit to Taiwan. He took a taxi back to his hotel one evening and it was not until he returned to his room that he realized he had unwittingly left behind his purse, containing his money, his clients' numbers, his passport and his bank information."


Fortunately, as Lady Luck would have it — or in the case of Taiwan, the gods of good fortune — the kindly middle-aged taxi driver, found the wallet and after discovering that the owner was a foreigner, he decided to try to find him.

A Taiwanese government official was able to trace Hamzeh through her computer and
found the name of his hotel. She phoned the hotel to say that Hamzeh's purse was waiting for him at her office at the foreign ministry.

The now-elated businessman took a cab over to the ministry as fast as possible amidst Taipei's traffic gridlock  — it's called "water dragon traffic" in Mandarin — to retrieve his stuff.

Of course, he was more than overwhelmed, according to media reports, and ''although his Muslim faith prevented him from shaking hands with the government official to thank her, he bowed deeply several times in gratitude and said “shieh shieh" many times in Mandarin, one of the few Chinese phrases he knew.''

End of story? Not yet.

In the photo that appeared in a local English newspaper the next day, the caption read: "Hamzeh, said to be a dead ringer for Hollywood actor Richard Gere, thanked Taiwan from the bottom of his heart."

But, readers, to be honest, Hamzeh does not look anything at all like Richard Gere. Or does he?

Or could it be that too many in Asia — and I am joking here, sort of — all white people look similar in Asians' eyes, as do all black people and all Persian people? So it wasn't too hard a stretch, apparently, for the Taiwanese media to compare Mr. Hamzeh to Mr. Gere.


Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Asia since 1991. During a five-year stint in Tokyo, he covered the triumphs (and occasional failures) of Hollywood movies in Japan and interviewed American actors passing through Tokyo on film promotion tours, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner.