Ron Hall always has a hard struggle getting his message out.
Even his bestselling book, Same Kind of Different As Me, was rejected by at least 20 publishers before finally seeing the light of day with Thomas Nelson.
“We got turned down more than the sheets at a five-star hotel,” Hall said May 3, as the former art dealer-turned-author spoke to a crowd at The Stayton at Museum Way.
Even after finding a publisher, the books were stacking up pyramid-like in Hall’s home until word of mouth began to spread. Helped considerably by the enthusiastic support of former first lady Barbara Bush, among others, the book eventually sold more than two million copies and counting, remaining on The New York Times’ best-seller list for three and a half years.
Hall discussed the book and the forthcoming film based on it. The movie, starring Renee Zellweger, Djimon Hounsou, Greg Kinnear and Jon Voight, is slated to hit theaters on Oct. 20.
If you don’t know Same Kind of Different As Me, it’s a book that tells the true story of Hall, his wife Deborah Hall and Denver Moore, an uncommunicative, somewhat threatening homeless man who becomes a change agent in their lives and the lives of the homeless in Fort Worth and across the country. Hall – and Moore until he died in 2012 – traveled the country giving more than 700 speeches in over 250 communities and cities, helping raise nearly $80 million for the underserved and homeless.
That’s particularly true in Fort Worth, where Hall’s encounter with Moore at the Union Gospel Mission impacted that organization.
It’s a story of hope, redemption and all that, but it’s also entertaining as hell. The quiet, uncommunicative Moore turns out to be a man of uncommon folksy eloquence. He is somehow able to channel the pain of a past where he lived in near slave-like conditions into proverbs of wisdom. The book’s title, for instance, came from Moore, a saying he coined as he realized how much he had in common with the wealthy, white Halls.
One of their many talks was at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth where Hall got up to speak first. He quickly realized that Moore had fallen asleep as he heard him snoring up on the dais.
Finally, Hall coaxed the sleepy Moore to the podium and, according to Hall, Moore gave a memorable “talk.”
“Denver said, ‘I’m going to do something for you that neither the devil nor the Baptist preacher has ever done, I’m going to cut you loose early.’”
There is now a movie-tie-in version of the book with several new chapters about getting the film made and – no surprise – the film, too, was a struggle.
At one point, Hall said, there was a screenplay written by an Italian writer that ended – spoiler alert – with Moore and Hall’s wife running away to New York, where they opened an art gallery.
“They didn’t know come here from sic ‘em,” Hall said.
Hall eventually won the rights back for the book and worked on the screenplay, which he said stays true to the book.
Along the way, he’s broken several cardinal rules of publishing and filmmaking to get his message out.
But Hall said that was in keeping with one of Moore’s many sayings: “Cardinal rules is for the birds.”