When An Officer and a Gentleman was released in theaters in 1982, audiences couldn’t get enough of the romance, but behind the scenes, the film’s two protagonists were anything from lovey-dovey. Debra Winger and Richard Gere did not get along on set, and Winger did not speak well of her co-star once the film was completed. However, in the years following the film’s release, the actors have been able to overcome their differences and even joke about the tension they previously shared.
Winger and Gere’s co-star, Louis Gossett Jr., who played Sgt. Emil Foley in the film, said in his 2010 book, “An Actor and a Gentleman,” that they didn’t get along on set and would distance themselves from each other once the cameras stopped rolling.
“The rest of the cast partied a lot, although Richard and the equally talented Debra Winger retreated to their own places,” Gossett wrote in his 2010 autobiography, An Actor and a Gentleman.
“The onscreen chemistry between the two of them was terrific, but it was a different story once the camera was turned off,” he added. “They couldn’t have stayed farther apart from each other.”
According to IMDb, Gere and his leading woman had “tension,” and Winger reportedly referred to Gere as “a brick wall co-star” in Harper’s Bazaar.
Debra Winger has spoken up about her on-set spat with Richard Gere. She said to the Daily Mail in 2009 that uncertainty about her own acting abilities was one of the reasons she screamed at her co-stars on set. Winger said that she “took it out on everybody,” but she added a caveat concerning the picture she co-wrote with Gere. “It’s no secret that I didn’t love ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’ then, and I certainly don’t love it now, so at least no one could accuse me of being inconsistent,” she explained.
Winger admitted on Watch What Happens Live in 2018 that the set of Officer and a Gentleman wasn’t her favorite to work on, but not because of Gere.
“When pigs are involved, when there are bad men running the show, they tend to take the fun out of it,” she explained. “Officer and a Gentleman wasn’t so much the director [Taylor Hackford], but we had bad men running the show and so it kind of dirties the water.”
In 2021, Winger told The Telegraph that she “probably could have come up with something nicer” than her iconic remark that working with Gere was like working with a “brick wall.”
Winger’s ability was warmly praised by Gere, who made no mention of any past animosity between the two. In 2012, he said, “She has a really interesting quality. It’s very hard to be as kind of open and unguarded and nice. You know, a nice person and kind of a genuine person and true heart on camera.”
Gere also mentioned that he was not the most cooperative co-star. He answered, “I could never be that way. I was too complicated. There were too many things going on. Just the straightforward presence is an extremely difficult thing to do.”
Winger has stated on several occasions that she and Gere are on good terms today and that their old feud is amusing.
“I run in to Richard Gere quite a lot and he half jokes: ‘Are you still saying terrible things about me?'” she told The Guardian. “We had a moment in our life which was not good, but everyone has to get it into perspective.”
On Watch What Happens Live, the actor told a similar story. Winger stated, “I did run into him lately, about a year ago at the Guggenheim. He said, ‘Do you still say [expletive] things about me?’ And I said, ‘I never said [expletive] things about you,’ which I probably did, but I didn’t mean ’em. And so then we laughed.”