Richard Gere Explains His Changed Relationship With Homeless People

Richard Gere plays a man living outside in New York City in his new movie Time Out of Mind. The film’s release is set for just two weeks after former mayor Rudolph Giuliani caused a stir by publicly complaining about a homeless man outside of his home. A New York Times article reported that homeless advocates called Giuliani’s comments “morally appalling,” after Giuliani advanced his view of how homelessness was reduced during his tenure.

“You chase ’em and you chase ’em and you chase ’em and you chase ’em, and they either get the treatment that they need or you chase ’em out of the city.”

Gere did not respond directly to Giuliani’s comments. But the Times article described Gere’s years of advocacy against homelessness. Gere himself explained how he has chosen to interact differently with people living outside.

“I went through a period where I insisted on talking, and then I realized how abusive that was — asking people about their stories and these intimate details of their lives.”

Gere revealed he now gives cash, between $1 and $5, instead.

Time Out of Mind, which has already debuted at several film festivals, has received criticism for the lack of a backstory for Gere’s character. Director Oren Moverman told The Hollywood Reporter the mystery surrounding Gere’s character, a father trying to repair a strained relationship with his daughter, helps advance the film’s message.

“Any kind of spelled-out backstory would have been a cheat on our intention to look at a person you don’t know anything about, and try to find compassion for him by seeing him, as opposed to 100 percent understanding him.”

The film has an added sense of reality, as street scenes were filmed from a distance and without hired extras. Gere told The Hollywood Reporter it demonstrated how people normally react to homeless individuals in a true-to-life setting. The Times reported that the film emphasizes how noise and other distractions make sleep difficult and results in a kind of “madness.”

Time Out of Mind has a long history. Gere told the Times that it had been in development since the late 1980s.

“Unfortunately, it was still relevant.”

The Washington Times reported that, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 500,000 people are homeless in the United States. The Alliance clarified on Twitter that while approximately 580,000 people are homeless on any given night, about 177,000 remain unsheltered.

The Washington Times report came as Gere was attending the National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington. Gere said statistics only get the movement so far.

“It’s not about numbers. Numbers [don’t] touch anybody. The more numbers there are, the [more numb] we get.”

Time Out of Mind opens on September 9.

[Photo by Simon Burchell / Getty Images Entertainment]