Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Schrader|
|Produced by||Jerry Bruckheimer|
|Written by||Paul Schrader|
Nina Van Pallandt
|Music by||Giorgio Moroder|
|Editing by||Richard Halsey|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||February 8, 1980|
|Running time||117 min.|
|Box office||$22,743,674 (domestic)|
American Gigolo is a 1980 American crime drama film, written and directed by Paul Schrader. Schrader considers it one of four similar films, which he calls "double bookends": Taxi Driver, bookended by Light Sleeper, and American Gigolo bookended by The Walker.
Julian Kaye (Richard Gere) is a male escort in Los Angeles whose job supports his expensive taste in cars, stereophonic equipment, cocaine and clothes. He is, at times, blatantly narcissistic and superficial; however, he claims to take some pleasure in his work from being able to sexually satisfy women.
When on an assignment for his primary procuress, Anne (Nina Van Pallandt), he meets Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton), the unhappy wife of a local politician, who becomes interested in him. Julian's other pimp, Leon (Bill Duke), sends him to the house of a financier, Mr. Rheiman, who asks Julian to physically abuse and have sex with his wife while he watches them.
As Julian begins to get to know Michelle, he learns that the financier's wife, Mrs. Rheiman, was murdered. Los Angeles Police Department Detective Sunday (Hector Elizondo) investigates Julian as a primary suspect. Though he was with a client, Lisa Williams (K Callan), on the night of the murder, the client refuses to give Julian an alibi in order to protect her and her husband's reputations.
As Julian's relationship with Michelle deepens, suspicion of the murder mounts against him. He soon realizes that he is being framed and grows increasingly desperate. His mounting anguish is visually represented by a degeneration in style as his clothes become rumpled, he goes unshaven, and he even rents a cheap commuter car after his Mercedes SL has been tampered with.
Julian finally confronts Leon, who confesses that one of the other, younger gigolos who works for him had killed the wealthy man's wife, and Leon had conceived the plan to frame Julian. After an argument, Julian accidentally pushes Leon over the apartment balcony and he falls to his death.
With no one to help him, Julian ends up in jail, awaiting trial for the murder. However, when all seems lost, Michelle risks her reputation and that of her husband to provide Julian with the alibi that can save him from prison.
Christopher Reeve reportedly turned down the part of Julian Kaye despite being offered a million dollar fee, before Richard Gere became attached to the role. Gere said in 2012 that he was drawn to the role because of its gay subtext. "I read it and I thought, 'This is a character I don't know very well. I don't own a suit. He speaks languages; I don't speak any languages. There's kind of a gay thing that's flirting through it and I didn't know the gay community at all.' I wanted to immerse myself in all of that and I had literally two weeks. So I just dove in." John Travolta subsequently became interested in the part, and briefly replaced Gere before getting "cold feet" and dropping out. This is not the only role that Travolta has turned down only to be taken by Gere: it had previously happened with Days of Heaven (1978) and occurred again when Travolta was offered the lead in both An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Chicago (2002). Gere's nude scenes marked the first time a major Hollywood actor was frontally nude in a film. According to Gere, the nudity was not in the original script. "It was just in the natural process of making the movie. I certainly felt vulnerable, but I think it's different for men than women."
Julie Christie was originally cast in the role of Michelle Stratton but her departure was precipitated by Gere's replacement of Travolta. By the time Gere had returned to the project, Lauren Hutton had already been hired. Meryl Streep was also offered the part of Michelle which she declined because she didn't like the tone of the film.
Schrader acknowledges that Pickpocket (1959) by the French director Robert Bresson was a direct influence on the film; the composition of the final shot draws heavily from the film, as does the final dialogue. Schrader later provided an introduction to the Criterion Collection DVD of Pickpocket. Schrader re-visited many of the themes of American Gigolo in his 2007 film, The Walker, and says the idea for that film came about while wondering what would have become of the Julian Kaye character.
The film is widely credited to have established Giorgio Armani in Hollywood, since the Italian designer's clothes feature prominently in the film.
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