Gere plays a homeless man living in New York City in the film. While shooting the role he realized how invisible the homeless can be.
He said, “The whole thing was predicated on the fact that I would be on the streets, and New York would be passing me by as if I was who I was supposed to be. The camera was in a Starbucks, no one on the street could see. I’m out there for the first time to see if this is gonna work — and I’m still making movies, I’m still out there, so I was scared and anxious. … [at first,]no one paid any attention to me. I had the cup. I started talking after a while. … ‘Can you help me out? Spare change?’ No eye contact. Even when someone gave me a dollar bill, no eye contact. That to me was the first time I really felt the inside of what that is. … You’re radiating failure, being homeless on the street.”
Gere shared that only two African-American pedestrians recognized him on the street.
“They said, ‘Hey, rich! How are you doing, man?’ No question whatsoever about what I was doing there, ‘Have you fallen on hard times?'” he laughed. “White people, we’re very much in our capsules — we get from here, and we know where we’re going to, and we see very little between here and there. African-Americans are much more—they see the world around them, for whatever reason, so that was a very interesting process.”
The film is a personal one for Gere who has been a longtime supporter of the Coalition for the Homeless. The filmmakers really want to change audiences’ minds about what they are seeing, so at early screenings, they encouraged viewers to attend to their smart phones and even take calls.
Gere explained, “We wanted to make a movie from when you look up from your cell phone or email. … We’re asking people to watch something they don’t really want to watch.”
Time Out of Mind debuted at the 2014 New York Film Festival.