WESTCHESTER – Conboy Westchester Funeral Home owner Matt Conboy never thought he would host Hollywood A-listers at his business. But on March 28, he and his family welcomed the cast and crew of “What They Had,” a film written and directed by Elizabeth Chomko and starring Blythe Danner, Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon.
“We’ve had small, indie films use the home, but nothing like this. It was a major production,” Conboy said. “I didn’t realize the magnitude when they first called, and I was overwhelmed at first after hearing the actors’ names. But it was an honor and very flattering that they chose us.”
The director rented the funeral home for the entire day and spent about 16 hours there, filming six or seven scenes of a visitation for one of the characters, played by actor Robert Forester.
The movie is about a woman, Swank, who has to fly home to Chicago after her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, Danner, wanders off during a blizzard. The drama, which has been shooting in the Chicago area over the past few weeks, is scheduled to be released in 2018.
The funeral home actually hosted the visitation and funeral for Chomko’s grandfather in 2011, Conboy said.
Jean Conboy Hanson, Conboy’s sister and co-owner, said the crew filmed the scenes in a few of the funeral home’s chapels, in the hallway and outside the building. The parking lot was packed with the actors’ trailers, food trucks and equipment, and about 75 extras filled the chapels for the visitation scene.
Conboy Hanson said the director called them to ask about renting the funeral home a few weeks prior to the shoot and then came out to look at it a few times before the filming date.
“I think [Chomko] wanted to come back because [the funeral home] has a special place in her heart, and it worked out very nicely,” she said. “We’d definitely be open to hosting movie shoots again.”
Conboy and his family were able to meet the actors, whom he said were “very nice and down-to-earth.” They also were able to watch them shoot the scenes, which Conboy said gave him a new appreciation for actors and filmmaking.
“The scenes were dramatic, and it was interesting to see how they go about preparing for them. They were going over their lines in the hallway,” he said. “They were here in the middle of 22 days straight of filming for 14 to 16 hours a day. I give them a lot of credit. They did quite a few takes for each scene. It was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
The Conboy family didn’t have to prepare for the shoot because the crew set everything up the way they wanted to for the scenes, but Conboy said he and his sister had to stay until the early hours of the morning to return all the furniture to its place after the shoot wrapped.
“They moved everything, but as they were getting ready to leave, they didn’t remember where it all went, so we had to put everything back,” Conboy said with a laugh. “But it was great. It’s not often you get to meet Hollywood actors, but they’re just normal people. I thanked them for being here, and they thanked us for letting them film here.”