The American folk tale gets an unexpected new twist in Craig William Macneill's new film.
Lizzie Borden took an axe / And gave her mother forty whacks / When she saw what she had done / She gave her father forty-one.
The story of Lizzie Borden and the brutal murder of her father and stepmother has long been one of early America’s signature — and very bloody — folk tales, and one that has inspired scads of adaptations for both the stage and screen, including a 1965 opera and a recent Lifetime made-for-TV movie and its subsequent limited series sequel, both starring Christina Ricci as the accused murderer.
But popular culture isn’t done with Lizzie yet, and a new film from “The Boy” director Craig William Macneill and newbie screenwriter Bryce Kass (he previously penned the 2014 TV movie “Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs”) looks to revisit the enduring tale, with a brand new twist. The film stars Chloe Sevigny as Lizzie, with Kristen Stewart taking a turn as the Borden maid Bridget Sullivan, and will reportedly use the pair’s relationship as a new lens from which to explore the crimes.
The new look at the Borden mythos is billed as a “gothic psychological thriller with an indelible romance at its core.” The film will explore “the events that led up to the notorious murders of the Borden family — and reveals the many layers of the strange, fragile woman who stood accused of their brutal murder” and will pick up “when Bridget Sullivan, a young maid, comes to work for the Borden family, [and] Lizzie finds a sympathetic and kindred spirit, and what begins as innocent companionship eventually escalates into attraction, love and bloody vengeance.”
“Lizzie” also stars Fiona Shaw, Jamey Sheridan, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare and Jeff Perry.
The film just wrapped principle production in Savannah, Georgia, and has celebrated by releasing a first look image at the film. There’s no blood, but definitely some dead people. Take a look.
“Lizzie” has not yet been picked up for distribution, but will likely arrive sometime in 2017.
A few days before the realease of his new movie Personal Shopper, which won the director award at the Cannes Film Festival, we met with Olivier Assayas – to whom we are dedicating a passionnating and rich retrospective for a few months.
You said : “I never reasoned with female character in the center of my movies. It’s an independent move that takes me to it, I listen to my desire, to my curiosity.” You meet again with Kristen Stewart, two years after Sils Maria. Can you tell that your desire, your curiosity to film her was not completely satisfied ? Olivier Assayas : Absolutely. I would never had said it quite like that but, in reality, it was a choice that imposed itself. I hadn’t written Sils Maria thinking of Kristen, but more of Juliette Binoche. It turns out that I was looking for an actress to play that young american assistant and it came clear really fast on Kristen – who brought something really particular to the movie. It wasn’t thought. She plays a more unidemensionnal character, she doesn’t have Maria’s complexity (Juliette Binoche’s character NDLR).
It’s true that I had a feeling to discover Kristen while filming Sils Maria, to understand what she could do, to know her inner richness, much beyond than what I could ever imagine. It creates a desires to extend this work by giving her the possibility to amplify it, to widen it. I could tell you that Personal Shopper allowed me to reach the end of what I wanted to expand and bring in her, but in the end not at all. I feel that I could very easily find her for a third film without having already revealed everything in her.
So can we expect a third fruitful collaboration between you and her?
However, since two films, you also seem to have fun to scratch actresses a little… To make monsters of narcissism, to mock their attitude of divas… And yet the assistant is played by a huge star while celebrity Is almost absent.
Sils Maria Personal Shopper, it’s not really an actress, it’s a star. She is famous for being famous. I hardly even represent her. She is in the “people” culture of her time. It interests me more in the fact that she is invisible. I liked the idea that Maureen (the character of Kristen Stewart) works for someone you never see. It is relatively common to work for people who are not seen in the contemporary world.
Kristen Stewart feeds the headlines people, attracting the paparazzis… Has this had an impact on the filming? Has that led to any particular difficulties? Or, on the contrary, does she find a sort of refuge on a shoot like this?
