Richard Gere and director Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”) appeared at the 2014 New York Film Festival for a press conference about their new film, “Time Out of Mind.” It’s an extraordinarily realistic piece of work in which Richard plays a homeless man in New York City.
During filming, Richard passed as homeless among New Yorkers with most of them never recognizing him. For him, the subject matter has been important for a long time, as he has been involved with the Coalition for the Homeless for more than a decade.
He has also had the script for the film for longer than that, but it was only when he teamed up with Moverman that the two men felt they had a handle on how to create this portrait of homelessness in America.
The movie also stars an unrecognizable Kyra Sedgwick, Ben Vereen, and Jena Malone. Richard, who also was a producer on the film, contributed music to the soundtrack, as did Jena. “Time Out of Mind” is quite an achievement on a number of levels.
Below are some of the highlights from the press conference:
Oren and Richard on how they approached the making of the film:
Oren: It was really about going into New York and getting that sense of the guy on the corner that you don’t notice and making a movie about him. And everything had to do with that.
We shot this whole movie on only three lenses. They were quite big lenses, but we were hiding all the time. And we were creating this soundscape….
It was about listening to the city and watching it and creating these very simple situations where these people are just human…. We were creating 3D sound, essentially.
Richard: It was one of the few things that we said we’ve got to spend whatever the money is to get great sound….
Oren: We wanted to do everything that most people who shoot in New York take out of the movie. They want clean sounds. They want to manipulate it and just add what they want. We wanted it to be dirty. We wanted the feeling of being in New York and walking on the street. And you have fragments of conversations, and you have dramas happening everywhere.
Richard on working with Oren:
The first cut he showed me was like, “Okay, that was the movie I hoped we had made.” And I was thinking about this 10 years ago, so for me, it was a miracle.
Oren has a real bizarre sense of time on film. He doesn’t feel rushed. He doesn’t care about cutting. It’s not what he does. He just wants us to be in the movie with these people, and he doesn’t want to manipulate it in any way whatsoever. And I’m quite aware of 2 hours in storytelling, and he kept telling me to slow down….
I’d [the character] left my bag outside because I was drunk and they threw me out of the building, and my stuff was dumped all over the street. I played the scene, and I got my stuff. And I felt like this was going to be boring to just pick it up slowly. So, I’m rushing to get it back into my bag, and Oren said, “Take your time. However long it takes, it takes.”
Oren on some of the other actors in the film:
Kyra wanted to play this woman. She wanted to transform. And she went out and started talking to people. She talked to homeless women, and she came back with a lot of notes. And I, basically being the cheat that I am, I took those notes and wrote a monologue….
Ben Vereen said, “I need to make this movie,” and when he told me why, it was clear that he needed to make this movie for his own personal reasons.
Richard on his impression of what it feels like to be homeless (based on his experiences in making the film, as well as his work for years with the Coalition for the Homeless):
I keep telling people it’s actually worse than being invisible. It’s a black hole that everyone is afraid to get sucked into. You’re radiating failure being homeless in the street. No one wants to be near you.
And for me, the profundity of my experience doing this! The first day we did what we were calling a “test day” to see if this was going to work at Astor Place, and the camera was in the Starbucks. No one on the street could see the camera. But I’m out there the first time to see if it was going to work, and I’m still making movies…. But no one paid any attention. No one saw me.
I had a cup…. I started approaching people, not harassing, just approaching – “Can you help me out? Spare change? Can you help me out? Spare change?” No one came up to me. Even when someone gave me a dollar bill, no eye contact. That was the first time I’ve really felt inside of what that is.
And for me, I come here, and you want to hear what I have to say. You’ve seen my movie. I’m iconic in some way. It’s romantic in some way.
I’m the same guy who was on the street, but no one wanted to come near me. No one wanted to hear his story. So, for me, it was a profound experience of existentialism…
I think we all have a yearning to be known, to be seen…. I’m not seeing this guy as a homeless guy. I’m seeing him as us. We’re all yearning for love, for affection, to be seen, to be embraced, to be part of.
Richard on one funny experience of being anonymous on the street during filming:
There may have been two or three times people talked to me on the street. Once was a French tourist, a woman, who just totally thought that I was a homeless guy needing some food. The other two were African Americans, and they just passed me and said, “Hey, Rich, how ya doin’, man?” No question as to what I was doing there. No “have you fallen on hard times?” [Laughter]
Richard on whether he created a back story for his character:
We decided in the process of writing and rewriting this movie, we wanted to remove the back story. We put enough in to kind of hold onto the relationship between me and Ben. He was gifted with some of my back story because he was my friend, not because either of us needed the audience to know the back story.
In our own lives, we make judgments on people without knowing anything about them…. I think that’s really what we were doing. “Let’s just present a guy here….”
We wanted to make this film in a much more intuitive way, like life.
There is no trailer for “Time Out of Mind” yet, but it opens Oct. 5, 2014 at the New York Film Festival. Get tickets from the Film Society of Lincoln Center.