Richard Gere, Princess Di – and Rocky: how an A-list dinner party almost ended in tears | Film

Name: Richard Gere.

Age: 70.

Appearance: International heart-throb.

Heart-throb? He looks like a retired gameshow host. Yes, but we are concerned with a story from a very long time ago.

How long ago? The 1990s, when Gere was the bankable fortysomething star of American Gigolo and Pretty Woman.

Why would I care about something that happened way back then? Because it’s the story of when Gere met Diana, Princess of Wales.

Who is telling this story? Sir Elton John, in the serialisation of his soon-to-be-released autobiography.

OK, so how does it go? While Sir Elton was working on the music for The Lion King, Disney’s chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and his wife had him over to dinner, along with Gere, Diana and some other people.

What happened next? According to Sir Elton, Di and Gere hit it off immediately and spent the evening locked in conversation.

What an amazing tale. Thank you. But one of the other guests was not happy about their “blossoming friendship”.

Ooh. Was it Princess Di’s husband, Prince Wotsisname? No. By this time Charles and Diana were separated, if not quite divorced.

So who was it? Sylvester Stallone.

The aged star of Rambo: Last Blood? Yes, but in those days he was better known as the star of Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV and Rocky V.

How did Stallone’s unhappiness towards their new acquaintance manifest itself? Through hostility. Before dinner, Sir Elton’s partner, David Furnish, went looking for Gere and Stallone, before returning to say: “We have a situation.”

A situation? “It transpired that he’d discovered Sylvester Stallone and Richard Gere in the corridor,” Sir Elton writes, “squaring up to each other, apparently about to settle their differences over Diana by having a fist fight.”

Why was Stallone so angry? “I think he may have turned up to the party with the express intention of picking Diana up,” says Sir Elton, “only to find his plans for the evening ruined.”

Was there a fight or not? No. Stallone left early, reportedly saying: “I never would have come if I’d known Prince Charming was gonna be here.”

It’s like a fairytale. He supposedly added: “If I’d wanted her, I would’ve taken her!” as he stormed out the door.

Not a very right-on ending, is it? It is an ancient story, long before #MeToo.

Do say: “Thanks for the memory, Sir Elton!”

Don’t say: “Do you know any other crazy stories about Richard Gere?”

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