I sat down with Richard Gere and director Oren Moverman to discuss their new film Time Out of Mind. Gere plays a homeless man trying to reconnect with his daughter Maggie (Jena Malone) as he tries to get his life back on track while living on the streets in Manhattan.
Lauren: 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.
Lauren V: I thought the movie did a beautiful job of creating a raw and real portrait of a homeless man living in New York City and I personally found it very educational about the homeless community in Manhattan and the homeless facilities that they have there. What do you hope audiences will take away after they see this movie?
Gere: Well, New York is the only right-to-shelter state, so you can’t find there here [in DC], you can’t find that anywhere. It’s still a form of warehousing. There are successes, but most failures in a system like that. I just think a general knowledge of the life that someone leads on the streets and what exactly it’s like in a shelter and this is how it is in New York. And they probably aren’t that different in other places where shelters are set up. I think we were more interested in finding what are the mysteries of human communication and the mysteries of human yearning? It is something that we all share. His yearnings are no different than yours or mine. Where’s my place in the universe? I feel safe and protected and people around me think I’m precious. We all look for that, whether it’s billionaires of guys on the street. I think the most gratifying thing is when people see the movie and they say, “You know, I usually walk by that guy on the corner, but I spent time thinking about it and I gave him some money and I didn’t feel the tension around that. It was more of a fresh human response to a fellow human being.
Lauren V.: Your filmography is incredible and all of your characters have been different, so when you’re finished with a film, does it take you a while to get out of the mind set of that character or are you thinking about your next project?
Gere: When I was beginning as an actor, I had to hold onto these characters 24 hours a day and I think I see that in other young actors as well. For good or for bad, its not that way anymore and I get in and out with these guys. But when a movie is over we all get depressed, not from the character, it’s the group of people of the movie and we were so reliant on each other. We had to come up with our best when we didn’t feel like it and our private lives were put on hold. It’s trench warfare in a lot of ways. When its over, you don’t have to get up at 5 am and you’re eating properly, but there is a letdown when it’s over, there is a depression.