"If I had been Richard Gere there, I wouldn't have lasted 30 seconds," he told PEOPLE

By Adam Carlson
Updated September 19, 2015 05:40 PM
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When Richard Gere finally stepped out into New York City as the homeless man at the center of his new movie, Time Out of Mind, no one even noticed.

“I was out there for the very first shot, 40 minutes plus – no one made eye contact with me,” Gere, 66, told PEOPLE Friday at a Los Angeles Confidential event at AKA Beverly Hills.

“I was in character,” he said. “I was in one of the busiest places in New York. If I had been Richard Gere there, I wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds.”

The trick wasn’t even that Gere was unrecognizably dressed or made-up, he said.

“It was just I wasn’t the movie star and people’s projections on what they saw from the body language and where I was in the street filled in these spaces with an erroneous story,” he said.

Richard Gere’s Changing Looks

Being in such places for production on the film – a longtime passion project which follows Gere’s character through the city – made him realize “how tenuous all of our perceptions are in the world,” he said.

Even if you aren’t an A-lister.

“It wasn’t about me,” Gere said. “It was a perception about all of us that we tend to just skate along the surface of things. We never stop to really look and feel beyond the surface of what we see and there’s a whole deeper, more profound reality below that.”

Reporting by MARIAH HAAS