Actor Richard Gere gestures as he speaks during a press conference he held along with Open Arms founder Oscar Camps, on the island of Lampedusa, southern Italy. File picture: Valerio Nicolosi/AP

Rome - Italian far-right leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is a "Baby Trump" who exploits people's fears to win votes, US actor Richard Gere charged in a Monday interview.

Gere, 69, recently clashed with Salvini over the Open Arms, a charity rescue ship with more than 100 migrants on board, which is being denied port entry in Italy.

"[Your] interior minister has the same mentality as president Trump. In fact, I call Salvini 'Baby Trump.' He uses the same radical ignorance, he exploits fear and hatred," Gere told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Two weeks ago, Gere boarded the Open Arms to bring food and comfort the migrants. In response, Salvini urged him to take the migrants to Hollywood and host them "in his villas."

"If your interior minister were to spend some time with those people, listened to their stories, their family traumas, he would change his outlook," the actor said in his Monday interview.

Gere said he would like to meet Salvini because "I'm sure he's not like he presents himself in public. He'll have a family, children, parents. [But] He sees politics as a pretext to boost his approval ratings."

Salvini, who is also deputy premier, is in a messy political situation after vowing to bring down Italy's government in the hope of capitalizing on favourable opinion polls to win snap elections.

His estranged coalition allies, the Five Star Movement, are trying to thwart his plan by forming a new government with the main opposition party, shutting Salvini out of power.

dpa