Richard Gere, 51, seems confounded about why Autumn in New York (premiering on pay-per-view March 1) crumpled like a fallen leaf in its theatrical release last year.

Well, trouble began a-brewin' when the old-fashioned tearjerker — which co-stars Winona Ryder as Gere's dying young lover — wasn't made available to critics for advance screenings. Industry wags then surmised MGM feared a frosty reception that could chill Autumn's opening weekend grosses. Gere and Ryder publicly objected to the studio's implied vote of no confidence, only to face rotten reviews after the film opened. Adding insult to injury, screenwriter Allison Burnett bashed Gere in interviews, accusing him of ruining the movie!

"I don't know [why]," Gere insists to TV Guide Online. "In fact, the last time I saw him, we embraced. He complimented me and said he loved the way I played the character. I didn't touch the character at all. I'm not the director. I'm not the writer."

A devout follower of Tibetan Buddhism, the actor bears no grudge, instead choosing to wax philosophical about the whole mess: "Some movies have greater possibilities than others. Some movies are clearly smaller in scope. Having had a fairly long career, [I think] you realize you can't hit home runs every time. It's impossible. There is a great mystery to this."

Besides, Gere clearly has had greater priorities ever since girlfriend Carey Lowell (Law &#038 Order) gave birth to his son, Homer James Jigme, who turned one this month. "The first seven months of this boy's life, [I was] with him almost every day," says the doting dad. "That's a great luxury, for him and for me, to be able to do that." Ending that lengthy paternity leave was tough. "I think before, I was thinking that I can't wait to get out of [the house] and be alone," Gere admits. "Now, it's that I can't wait to go back and see him. Alone time just doesn't exist anymore."