Director Adrian Lyne describes "Unfaithful" as "an erotic thriller about the body language of guilt." In the film, Richard Gere stars as Edward Sumner, husband to Connie (Diane Lane) and father of Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan). The Sumners are happily married but that spark of passion is dimming. One fateful day, Connie literally bumps into Paul (Olivier Martinez) and sets off a chain of events that will dramatically change all of their lives forever.
In casting the part of Edward Sumner, Lyne was looking for an 'everyman' quality - not necessarily the first quality that springs to mind in reference to Richard Gere. Lyne explains, "When I saw Richard in the Robert Altman film, 'Dr. T and the Women,' it seemed then that he'd reached a plateau; he had a kind of serenity and niceness that I hadn't seen before. I thought it was interesting how he was used in that film. If you look at him in this one, I think you'll be surprised."
RICHARD GERE (Edward Sumner)
"Unfaithful" deals with marriage issues, including the failure of a marriage due to familiarity. Do you think there's a way for people to overcome falling into that trap and losing that passion?
I don't know that the movie is so much about a failed marriage. It's about a mixture of the absolute and the relative. The absolute is the wind blowing; it's just the fact that there was a storm that day. Whatever symbolically that might mean to you, that's kind of the absolute, existential quality of the film. The other side is that they haven't taken the time with each other as much, to keep working at each other and on themselves, to keep having special moments where they break through to more levels of truth and self-revelation and revelation with the other. I think we've all got to do that.
Relationships, I realize at this point, are like sharks, they've got to keep in motion. They've got to keep going into deeper, colder water, sometimes scarier, darker territories and break through, for relationships to stay alive.
Do you think it will be hard for audiences to accept the fact that there is nothing actually wrong with the relationship between your character and Diane Lane's character in the movie?
There is something wrong. They do have a lack of intimacy but it's not just that that sets this thing in motion. There is also kind of this cosmic reality of the wind, whatever that is. Karma, in a larger sense.
It could also be considered a communication issue. The husband never confronts his wife.
That's an important point. His way of doing it is saying, "Do you love me?" which is hard for him to say that. It's a very sensitive moment for him. "Do you love me?" - he's feeling something is going on but he doesn't know what it is. It's easier for him - it is for all of us - to go to the private detective and have her followed than to actually say, "Look, I feel like you are having an affair. Are you having an affair right now? You've got to talk to me." What is it that is incomplete in him that he can't do that, and incomplete in their relationship, that they've set up expectations about themselves and the other that they can't do that? In that sense, there is something wrong - personally and with the relationship. I don't know any of us who are in relationships that are totally honest, it doesn't exist. Maybe the Dalai Lama is the only person who is totally honest and even with him, he's skillful not to hurt anybody. He's skillful.
How do you think that having worked with Diane Lane prior to this film affected the portrayal of the marriage in the film?
I think the fact that we did know each other [and] trusted each other certainly helped, but I think that even more so, the fact that she's been married and has a kid. I've been married now a couple of times and I have a kid. I think that bringing that, knowing what life is in the morning when you are getting kids off to school, and everyone is going off their ways, and how people exist in a house like that where you very rarely have that kind of communication in passing, you know? That's the way households are. It doesn't mean it's not loving, it's just the way time is. It ends up being what you can grab as it's going by. I think that was easy for us to create that kind of environment, which was important to have at the beginning of the film - the normalcy of that, the recognizable households with kids and jobs and responsibilities.
Diane Lane mentioned that it's been 18-19 years since you worked together and that coming back together was like shelter from the storm.
When you do work like this - when you do any work as an actor - you've got to feel safe even in what appears to be the simplest things. Even in comedies, you've got to feel safe for things to just happen in a way that is natural and free, and recognizable as human - alive and real. You don't want to be watching your back or thinking that you are being judged. I'm crazy about Diane and always have been, her talent and her as a person. I think that both of us felt okay, and that we don't have to watch our backs here.
You hadn't seen each other much in 18 years. Did it just rekindle, just like that?
Yeah, and differently too. She told me that she's the age now that I was when we did "Cotton Club." Now she understands where I was coming from a lot more. That was another level of understanding. I think she was able to process who I was and what she and I were at that time now, much better than she was able to then.
Diane has had a long, steady career and she's well respected. Why do you think a bigger stardom has eluded her?
I don't know. Those things are so in the stars. Certainly there have been better actors than me who have had no careers. Why? I don't know. I do think, just to follow-up on that, I think honestly this is one of the best performances I've seen from anyone in years - what she does in this film. If there ever was a moment for her to reach whatever level you are talking about, it would be now, with this. I think she shows extraordinary courage, emotional depth, and technical ability - it's all there.
Is one of the reasons you wanted to do "Unfaithful" because of how your character changes/reacts to his wife's infidelity?
Yes, there's a certain point the character is pushed to his limits and he finds himself feeling and doing things he never would have imagined. And how does he deal with it? Not only doing the actions but taking responsibility for it? The film on one level is necessarily moral in that all actions have consequences. They acknowledge that they're going to have to pay the consequences.
Erik Per Sullivan ("Malcolm in the Middle") plays your son in the film. You two have some great moments together.
He's wonderful. That's the kind of thing where you read a script like this and go, "Oh boy." You get a kid playing that part who is obnoxious, who is not real, or is too cloying, too cute, whatever, and… This kid came in and he's a better actor than any of us. Upfront, he's better than any of us.