It was the pleasure of having made Sils Maria that made her want to renew the experience, with a more central role. She says so. While Sils Maria worked on the dynamics between two characters, it was interesting to be at the heart of the plot and the making of this film. She is very attached to the freedom on a shoot, something very specific that she does not necessarily find in the american cinema. Being at the heart of the creative process, in a somewhat family-friendly business. There was a continuity, a pleasure to be found again. But it was quite exhausting for her, we only filmed for about thirty days because the budget imposed it. It was challenging.
Was his popularity sometimes a hindrance to a shoot like yours?
No, but it’s a bit hard because you have to make sure the team manages to keep some fans away. I remember being annoyed because, shooting some of my scene in 360 degrees, missing a scene because we have curious people entering the field with their camera became pretty raging. What we shot in Paris was done with a very mobile camera, in a quasi-documentary style. It was really necessary to have the field as free as possible.
We shot two-thirds of the film in the Czech Republic, where it was easier to shoot outside than in Paris
MORRIS: Huppert is among the last of a dying breed of psychological star. That kind of acting has tended to be closely associated with the Europeans and the Method people, but is it nuts to watch Kristen Stewart work and think: She could be Huppert’s daughter?
SCOTT: No more nuts than my own hunch, which is that Kristen Stewart is the new Robert De Niro. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, De Niro’s reputation as the best actor in American movies rested on his ability to vanish completely into each role, to effect a physical and psychological transformation so total that you could barely recognize him from one movie to the next. Some of what he did was a matter of what you might call technical extremism: learning Sicilian dialect for “The Godfather Part II,” pushing his body from sinewy fighting trim to has-been bloatedness in “Raging Bull.” Stewart hasn’t quite done that yet, but she burrows as deeply as De Niro ever has into the interiors of her characters, arranging her expressions, her carriage, her vocal inflections — even, it can seem, her height and bone structure — accordingly.
You could say that, having been made, perhaps reluctantly, into a movie star by the “Twilight” movies, she has lately reinvented herself as the character actor she might have always preferred to be. Apart from her lead performance in Olivier Assayas’s “Personal Shopper,” she has been an ensemble player in 2016, with roles in Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society,” Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women” and Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” But the fact that she’s the most interesting person in all of those movies suggests that her movie-star charisma is still intact. She’s just using it in subtle and occasionally subversive ways.
MORRIS: I think Kristen Stewart is just about the best American movie actress we have. Her bad romance with movie stardom has served her well, because early exposure to its toxins might have fortified her resistance to mere fame. Unlike with, say, Ben Affleck, there’s no tension or ambivalence between her being an actor and her being a star. She appears to have rejected the latter to insist upon the value of the former. Lots of people can have it both ways, but it’s a balance that takes a while to achieve. Look at how long it took for Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio, whose allergy to overnight godliness foreshadowed Stewart’s. In the meantime, it’s fascinating to watch her flirt with stardom in the films she takes and the women she plays.
SCOTT: In “Cafe Society,” the Woody Allen movie, she takes what is, as written, an almost entirely functional character — the dream girl swooned over by both a middle-aged Hollywood mogul and his ambitious nephew; a catalyst of male desire and a mirror of masculine ego — and makes her into the only person in the film whose choices and desires really matter. In “Certain Women,” a much better movie, she slouches onto the screen with self-effacing diffidence. You may wonder if Elizabeth Travis, a young lawyer trying to earn some extra money teaching adult-ed classes to disgruntled teachers in a middle-of-nowhere Western town, is in possession of a backbone. Her posture is terrible. Her fashion sense is worse. She seems entirely capable of standing in front of a room full of people and vanishing from sight.
Except to a young ranch hand (Lily Gladstone), in whose eyes Elizabeth is a dazzling, almost magical creature, the most intoxicating and glamorous person she has ever encountered — a dangerous and alluring Edward Cullen to her own humble Bella Swan. But there is no winking from Stewart herself, and none of the kind of ostentatious deglamorization that stars sometimes traffic in when they are shopping for Academy hardware. If this is realism, it’s the kind that forces you to acknowledge the gaps and blurry spaces in your previous conception of reality.