Richard Gere might not be the savviest of social media users, but the award-winning actor knows well enough when, and how, to respond to a viral story, even if it’s a hoax.
The “Pretty Woman” actor doesn’t have a Facebook account, but when he learned that a picture of him “panhandling” garnered more than 1 million likes, he decided to take to the foreign platform in order to set the record straight, and try to inspire his supporters to get involved in the cause.
The unauthorized post, featured on the "Unofficial: Richard Gere" Facebook page, showed a screenshot of a scene from “Time Out of Mind,” a movie in which the actor plays a man who has recently lost his home and is living on the streets. The post falsely notes that Gere went “undercover” as a homeless man and was so moved when a woman offered him some food that he went on to give out $100 to every homeless man he saw.
Nothing about the moving story is actually true. But Gere capitalized on the moment to open up a conversation on Facebook about his experience playing a homeless person, and how people can actually do something to make a difference.
Gere “borrowed” his co-star Jena Malone’s account on Wednesday to shoot a 45-minute segment with “Time Out of Mind” director Oren Moverman. He addressed questions from users, some of whom have experienced homelessness, and shared what it felt like to go completely unnoticed on the streets of New York City.
“No one was making eye contact with me, walking right by me,” Gere, who was nervous he’d get bombarded by fans, said of how people reacted to him. “I was realizing that people were making a decision, consciously or unconsciously from several blocks away -- there’s a homeless guy on the corner and I don’t really want to engage him.”
Gere made all of $1.50 from passersby after a day of filming, The Washington Times reported.
But the actor, who is a longtime supporter of the Coalition of the Homeless, felt bolstered by the outpouring of support and concern he got on Facebook, and noted that it was a sign that people are actually inherently drawn to helping others.
He noted that we can “all afford to give something" and that, at the end of the day, is what matters most above all else.
“Not only can we do good -- we can be good,” Gere said. “Ultimately that’s what makes us happy. We think it’s money or a job or power or the right boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s when we are good, we are good, we’re happy. It’s as simple as that."
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