April 19, 2024


Richard Gere has issued a tribute to his An Officer and a Gentleman costar Louis Gossett Jr., who just died at age 87.

In the film, Gossett was Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley, a drill instructor who shaped Gere’s character Zack Mayo in the 1982 film.

The film earned Gossett an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the first Black performer to win the Supporting Actor Oscar.

“He stayed in character the whole time,” Gere, 74, recalled in a statement. “I don’t think we ever saw him socially. He was the drill sergeant 24-hours a day, and it showed clearly in his performance. He drove every scene he was in.”

Gere said Gossett was “a tough guy with a heart of gold,” adding, “We were all so proud of him when he won his Oscar.”

Director Taylor Hackford also issued a statement that he “admired” Gossett’s stage work.

“Lou Gossett’s Sargent Foley may have been the first Black character in American cinema to have absolute authority over white characters,” Hackford, 79, says. “The Academy recognized his consummate performance by voting him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He definitely deserved it.”

Gossett’s character was originally “written as a White man,” but Hackford said that changed after the director visited the Navy Officers Flight Training Center in Pensacola, Fla., where he learned “many of the Drill Instructors there were men of color.”

“I found it interesting that Black & Brown enlisted men had ‘make-or-break’ control over whether white college graduates would become officers and fighter pilots,” Hackford explains. “At that moment I changed the casting profile for Sargent Foley and started meeting actors of color.”


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