To say that I felt the happiest woman yesterday is to say the least. I felt like the luckiest girl on this planet, because thanks to San Francisco Film Society, not only did I get a chance to meet a movie legend, Richard Gere, but I was also lucky to get a warm welcome from the actor and ask him a few questions. And it is my absolute pleasure as the Founder of this project to share with you my review of the pleasant evening.
Last night San Francisco Film Society hosted Richard Gere at Castro Theater to present Festival's Peter J.Owens Award and screening of "Time Out of Mind" in which the actor portrays a homeless, mentally ill man living on the streets of New York. He wonders through the city looking for food, alcohol, and shelter. He tries to make contact with his estranged daughter eventually taking advantage of the social services provided by the city of New York.
The actor who feels strong about an issue homeless people face in our country wanted to direct the movie himself, but as he shared with us he didn't quite know how to bring it out, so he gave it to director, Oren Movermen.
First to arrive to Castro Theater was the director of the movie, Oren Movermen, followed by Richard Gere. While everyone was still shooting Oren, I turned my camera to photograph Mr.Gere. His reaction when he saw me snapping his photos was amazing. He waved into the camera and immediately walked towards the the press line, stopping right next to me (how lucky am I? ).
"Pleasure to meet you Mr.Gere" I said.
What a charming, beautiful and talented man, I thought to myself.
As I stood next to him in a complete shock digesting the fact that I was standing with none other than Richard Gere, he pointed at Oren Moverman (the Director who was signing autographs at the time) and exclaimed,
"This is the Man!", "He is the genius behind this movie".
The 65-year-old actor said he is particularly proud of his portrayal of a homeless man in Oren Moverman's film.
"What was the biggest challenge for your while filming this movie?", we asked the actor.
"To be able to live through the experience as homeless, actually live on the street to get the reality of it. I got to see how homeless people are treated by other members of society and what I found was greatly disheartening", the actor said.
"Weren't you afraid of being recognized?"
"I've been down there a million times, usually rushing through to try not to be recognized. But as the character I was freaked out because no on would even make an eye contact with me".
During filming of the movie, a French tourist mistaken Richard Gere (who was in character) for a homeless man and gave him leftover pizza. The tourist later found out it was the actor in a New York Post article.
Oren Movermen shared with us that movie plays more like a silent movie. The audience has to let go of the normal expectation for storytelling. It is asking the audience what it is like to be a human being?
Richard Gere mentioned how the MGM was proud of the movie and that Oprah loved it and shared it with her viewers.
When the film startedit was difficult to see Richard Gere as the homeless man, because majority of hisroles were about sexy billionaires. But as the movie progressed and because of the brilliant acting we saw it. Later in the audience someone asked if there was something about Richard Gere that attracted billionaire movies, to which Richard joked, "Penis envy".
The film shows the bureaucracy homeless people have to deal with , choices they have to make. A real drama. It was difficult to hold back thetears toward the end of the movie. (especially when the actor looks so much like your dad).
During the conversation with Mr.Gere the actor mentioned that San Francisco has a lot more homeless people than New York. A lot of visible homeless. The audience laughed. The actor then laughed with the audience and asked,
"Is that because you are proud of it?".
Richard Gere also shared a little about his love for Buddhism.
"Buddhism answered me who I really am. I suggest it to all of you. It's a great ride"
He also shared his adventure meeting the Great Dalai Lama.
"Does Dalai Lama watch your film?", someone from the audience asked.
"If he had, he would have said something. There were other things we talked about . But there was one time we met and I stayed with his younger brother. He was so charming and relaxed. i was so nervous. I could tell he was asking his brother who I was in their language . Then he looked at me and said, "My brother said you are an actor. Tell me when you are crying, are you really crying? And when you are laughing, are you really laughing? ". I said yes, those were my true emotions. And the great Dalai Lama laughed hysterically. That stuck with me forever."
The evening ended with Richard Gere being honored with the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting. The actor thanked the audience and San Francisco Film Society for the warmwelcome he received. Onething for sure is the sincere intention of actor-producer Gere reflected in the work of the actorand we are lucky to have watched the movie in the company of talented actor Richard Gere and director Oren Moverman.
Text by J.Belkin