richard gere & ben vereen

Richard Gere & Ben Vereen in ‘Time Out of Mind’

*It was a year ago that “Time Out of Mind” that opens this week was shown at the New York Film Festival and Richard Gere showed up afterwards to talk about his film.

In New York one of the most pressing problems right now is homelessness and “Time Out of Mind” is right on time in addressing this issue.

Gere had been trying to get the movie made for over 15 years. A known humanitarian and involved with the Coalition for the Homeless for quite sometime Gere took on a role he was all too familiar with. Gere and Ben Vereen were homeless in Manhattan. What Gere found fascinating about the whole shoot was the fact that few people recognized him. The reason was twofold, Gere explained: homeless people are invisible and no one would expect him to be living on the streets.

Did anyone stop on the streets to talk to you?

RICHARD GERE:  Maybe two or three times people talked to me on the street. Once a French tourist spoke to me and she gave me some food. The other two times were African Americans who spoke in passing, ‘Hey, Rich, how you doin’ man?’ White people very much were in their capsules. We get from here to there. We know where we’re going and you see very little in between here and there. African Americans are much more in the moment in how they see the world.

How are the homeless viewed?

You’re invisible and no one pays attention. [In this film] we’re asking people to watch something that they don’t want to watch that’s in their everyday lives. You feel so naked out there in the streets.

When you asked for money, what was the reaction?

 RG: They took note of my clothes and they went through the emotional gymnastics that people go through in that situation: he wants money and I don’t want to give him any. I feel guilty but why should I?’

What is one of the most startlingly realities about homelessness?  

 RG:  It’s how relative it all is. Sure we see substance abuse, we see mental illness, we see all these things as part of that population bit I can also see how quickly we all can descend into that territory, that black hole when we are totally helpless and all our connections have been severed.

In our own lives we make judgments on people without knowing anything about them, by how they look, how much money it looks like they have, where they come from, their education, where they might live, very quickly without any real information.

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]