One winter day I got stuck with Richard Gere in Kathmandu, Nepal. He was traveling with friends of mine, and a snowstorm grounded their plane to Bhutan. We spent a delightful day in Kathmandu, exploring the local art shops. While he gracefully accepted the wishes of enthusiastic fans to give autographs, he talked about his hope that maybe Bhutan would be the one place on earth where he could travel incognito. Television was still a novelty in the tiny Himalayan kingdom, so he hoped the Bhutanese would not yet know him. When I met him again after the trip, I learned that he had had no such luck: Bhutan had videos, and just about every Bhutanese had seen Pretty Woman.
Fifteen years later, though, Richard Gere did indeed stumble upon the secret how to be invisible, even in the midst of New York. In his new film Time Out of Mind (out this month), he plays an elderly alcoholic who ends up on the streets. Gere wanted to shoot the film documentary-style, and he was worried his A-list status would attract too much attention.
No need to worry. Disappearing in plain sight is easy: instead of crossing the Himalayas, all Gere had to do was not to shave for a few days, don a dirty cloak, and ask people for spare change. Nobody recognized him, because nobody looked him in the face. "I could see how quickly we can all descend into territory when we're totally cut loose from all of our connections to people," Gere, a long-term supporter of the homeless, realized.
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