But the real leap came a few years later: "An Officer and a Gentleman" was a box office smash. Gere plays an aspiring Navy pilot, who grapples with a tough drill instructor - and a challenging romance.
"That was a really wonderful experience shooting that move," Gere said.
"As you were making the film, did you realize, 'Hey we've got a hit here, people are gonna love this'?" Braver asked.
"No, no, no, in fact, no one knew," he said. "It's like with 'Pretty Woman.' No one knew. We were making this movie. No one knew."
But Gere DID know that he and Julia Roberts were going to click on screen:
"She came into my office and I mean, she is that - I mean, that woman from 'Pretty Woman' was in my office," he recalled. "And we had a good buzz going between us. So I said, yeah, this definitely could work."
"Have you ever been in the middle of a film and you're working with a leading lady and you're saying to myself, 'Oh my gosh, this is not working, we don't have that spark'?" Braver asked.
After a lengthy pause, Gere said, "No." "Why are you laughing?"
"'Cause I think probably a lot of ladies would feel a spark when they were around you," Braver said.
"You want to know the truth? I don't think I would do a movie with someone where there wasn't That thing," he replied. "I mean, you walk into a room and there's some people you go, Oh, yeah, I got a buzz with that person."
And there's no doubt the audience - especially the female contingent - gets a buzz from watching Richard Gere, from his early film days in "American Gigolo," to his 2002 Golden Globe-winning turn as a singing lawyer in "Chicago."
His looks and sex appeal have always been a big factor. But he says he doesn't think about it. "There's some reason that I'm still allowed to make movies, okay? I'm not a fool and there's a lot of factors that tie into that. But it's not my life, it's not how I see myself. I don't look in the mirror. That's not my life.
"I have a very simple straightforward life which has nothing o do with that."