Making a Difference: Ron Hall, film stars headline Union Gospel Mission fundraiser

Ron Hall, left, and Denver Moore

The Union Gospel Mission of Fort Worth hosted a fundraising event called “Making a Difference” on Jan. 17 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Writer and producer Ron Hall, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Same Kind of Different as Me, and the stars of the film version, Djimon Hounsou and Greg Kinnear, were on hand.

The book about a friendship between international art dealer Hall and a homeless man, Denver Moore, at Union Gospel Mission was written by Hall, Moore and Lynn Vincent and sold over 1.5 million copies in 2006.

Ron’s wife, Deborah Hall, had a dream about a homeless man who would change the heart of an entire city. Then, while serving meals at Union Gospel Mission, she noticed the same man from her dream. The book follows the story of the Halls and Moore as they become entangled in each other’s lives.

The movie version is now set to be released by Paramount Pictures on Oct. 20. It was originally scheduled for an April 29, 2016, release, then pushed back to February 2017. The delay is a positive thing, according to Ron Hall, who produced and helped write the film.

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Hall posted about the new release date on Facebook, writing, “The opening and premier of Same Kind of Different as Me has been moved to a coveted October 20th release date. We shot this film in the fall to be a fall film and prayed for two years for such. By the grace of God, Paramount contracted the marketing of our film with Pure Flix, the largest faith-based film production and marketing firm. After much thought, prayer, and analysis, they decided it was a perfect fit for the fall line-up. Hopefully, with a little momentum the first couple of weeks, it will be able to stay in theaters throughout the holiday season. If that happens, I’m confident that homeless missions all across America will be blessed by an influx of volunteers and donations. Thanks for hanging in there. We know this is God’s story, His Film, and His timing in perfect.”

At the event Jan. 17, Hall said he was ready for the film to open.

“I have been sitting on this egg for eight years and waiting for it to crack,” he said.

Same Kind of Different as Me has an all-star cast including Renee Zellweger, who plays the lead role of Deborah Hall, who died in 2000. Ron Hall will be portrayed by Greg Kinnear and Djimon Hounsou plays Moore, who died in 2006. Director Michael Carney co-wrote the script with Alexander Foard and Hall.

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At the center of the book and the film is the Union Gospel Mission. The organization began helping homeless people in Fort Worth in 1888.

The president and CEO of Union Gospel Mission, Don Shisler, hopes the movie will spotlight the needs of the homeless in communities nationwide. “The movie makes great awareness of not only our Mission, but of other missions and about homeless people,” he said. “It will help create new ways for people to think about how homelessness occurs and affects individuals.”

During a question-and-answer portion of the Making a Difference event, Hall interviewed actors Hounsou and Kinnear.

Hounsou opened up about his first-hand experience with homelessness. He was born in Benin in West Africa and when he moved to Paris at age 13, he couldn’t find work because he was considered illegal. “I spent a great amount of time on the streets. I was going through the trash to find something to eat,” he said. “That lasted for about a year. Then I was discovered by designer Thierry Mugler as a model, but my desire was always acting.”

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He also defined another area of closeness, if not kinship, with Moore. “My country, Benin, is a former French colony. Most of the slaves that left Africa left from that coastline,” he said. Moore spent his childhood in Louisiana, a descendant of those slaves.

Kinnear expressed the unusual dynamics on set, where he played Hall. “I’m not used to playing a person when they are behind the monitor every day,” he said.

When asked why he was drawn to the story, Kinnear said, “In learning the story – bringing in Debbie and sort of the three hander of all this … especially in fictional stories those are hard to build. … Denver drives the story. He is the center of change. He teaches Ron and Debbie. This felt like a very personal, honest story.”

The money raised from the event will go to fund new projects at Union Gospel Mission and help further its ministry.

“My hope is that the film will inspire people to see the homeless the way God sees them,” said Hall. “It’s not the color of our skin that divides us in this country, it’s the condition of our heart.”