Interview with Richard Gere, Oren Moverman of ‘Time Out of Mind’

Published 1:21 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015

by Lauren Bradshaw

Everyone’s favorite charmer, Richard Gere (“Pretty Woman,” “Unfaithful”), and writer/director Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”) were in town recently to promote their new film “Time Out of Mind.” A supporter of the New York Coalition for the Homeless for over a decade, the issue of homelessness is a cause near and dear to Gere’s heart. And in fact, the actor helped develop this film and plays the leading role. Gere’s filmography is extensive, and he has played some of the most dashing men in movie history. His roles range from Dr. T to Bill Flynn. But his turn as a down-on-his-luck homeless man in the bleak “Time Out of Mind” is something we have never seen before and an exciting milestone for the next years of his career.

George (Gere) is a down-and-out alcoholic who has lost his job, family and home. With nowhere to turn, and winter’s cold bearing down, he is forced to sleep in apartments undergoing renovation and hospital waiting rooms. Through his eyes, we see the streets of New York City via an unlikely, often ignored source. We are shown the actual inner-workings of the City’s “right to shelter” program, and discover, along with George, the cavalcade of issues facing the homeless community on a day-to-day basis (not just the lack of proper shelter and food).

I had the opportunity to interview Gere and Moverman at the swanky Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC. Lauren Veneziani (, Mae Abdulbaki ( and I had a fascinating conversation with the filmmakers about the sneaky way they shot the movie, how Gere really pretended to be homeless on the streets of NYC with actual New Yorkers and was not recognized, what they both think happens to George after the credits roll, and much more. Check out the interview below and make sure you see “Time Out of Mind” in select theaters.

Lauren B.: There isn’t much dialogue in the film, but you do focus on the ambient sounds of New York City. Could you talk about the choice you made to shoot the movie that way?

Gere: Except Ben! He jabbers away and jabbers away nonstop [everyone laughs]! That was totally him [points to Ben] about the sounds of the city. That was totally his contribution.

Moverman: It’s really interesting because we keep saying that – there’s very little dialogue in the movie. But there is non-stop dialogue in the movie. Every scene has a ton of dialogue; it’s just not always our main character. In fact, it’s rarely our main character because he is someone who is dealing with a very interior world and is moving through it with very basic communication. When he needs to communicate and is drawn into communication he does speak.

Everything started with the character. He is a guy in isolation, who is not very communicative, who has a drinking problem and is without a home. He’s a drifter and moves through the city of New York. All around him, non-stop dialogue. People are living their lives. You’re hearing the voices of scenes that are happening around him that are basically telling you everyone’s got a story. Some of the stories are quiet. Some of the scenes are dialogue-heavy. And some are just noise, but we are going to focus on this one man and his story, who in the real world we may not be looking at. That is not an accusation or judgment, but is just the way reality is. There are a lot of homeless people on the street and we may not notice every one of them. We’re saying every person has a story. Sometimes it’s around the edges of the frame and sometimes it’s in the middle of the frame. It’s just another way to communicate.

Lauren V.: I particularly loved the scenes between George (Richard Gere) and his daughter Maggie (Jena Malone). They obviously have a rocky relationship and we don’t get a lot of their backstory. As an actor, are you creating a backstory for that relationship and for your character?

Gere: I’ve gotten that question a few times and you would think this is the one movie where I would create an elaborate historical background; I did none. The movie, to me, exists in such a archetypal planet, an interior experience, that it’s all known. As soon as you see a scene like that, you know what the history is. You know there is a problem, you know there is estrangement but what we didn’t want was it to feel like there was some sort of sexual abuse thing, we did not want to go there. Whatever the issues are they’re knowable. Whatever the history we give of him [George], finally we give it late in the movie, some details, its just a rough narrative of what happened but it doesn’t explain anything. As our life histories it doesn’t necessarily explain anything other than the surface of who we are and we were looking for something deeper than that. I was working in a very intuitive way, on this, and these scenes came together very quickly. It wasn’t heavy preparation. The first scene that Jena [Malone] and I shot was in the Laundromat and we didn’t rehearse. I don’t like to rehearse; he [the director Oren ] does not like to rehearse. We met on the set and I remember walking into the scene, playing the scene, and I got very moved during the scene and afterward I broke down. It was so perfect as actors and as people. We never had to force anything.

Mae: Richard, we’re used to seeing you play very charming characters and you’re obviously well-known. How did you try to blend in as someone who people would rather avoid and not talk to vs. yourself, who I am sure everyone wants to come up and talk to?

Gere: That’s the funny thing, I didn’t do anything different, other than give myself a bad haircut and kind of nondescript clothes… and emotionally be in the space of that guy. But I must tell you that I have certainly been in the emotional space of that guy and people still project “movie star” on me. Whatever the cues were that we built up, we put this guy… we put me on the street, and part of it was being still in New York City on a street corner. No one stands still on a street corner. The only people who do are people who have a problem, are panhandlers, dangerous. All those things come up and I could feel from blocks away, people making that judgement and projecting that on me. So much so that their interior script started playing about who this guy is. Is he homeless or not? No eye contact, but they’d already built up an opera about this guy standing still on the street corner. It’s a profound experience to go through, to realize how surface all of our interactions are with each other. Projecting things constantly in the echo chamber of our own thoughts.

Lauren B.: So the camera was hidden for those scenes?

Gere: The whole movie the camera was hidden.

Moverman: I mean, sometimes in interiors we didn’t have to hide it. If we had live environments, in the streets or even into offices, we would be on rooftops or through shop windows. Sometimes when he would be inside, with Ben Vereen for example in the café, we would be outside and let all of the reflections of the world move like ghosts over them. It was important to hide the camera so he could be in live environments. It was also the aesthetic approach to the movie to have these layers separating you from a character you don’t normally see and the movie, itself, making an effort to find him and to follow his story.

Lauren B.: And since you were filming these scenes on the streets of New York, how involved was the actual New York homeless community in the filmmaking process? Did you use them as extras, for example in the scenes when you were standing in line for entry into the shelter?

Gere: Yes, we did that. Only in those scenes we had some friends of ours from Coalition for the Homeless. Many people who work there are formerly [homeless] people. We also had extras, who were incredible. I rarely do this, but I called up our casting people for extras and said, “In all of the films I have done, I have never seen the quality of people that you are bringing in.” We were doing scenes… they were actually in Bellevue, by the way. The scenes that were in Bellevue were actually in Bellevue — never shot there before; that was never allowed. But the scenes in the rooms, when I finally had my stuff and got my bed… those were all extras. But they were so incredible I couldn’t tell the difference between our own homeless friends and the extras.

Lauren B.: Was the reception good within the homeless community? Were they interested in the message of the movie?

To read more of the interview visit

LAUREN BRADSHAW grew up in Courtland, graduated from Southampton Academy and doubled-majored in foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area and can be reached at