The death of Louis Gossett Jr. has prompted many cinephiles to recall his acclaimed performance in Taylor Hackford’s “An Officer and a Gentleman,” for which he became the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Gossett’s turn as endlessly demanding Marine drill sergeant Emil Foley remains the most beloved role of his career, and his co-star Richard Gere had only positive things to say about the actor in a new interview with Variety

“We were all proud of the film and Lou was proud of his work in it — and he should be! He was a humble guy,” Gere said as he recalled Gossett’s Oscar win. “We were pleased for him as an artist, and as a man, that he got that recognition.”

While Gossett’s drill sergeant is best remembered for his brutality, Gere praised his co-star for finding the hidden compassion in the character.

“As tough as Foley was, you always felt this warm heart beating in him,” he said. “That’s why Lou was so effective in that role: he wasn’t just a ‘tough guy’; he was someone who really cared about all those kids that he was mentoring.”

Gere also praised Gossett for his intense preparation for the role, explaining that the actor studied with a real drill sergeant and isolated himself from other cast members during the shoot as a way of staying in character.

“He worked hard to be Foley,” he said. “He did a lot of research and spent time with a drill sergeant from Pensacola who was working with us. Lou was on him like white on rice, picking up everything he could. Lou was very smart and single-minded in not socializing with us. I didn’t see another side of him [while filming], but I didn’t need to. Some actors are just knowable. Their basic humanity, no matter what they’re doing, comes through. Lou had that. He was a good guy, but he had to be tough on us — and he was super tough. I can’t imagine anyone better than him playing that part.”

Above all, Gere expressed his admiration for Gossett’s integrity and decency, explaining that he never questioned his co-star’s dedication to his artistry.

“Lou was a sweetheart,” he said. “He was a very gentle, sensitive, and intelligent guy. He really cared about his craft. He cared about creating a character and doing a good job. He was a team player, there to serve the story. For our scenes, we had to have a real trust with each other, and that evolved very quickly. We could trust each other not just as fellow actors, but as fellow human beings.”

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