Hollywood stars Richard Gere and Hilary Swank have wowed staff at Seagulls Hotel in the Transkei with their friendliness, sincerity and approachable nature.
The famous actor and actress visited the hotel this past weekend while filming the biopic Amelia, which depicts the life of legendary American pilot and adventurer Amelia Earhart.
Swank in the main role of Earhart, and co-star Christopher Ecclestone, who plays the role of her navigator Fred Noonan, stayed at Seagulls, while Gere slept at a rented cottage nearby. Swank was booked in under the name Amelia Earhart, while Gere was apparently referred to as Dr Brown.
Jean Sahd, Seagulls Hotel manager, said she had spoken to the stars on a number of occasions and found them completely relaxed and very approachable. “On Saturday night after dinner I was in the kitchen with my staff when I felt a tap on the shoulder,” she recounted. “When I turned around, there stood Richard Gere right in front of me. He said he just wanted to say thanks to the staff for a wonderful supper.”
Sahd said he was as good-looking in real life as he appeared on the big screen. “He’s got such a charisma about him,” she said. “I first met him on Saturday afternoon when he arrived.
“ I nearly died I was so nervous!”
Two-time Oscar winner Swank arrived at the hotel on Friday, and with her entourage sat down to a seafood platter which they ate on the balcony outside the dining-room.
“We put her in our most expensive room, the Panorama Suite, which has views of the coastline all round,” said Sahd. “She was just such an amazing person and so friendly. She played on the dining room floor with our dog Lola, and told me she had a dog named Karoo.”
Sahd said she had only known of their possible arrival on Thursday last week, when she received a phone call telling her to “get things ready”.
“Even then it was not confirmed,” she said. “There was so much secrecy surrounding the whole thing.”
John and PJ Smith of Gonubie, owners of the cottage where Gere had slept, said they had no idea he would be staying at their cottage.
“We were told he was going to be put up at Morgan Bay Hotel, but at the last minute plans changed and he ended up at our cottage,” said a surprised PJ. Filming for the movie took place on Friday and Saturday at sets built on the hill above Seagulls, while some beach scenes were shot in front of the Trennerys Hotel on Sunday.