Well known for his vocal support of Tibet's Dalai Lama and celebrated for his captivating good looks, Gere urged Palestinians in a television commercial broadcast ahead of Sunday's poll in the West Bank and Gaza to get out to vote for a new president to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died in November.
"Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important. Get out and vote," Gere says in the English-language advertisement. He repeats the phrase, "Get out and vote" in Arabic.
But many voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of the actor who swept Debra Winger off her feet as a dashing Navy officer in the 1982 film "An Officer and a Gentleman" and were even less interested when they were told he's an American.
"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar an-Najar told Reuters Wednesday.
"We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them - they elected a moron."
The Gere spot, sponsored by grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace lobby One Voice, recalled ads put out by Hollywood notables to support Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry November's U.S. elections. He lost to President Bush.
Gere, 55, said in a statement issued through his Los Angeles-based publicist that he is not "officially associated" with One Voice. But he added: "this is a truly historic moment for the Palestinians as well as for the entire region, with the possibility for a real vision of peace and security for all people."
Gere's spokesman, Alan Nierob, said the actor had visited the Middle East several times during the past year to "educate himself" about the region. He said the public service announcement was taped recently in New York after One Voice approached Gere about doing it.
Gere, whose film credits include the title role in "American Gigolo" and a rich businessman who falls for a hooker in "Pretty Woman," will next appear in the family drama "Bee Season" opposite Juliette Binoche.