Richard Gere Is Turning That Fake Undercover Homeless Photo Into A Real Conversation

If you believed the Facebook post that claimed Richard Gere had gone undercover in New York City as a homeless man — handing out $100 bills, no less — then you were fooled.

Richard Gere stepped forward a couple days ago to put that rumor to rest and clarify that the photo of him, looking lonely and disheveled on a city sidewalk, wasn’t an undercover operation at all. It was a picture of Gere incognito as a George, a character in his new movie, Time out of Mind, the New York Daily News reported.

The film shoot required Richard to move about the city in character while the director shot footage of his interactions with people via hidden cameras, according to MSNBC. In the film, Richard Gere plays a mentally ill homeless man who tries to connect with his estranged daughter, played by Jena Malone.

In other words, the apathetic treatment Gere received from passersby during filming was completely genuine. So were the reactions people had to the fake photo on Facebook, and now Richard wants to use that outpouring of concern and emotion to do something good.

This all started back on October 8, when an unofficial Richard Gere fan page posted the photo along with a fabricated story that read, in part, “No one noticed me… People would just past by me and look at me in disgrace. So many times we forget how blessed we are. We should not take that for granted. And if we can help someone in need, we should.”

The post stated that because of the disheartening experience, Richard Gere handed out $100 bills and food to homeless afterward.

“They cried and were so grateful. Be the change you wish to see in the world,” the post concluded.

Richard Gere plays mentally ill homeless man in new film
[Photo By Andrew Toth / Getty Images]

Many responded to the fictional message, which does have a meaningful moral. Over 1.5 million users liked it, and the post was shared over half a million times. But the comments in response to Richard Gere’s undercover experiment were the most touching.

“I was homeless and lost everything when I fell and broke my arm,” shared someone named Ayita Lee. “The stigma that goes with homeless people is terribly felt by those that have worked their whole lives to keep food on the table. so many ppl knew I was in need of a break but no one helped.”

Another person explained why it can be difficult to reach out.

“It is sad…sometimes you’re afraid…afraid the person can hurt you…afraid they will use the money to buy drugs or alcohol and hurt themselves…you just don’t know what to do…I feel sad at myself that I don’t stop because of those reasons,” Judi Beyda explained.

And then this heartbreaking comment from a man named Erwin S. Burns, who shared a sentiment Richard Gere experienced while filming the movie.

“As a former homeless veteran, I truly know this feeling, but you need to understand his statement. The only thing I wanted was human interaction. I wanted people to show me that they cared. I wanted someone to ask me if I was OK. I didn’t want drugs or alcohol and the thought of robbing someone never crossed my mind. I just wanted to feel human.”

Richard Gere plays mentally ill homeless man in new film
Still from ‘Time out of Mind’ [Photo Via YouTube Screengrab]

During an interview with the Today show, Richard Gere said the most memorable thing about the experience of being George was the lack of human contact. Though Gere has been a prominent actor for decades, no one recognized him and projected many assumptions about him just based on his haircut and clothes. No one wanted to make contact — physically, emotionally, or spiritually — with Richard.

“I was out for 21 days and I only had two people recognize me the whole time. It was amazing to me that just the visual and physicality of the guy on the street, people projected panhandling on me… I wasn’t harassing anyone,” Richard Gere recalled. “I had a coffee cup but I wasn’t shaking it in front of people’s faces. But people are used to making judgments about situations, consciously and subconsciously, from two blocks away. And from that far away they’d make the decision not to engage.”

Now, Richard Gere wants to use the viral photo and the empathy it inspired to have a real conversation about homelessness. On Wednesday morning, Richard will host a Q&A on Time out of Mind co-star Jena Malone’s Facebook page (he doesn’t have a social media account).

“I’d like to find out what that is and what we can do together to make something good and meaningful happen for our homeless brothers and sisters,” Richard Gere wrote.

[Image via Unofficial Richard Gere Facebook]

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