Time Out of Mind
Oren Moverman walks between projects where he’s written a script, some about musicians, produces films, and projects he writes and directs.
“Before there was the subject what attracted me was Richard Gere. We ran into each other at a party. We knew each other from a movie that I co-wrote called I’m Not There,” Moverman says to Free Press Houston in a phone interview.
“We were catching up, and he mentioned a character he was obsessed with. And a script that he couldn’t figure out, and that needed a rewrite,” Moverman adds. “That got my immediate attention. Here an actor wants to play another persona from what has defined his career. I knew there was something to explore there.”
The resulting film Time Out of Mind depicts Gere as a homeless man in Manhattan. Under Moverman’s direction we observe Gere from the point of view of the city itself. Whether he’s sleeping on a bench, taking refuge at a shelter or trying to unite with his alienated daughter there is always distance between his character and the camera. Other players include Jean Malone, Steve Buscemi and Michael Buscemi, Kyra Sedgwick, and Ben Vereen. “The people who jumped onboard didn’t mind small roles,” says Moverman. “They wanted to be part of what this movie was about.”
Moverman has lived in New York City nearly three decades but was unaware of the realities that Gere’s character experiences. “I never noticed the world of shelters, the intricacies and details of homeless living. As much as I would love to say I came into it as an activist and someone who wanted to change the world, I really came into it in a very small kind of curious way. And then it opened up these possibilities that became the movie.”
Production on Time Out of Mind was a very quick process. “It was a movie designed to work with whatever we shot. Obviously there was editing involved and choices being made we were very, very specific about what we need for every scene,” says Moverman.
“It’s the story of a guy you wouldn’t notice on the street in everyday life. It’s keeping distance from the character but it’s also finding him with zoom lenses, it’s getting closer to him and observing him in all kinds of situations.
“That was the surprise because they didn’t. The first day was filming Gere panhandling. We felt it would just be a few minutes before his cover was blown and he was recognized. We were worried whether the concept would work. He didn’t look like another person, he just looked beat up. We had the camera hidden inside a Starbucks,” says Moverman.
“We thought we could get two good minutes before he gets recognized. And then 45 minutes into it we cut. Nobody looked him in the eye, people avoided him as they walked past him. In the context of a homeless man most of us avoid eye contact,” says Moverman. “Later in the shoot, a couple of times at Grand Central Station people walked past and said ‘Hi Richard’ but it wasn’t a star sighting. It was more of a sorry about your troubles kind of thing.”
Regarding some of his work as a scriptwriter Moverman notes that “Music fills my life, there’s no life without music.
“The idea of non-linear storytelling is something that I find really exciting and compelling. You are playing with form and you are playing with structure. At the end of the day that is what you do as a musician, chord changes, key shifts, all the things that make for originality.
“I’m Not There is much more experimental, no one character in the movie is called Bob Dylan. It’s a representation of a period or an inference. The concept is there is no one who can claim to be Bob Dylan including Bob Dylan,” explains Moverman. Another recent film Moverman shares writing and producing credit on is the Brian Wilson biopic where Paul Dano and John Cusack play the leader of The Beach Boys.
“Love & Mercy is much more straight foreword. There are two actors playing Brian Wilson at different periods of his life but they are representations of Brian Wilson.”
Time Out of Mind is currently playing an exclusive engagement at the Premiere Renaissance 15 (at Greenspoint). Time Out of Mind will expand to the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park on October 30.
— Michael Bergeron