'Same Kind of Different' red carpet premiere – in your loungeroom
“I have no idea,” responds Ron Hall when asked about why God would speak to him through a homeless ex-prisoner and murderer named Denver Moore. But that is exactly what happened to him two decades ago, according to this former millionaire art dealer turned advocate for helping the homeless.
“I had a pretty hard heart …” recalls Hall of that time. “I was open to hearing from God – but he had to really beat me over the head with it.
“I don’t normally believe these kinds of things. People would tell me stories like this and I’d just not believe it. But the good news is I lived the story [and] God gave me the gift of story-telling to go out and tell people, to inspire them to change and try to make a difference.”
The “unbelievable” story of Hall’s transformation was captured in the book Same Kind of Different As Me, which he co-wrote with Denver Moore – the man God used to change Hall’s life. Their bestseller later became a film starring Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear (who plays Hall) and Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (as Hall’s wife Debbie).
Releasing this week in Australia, Hall is part of a Red Carpet premiere with a difference – it will be totally online. A flagship movie of the ‘Hope At Home’ film festival, Same Kind of Different As Me‘s launch this weekend includes a premiere you can attend in your pyjamas, as Hall beams in from Texas for a live Q & A session. Proceeds from this special event support Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal, to assist homeless people in Australia.
Same Kind of Different As Me still can be a tough watch for Hall, as he sees himself portrayed (accurately) as “I used to be – arrogant and a cheating husband.” But after his wife Debbie forgave him for his infidelity, she eventually challenged him in 1998 to look past himself and help her feed homeless people at a mission in Dallas Fort Worth. It was there that Hall met Moore, the Christian man who “became my mentor in life” – a guiding figure in Hall’s life that his wife had previously dreamed about with vivid detail.
As Hall confirms, his story is not one about the “art dealer millionaire that saved this poor, African-American homeless man. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“He taught me the way to live, not the other way around. He saved me from being an arrogant, self-centred art dealer, to becoming someone who actually cares about the well-being of others.”
“I was at a point in my life where I had chased money for so long that God got a hold of me and showed something that is more important.”
Hall enjoys how his friendship is presented in a “deep and beautiful” way in the movie, with Blood Diamond and Guardians of the Galaxy actor Djimon Hounsou playing Moore. The sort of man who shared wisdom, faith and eternal perspectives with Hall that shook up his very core – from the moment they met.
“The first time I sat down with Denver on the curb, by his dumpster, I asked him what it was like to be homeless. He said, ‘Well, you tell me.’ I said, ‘I’ve never been homeless. I live in a beautiful home.’ And he said, ‘Let me tell you something Mr Ron – whether we is rich or whether we is poor or whether we is something in between, we are all homeless. We are just working our way home.’”
Working our Way Home is the title of Hall’s next book, a follow-up to Same Kind of Different As Me. It shares how Hall and Moore lived together for ten years after Debbie Hall’s death in 2000. “He and I had become closer than brothers,” Hall says. “When he moved in with me, he had nothing. But he gave me everything.”
Part of Hall’s radical transformation includes starting the ‘Same Kind of Different As Me’ foundation. It has tried to meet emergency needs of homeless shelters. Lately, that’s been masks and disinfectants. Donations are down due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 but not enough to stop the foundation’s work
When Same Kind of Different As Me was released in the USA in 2017, Hall noticed a surge in volunteers to help homeless people. He knows that cannot happen amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions but hopes “when things open up again, people’s hearts will be at a place where they want to go out and make a friend of someone different from them.”
“This film [can give] us new eyes to see how we can make a difference. It illustrates beautifully the important message that it’s not the language we speak, or the colour of our skin that divides us; it’s the condition of our hearts. It forces people to examine the condition of their hearts.”
“It’s a timeless story of faith, hope, love, redemption, grace, friendship, forgiveness. All are perfect themes for an imperfect world.”
Given we are still talking about the “timeless” true story of Hall’s own life, I ask if there is any chance of movie immortality causing him to go back to his old arrogant ways? No, Hall replies – not when he is eager to point people to the true source of his (and Denver Moore’s) outlook on life.
“I don’t let anyone put me on a pedestal. I’m still a sinner saved by grace with a message of hope for those who ain’t got none.”
“You can’t always trust those professing Christ but you can always trust Christ. If you put your truest and faith in him, he will not disappoint you.”
“Christ, ultimately, will give you hope – and the greatest thing: he will show you grace. You will have redemption and you will be with him for eternity.”