The Realities Of Acting Homeless

“I’m not a homeless man but I play one on TV.” Actors, like Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins, share their public experiences with homelessness – and what it says about people, in general.



In 2018, the BBC and Amazon presented a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear featuring Sir Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson and Andrew Scott. In the modern day adaptation, Hopkins plays Lear, someone who has “lost his mind” and is roaming the streets of a 21st century, highly militarized London.


During filming in late 2017, Anthony Hopkins had a peculiar exchange with a passerby; he was mistaken for a homeless man.


Seen pushing around his belongings in a trolley, a woman stopped to talk to Hopkins. ‘You know, there’s a hostel up the road,” she said without recognizing the star, adding, “You might want to take your shopping trolley down there’.”


The experience is not unique to Hopkins. Daniel Radcliffe has been mistaken for homeless, as has Sir Ian McKellen, and Richard Gere recalls a similar situation to Hopkins while filming on the streets of New York.


In his lead role in 2015’s Time Out Of Mind, Gere took to the streets of the Big Apple incognito as someone who is down-and-out. Gere sat on street corners for up to 45 minutes at a time without being recognized, something that surprised writer and director, Oren Moverman.


"We thought, if we got two minutes before someone recognized [Richard], we'd be lucky,” said Moverman. “If you looked in his eyes,” he added, “it was Richard Gere. But nobody would look at him."


The experience reinforced to Moverman and to Gere that people who are homeless are non-existent.


"I’m nobody. I don’t exist,” said Richard Gere in an interview in the New York Daily News. He continued, "I could tell when people from two blocks away had made a judgment about me on the corner. Just by the vibe I was giving off and the fact that I was standing still in a city that’s always moving.”


Gere added, “I wasn’t harassing anyone. I had a coffee cup but I wasn’t shaking it in front of people’s faces. But people are used to making judgments about situations, consciously and subconsciously.”


Were Richard Gere’s and Anthony Hopkins’ experiences the result of terrific acting? Or was it the remarkable work of Wardrobe? Who deserves special recognition? That, we believe, goes to the woman who saw an opportunity to come to the aid of another human being. The award goes to her.


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