It's been almost a decade since Richard Gere made a big Hollywood blockbuster, and he has a simple explanation: China.

"There are definitely movies that I can't be in because the Chinese will say, 'Not with him'," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

"I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese."

Richard Gere in the 2012 film Arbitrage.
Richard Gere in the 2012 film Arbitrage.

Along with the increasing trend of China financing much of Hollywood, The Wall Street Journal reports the country's $6.6 billion box-office total last year placed it second behind the United States.

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And coincidently, it's the country Gere took aim at during the 1993 Academy Awards while presenting the art-direction category.

Gere - a practising Tibetan Buddhist and friend of the Dalai Lama - went off-script during the ceremony to draw attention to China's "horrendous, horrendous human rights situation".

Needless to say, his speech backfired.

The full impact became clear in 1997 when Gere starred in the thriller Red Corner as an American businessman wrongfully accused of murder in China.

"Everyone was happy with the film," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I get calls from the heads of the studio. Went on Oprah. Then, out of nowhere, I get calls saying, 'We don't want you doing press.' MGM wanted to make an overall deal with the Chinese. China told them, 'If you release this film, we're not buying it.' And so, they dumped it."

Despite being given a lifelong ban from entering the country that same year, the actor hasn't budged in his cause. He called a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has been vocal in pressuring China to make Tibet independent.

Richard Gere stars in the 2014 movie Time Out of Mind.
Richard Gere stars in the 2014 movie Time Out of Mind.

It's because of this Gere now sticks to roles in smaller, independent productions, like the upcoming flick Norman. But even a career in indies has been plagued by the curse. Gere told The Hollywood Reporter a shady moment he was given the flick from an "independently financed, non-studio film that never even aimed for a Chinese release".

"There was something I was going to do with a Chinese director, and two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, 'Sorry, I can't do it'," he told the publication.

"We had a secret phone call on a protected line. If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work."

Despite the backlash and the hit to his Hollywood career, Gere said he's not fussed about never appearing in a big budget blockbuster again.

"I'm not interested in playing the wizened Jedi in your tentpole," he said. "I was successful enough in the last three decades that I can afford to do these [smaller films] now."

And that's no lie. During his divorce from second wife Carey Lowell, the New York Post estimated Gere's worth at US$250 million.