Thanks to a donation, about 200 homeless people from Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County got a free trip to the movies Sunday — to see a story about one of their own.
The late Denver Moore was co-author of the 2006 New York Times bestselling novel “Same Kind of Different As Me,” which has now been turned into a big-screen, uplifting drama.
“I spent 12 years with Denver and every day I got to know his voice,” said Ron Hall, who co-wrote the book with Moore.
A free screening of the movie, which features performances from Academy Award-nominated actors Greg Kinnear and Djimon Hounsou and Academy Award-winning actress Renee Zellweger in the roles of Moore, Hall and his late wife, Debbie.
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“Who could’ve ever dreamed of that!” Hall said.
But to embody the swagger of a cocky, fast-talking art dealer like Hall and the hidden smarts of Moore took some on-set coaching.
“Greg Kinnear being me, I had to coach him on being a self-centered art dealer,” Hall said. “Djimon did an absolutely extraordinary job. Denver had a great arc in his character and he got it right at every point in the arc. The crazy man ended up being the smartest person of us all.”
Their story began in 1998 inside the Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, in the 1300 block of East Lancaster Avenue. Don Shisler, president of the charity, was there to see the friendship begin.
“Well, it was an uncanny relationship at first,” said Shisler. “As it progressed on it became evident what the meaning was behind it.”
Hall said Moore wasn’t the easiest person to approach.
“At first we were seeking him,” Hall said. “But after he threatened to kill everybody in the room, I tried to avoid him.”
But Debbie pushed her husband to connect with Denver after he had an emotional outburst.
“She said, ‘I really believe if you can become his friend, and you know his message is from God, he could become a man who could change our city,’ ” said Hall.
The pair became best friends after Debbie died from cancer in 2000. Moore moved in with Hall and persuaded him to pen a book about their lives in 2003.
“Denver became Ron’s best friend and ministered him through Debbie’s death,” said Shisler.
They released the book independently shortly afterward and it didn’t gain much traction. But in 2006, it landed in the hands of a major publisher and went on to be a best-seller with millions of copies sold. Up until Moore’s death in 2012, the pair helped raise $50 million for homeless shelters across America.
When the credits rolled, many of the homeless left the theater in tears. Hall stood outside for close to an hour giving hugs and taking photos with the attendees before they boarded two chartered buses and headed back to the mission.
Now, he’s hoping the film spreads the message of how kindness toward others can effect positive change.
“This is a movie about one act of kindness that led to a city being transformed and lives being transformed,” Hall said. “Hopefully now it’s a message for the nation.”