Sundance 2018 featured the World Premiere of What They Had last weekend at the famous Eccles Theatre (seats 1,270) in Park City, Utah, with an all-star cast and feature film team. To take you there, we captured seven red carpet interviews with Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank, Emmy Award Winner Blythe Danner, Oscar Nominee Michael Shannon, Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story), Composer Danny Mulhern, Director Elizabeth Chomko and Producer Albert Berger.
In this drama, Hilary Swank’s character Bridget flies back to her hometown of Chicago to help her mother (Ruth played by Blythe Danner), who is wanders into a blizzard and is faced with Alzheimer’s. Bridget’s brother (Nicky played by Michael Shannon) and daughter (Emma played by Taissa Farmiga) have their own challenges, and she struggles to keep the peace in the family and take care of herself.
PRODUCER ALBERT BERGER (Little Miss Sunshine) described Hilary Swank’s role this way, “Hilary plays Blythe’s daughter, and in this movie, she’s in a kind of in an exquisite, torturous situation because she’s dealing with her kids and her own marriage, as well as her parents, and the decision about whether or not her mom needs to be put in a rest home. She’s got it on all sides, and she gives a great performance walking that path.”
HILARY SWANK (who is also one of the film’s producers) described what it was like to play a mother to her mother (Ruth) and mother to her daughter (Emma). Hilary reflected, “I think my character has always been a caretaker and one of the things she’s avoided is actually caretaking herself, and I think a lot of women find themselves in that position.”
BLYTHE DANNER then reflected on her role with a big heart, “Well it was difficult, and we didn’t have a lot of prep time, but I completely relied on Elizabeth (Director). I’m not ashamed to say that I was almost spoon-fed this performance because she has a really beloved grandmother, who this is based on, and the interactions of the family is so interesting. Everyone has a struggle, or has something to deal with, as every family does.”
MICHAEL SHANNON shared how the family dynamics in this movie will strike a cord with many, “When you watch a movie about a family, it obviously probably makes you think about your own family, and a lot of people struggle with certain issues with their family, particularly when your parents are aging…so maybe it will give you some ideas for how to deal with it yourself.”
TAISSA FARMIGA was excited to be at Sundance, and described her role this way, “I play Emma, who is a college kid, who she’s about to graduate, and she kind of doesn’t know what she wants to do, and she’s facing a lot of pressure from her mom, Bridget, played by Hilary Swank.”
COMPOSER DANNY MULHERN then described what it was like to compose the score for his first Sundance and first feature film. Danny expanded, “It was the best job I ever had…The first time I saw it, I cried. And I just felt so emotionally connected with it, and went straight to the studio, and came up with a piano theme, which did end up in the theme.”
DIRECTOR ELIZABETH CHOMKO described what motivated her to write the film that is based on a true story, “I was inspired by people that I loved very, very much, more than anything in the world, and it was really inspired by the notion of memory….And this film is my attempt to capture memories that I didn’t want to ever forget.”
When asked about the key message to take away from the film, Producer Albert Berger, added, “The movie is called ‘What They Had’, and it refers to Hilary wanting in her own life what her parents have, the kind of love they have for each other. It’s very powerful, and I think a lot of people will connect.”
Look for this film in theaters across the U.S. sometime in 2018 (date TBD). Yes, it’s a drama about a tough topic, but there is also some comedy to lighten it up. And this film is guaranteed to hit heartstrings and make you think about ways to deal with challenges in your own family.
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Photo Credit: Group photo: Bleecker Street