It was an impressive enough funeral that took place at the modest Catholic church in White Plains on Feb. 13 of last year to memorialize the fallen 24-year-old New York Police Department officer Eric Hernandez.
There were police helicopters flying formations overhead, statements from the Mayor and the police commissioner, bagpipers and horns, drummers in kilts and the impressive array of uniformed men seen too often at such funeral processions.
But even then, the appearance of a Hollywood camera crew outside St. Bernard’s church–accompanied by the actors Colin Farrell and Noah Emmerich–seemed a bit much.
Mr. Farrell had been filming in New York for a forthcoming drama in which he plays Jimmy Egan, a corrupt police officer whose precinct is being investigated by his best friend, Det. Ray Tierney, played by the actor Edward Norton.
Director Gavin O’Connor, himself the son of an NYPD detective, directed Pride and Glory, in which Hernandez had agreed to appear as an extra; Hernandez played on the force’s football team, as does Mr. Farrell’s character in the film.
Initially, newspaper reports indicated that the funeral procession was filmed to guide filmmakers in the production of a funeral scene set to appear in the movie.
But now, attendees at the funeral are being asked to sign release forms that will allow the producers to use footage taken at the funeral in the movie.
And at least one group of them is giving the filmmaker a hard time.
The volunteer pipe and drum group asked for a fee from producers of Pride and Glory in exchange for filling out release forms from six members who were filmed during the Hernandez funeral–and they say they are getting the cold shoulder.
“When they came to us to sign waivers we said we want some sort of donation, but we have not heard back from them for three weeks,” said NYPD Sgt. Brian Coughlin, band master of the Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society of the New York City Police Department.
Whether or not the producers were even given permission to film the funeral was initially a matter of contention between the captain of the force’s football team and Hernandez’s family; Mr. Farrell made international headlines after the father of the slain officer complained he had never even heard of the film. At any rate, Mr. Farrell quickly made it up to the family by inviting them to another filming location and talking to them about their son; producers of the film also paid for Hernandez’s headstone and for a memorial plaque in the precinct house.
The NYPD football team members filmed over three days last year at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn have already signed waivers for those scenes, according to Det. Ed Gardner, the general manager of the team.
But the waivers now going out from the filming at the Hernandez funeral are reopening the wound. And of about 80 members of the Pipes and Drums who performed at the funeral services, Sgt. Coughlin said, releases were needed for a half-dozen to screen the footage in the final version of the film.
At issue is the fact that the Pipes and Drums members normally require a donation from filmmakers who use footage of their performances in their films. Members of the group have played in eight movies, including The Departed, Copland, Miracle on 34th Street and Ghostbusters 2, and usually are paid between $5,000 and $10,000, Sgt. Coughlin said.
About three weeks ago a technical advisor on the movie, NYPD Det. Richard Tirelli, asked Sgt. Coughlin to get the waivers. The band leader told him that the nonprofit group wanted between $5,000 and $8,000, and then they would sign.
A spokeswoman for New Line Cinema, which is producing the film, said the Jan. 4, 2008 release date will not being affected by the release forms, but she declined to comment further.
Hernandez was mistakenly shot in the early morning of Jan. 28 at a White Castle in the Bronx by a fellow police officer.
The 24-year-old cop had been assaulted in the restaurant by a gang of youths, in a scene that was recorded in haunting images of a security videotape.
The brawl spilled outside, and a responding officer saw Hernandez pointing a gun at one the attackers, and told him to drop the weapon. Hernandez, who was wearing street clothes, did not respond, so the other cop shot him.
It was not clear whether Hernandez would be seen as an extra in Pride and Glory, but the filmmakers have said they will memorialize him in the credits of the film.