04/10/2015 10:11 am ET Updated Jun 10, 2015

Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind : Opening Night at the Sarasota Film Festival

A favorite at film festivals throughout the fall, the movie Time Out of Mind, stars one of the great cinematic heartthrobs, Richard Gere. "Lord have mercy," exclaims one of the retirees in the recent Best Marigold Hotel sequel when Gere's silver haired character enters the room. Of course we all fell in love with him in Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride and even when he was impossibly handsome eye candy in Paul Schrader's American Gigolo. But here, in Oren Moverman's film to open the Sarasota Film Festival, Gere plays against type, a homeless man living on the streets of New York City. Oren Moverman, recently interviewed, was surprised that Richard Gere brought him the project, and that Mark Famiglio invited him to Sarasota with this film:

Oren Moverman:

I was shocked in the best way. In 2009, we opened the Sarasota Film Festival with The Messenger and that was the beginning of a good run with the movie. The movies I work on tend not to be light, so to choose to set the tone for a film festival with a film that could engage you this way is wonderful and impressive. I was surprised to learn homelessness is a huge problem in Florida. It's a problem everywhere, in urban settings and warm climates where people can actually exist outside. The movie takes place in a New York urban setting, but it has a universal theme: the homeless and the dispossessed are a problem for everyone.

Why would Richard Gere be attracted to the role of a homeless man?

When you have Richard Gere in a movie, you can never completely erase that. You fall in love with Richard Gere in a different way. The surprise was that Time Out of Mind was his initiative. He had an early version of the script and came to me saying, I am obsessed with this thing. I want to do something different from what I usually do. The film taps into another side; he's almost like a monk, silent.

How did you shoot such a recognizable star in New York City without attracting crowds?

The city moves around the character. We shot him from far away, eating out of the garbage. A French tourist gave him food. We had him blending in with life. We made the camera invisible, shooting from a block away, hiding our huge lenses inside stores. We were making a point: you have to make an effort to notice other people's stories.

You will have another film screened in Sarasota, one you've written, Love & Mercy, about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Which is first for you, screenwriting or directing?

Screenwriter is first, but I have to acknowledge I directed 3 movies in 7 years.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.