Adrian [Lyne] and he had a great relationship. That had been established before I got on the film, and he and I had a great relationship. It was really comfortable, really easy. A lot of scenes - unfortunately, you're not going to see in the film - we shot had to do with him and me, and more family stuff. We didn't need that in the end; you get things quickly. You got that he and I got along and had this nice relationship. You didn't need these other scenes. It was great working with him. He worked hard. He understood what is important on film. He had a really good kind of 'bullshit barometer' for what is false and what isn't. He and Adrian worked really well on that movie together. He and Diane worked very well on that level, as well.
He has some great comic and emotional moments in the film.
He always found a way of doing it that wasn't the obvious, that wasn't cloying. He does this thing spinning when he wants to get my attention - someone's attention - but the adults are talking about something. I have kids, I know moments like that. It happens all the time. He did it in such a fresh, truthful way, it wasn't cloying. That's my kid.
The director, Adrian Lyne, said he thought you were brave doing certain scenes - the bathtub scene in which you are naked, in particular. Do you consider yourself to be brave doing scenes like that?
I don't think that bravery is about skin. Bravery is about a willingness to show emotional need. Ultimately that's why that scene is good is because of that - not because of the more obvious things.
Lyne also said he wanted you to eat more and be more physically flawed.
Yeah, like a 50 year-old guy. I'm a 50 year-old guy and I'm not in shape like I was when I was 30. I agreed with that. Adrian wanted me to put like 30 lbs on and I said, "No one is going to want to see that." It doesn't really help the movie because then it becomes about a push - she's choosing this young, hot guy instead of this old, fat guy, which is way off the point of what the movie was.
You filmed "The Mothman Prophecies" right before you filmed this. Which of the two was the most draining?
I don't know if they were draining in that way. To tell you the truth, if the work is going well and it's something that has value with some meaning to it, it gives back a lot. I think we were all well motivated in that we were doing this to explore territories that might be useful to us and to others. Motivation is really important on any of this stuff, but the work was going well. We felt that we were on solid ground in terms of achieving what we had set out to achieve. In terms of that, it really does feed you back energy. It's the ones where you just - it's like digging ditches - you're just working so hard but it's not giving you anything back. It could be not even on an emotional level, but it's just not happening. Those are draining. Those are horrible.
Have the challenges of being a leading man changed for you?
The challenges? I never thought of it in terms of the 'leading man' or 'not leading man,' or whatever. I don't think it changes. Certainly when I was 20, I wouldn't be playing this part, for obvious reasons. I would have been Olivier's part and probably happy to do that. I wasn't 52 then. You work from where you are. I do think that good actors can do any part. It doesn't mean that they are the best ones to do it. In the sense of being in a repertoire company, most actors are skilled enough, there's a level of expertise where they can play old men, young men, girls, fat, skinny, whatever. There's a way of doing it all. It doesn't mean that ultimately it's taking advantage of whatever is uniquely important and meaningful in a project. [I believe] there's really one character for every actor. The voyage is to find that one character.
Have you found yours?
I think at the end of [your] career, you've got to find out what was it that really leapt out? In a variety of things that were all good, again I say a minimum level of technical expertise in being able to do stuff, but some things jump out there, maybe cut deeper into the skin - that have meaning beyond what might be there on the page.
Your next project is "Chicago: The Musical." Did you have to do any particular preparation for that role?
When I met Rob Marshall, the choreographer/director of the piece - and wonderful, wonderful - I said, "Look, I like the script." It was a really interesting way to approach that material and smart. It's a Dennis Potter ("Pennies from Heaven") approach. It was just really smart. I said, "Look, I know I've got to sing in this, that's not going to be a problem. I get the character as an actor, but there's this thing at the very end where I do this tap dance, and I've never tapped." I said, "I'll try but we'll see when we get to the part where we have to shoot that." So I started it, and it was brutal in the beginning to try and get my nervous system [working] from my brain down to my feet. I worked hard and I had a great teacher. By the end, I felt comfortable with it and I think I did a good job - you'll see.
Are you as passionate an actor now as you were when you were younger?
I'm less needy about needing to express myself through acting, through movies, or theatre or whatever. I have many different lives outside of this that are extremely fulfilling. When I started acting, it was really the way for me to get of myself, to be able to communicate. I think most actors start that way. It's healthy for that to transform your career but that's not the only reason you are doing it. That becomes crippling after a time. The motivation is probably less egocentric now in terms of my need to do it, but certainly the motivation for working now is to work with great people on projects that are a gift. Not that it wasn't that way before, but I would say that's probably the only motivation I have now. I have the resources to live.
I like doing it, don't misunderstand me. I really enjoy doing it and do realize that I'm an actor - that is really who I am, but if it were to go away tomorrow I'd be okay.
What do you like about acting?
Working with people, exploring territories, exploring what we explore in the film. In doing that, I'm actually acting it out. I lived three operas this last year, completely different things, different experiences. If I bring myself fully to it, that's a whole lifetime, three lifetimes, I've done this year. Whatever I've learned in the process certainly feeds who I am as a man, the people around me and my family.
Interview with Diane Lane ->Page 2
Interview with Olivier Martinez ->Page 3