Portion of new Lizzie Borden movie filmed locally

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on July 31, 2013

James McAteer, production designer for the Lizzie Borden movie, joins locals Katelyn and Angela Pelton in a room of the Churchill House he furnished for a party scene in the film starring Christina Ricci. 

Ashley Thompson

Historic properties in Hantsport and Windsor will be featured in a Lizzie Borden biopic starring Christina Ricci.

Borden rose to infamy in 1893 while standing trial for murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in Fall River, Mass. Borden was ultimately acquitted in the unsolved case, but many of her contemporaries believed she got away with murder.

Ricci, who plays the main character, acted alongside Cher in Mermaids as a child in 1990, and has since appeared in several films, including Now and Then, Sleepy Hollow, Monster, Penelope and The Opposite of Sex.

Clea DuVall plays Borden’s sister, Emma. DuVall, who has appeared in several popular television series, played Cora Lijek in the Oscar-winning Argo, and her past gigs included roles in The Faculty, She’s All That and Girl, Interrupted.

Filming of the Lifetime-bound Lizzie Borden TV movie wrapped at Churchill House in Hantsport. Ricci and Duvall were on location at the historic home into the early morning hours of July 23 for the filming of a party scene.

Spectators were not permitted to speak with, or photograph, the cast in the Sony Pictures Television production directed by Nick Gomez (Drowning Mona, Laws of Gravity).

Angela Pelton, a member of the board overseeing the Churchill House and Hantsport Memorial Community Centregrounds, was on site as a local go-to person for the film crew.

“It was just hoards and hoards and hoards of people,” Pelton said. “They were everywhere.”

Pelton says she was amazed to learn it can take hours to perfect a short scene in a movie.

“It just baffled me how many people that it takes to put this on.”

Although Pelton did not have the opportunity to shake hands with the stars, she says she felt welcomed on the set and shared “lots of laughs” with the crew.

She says she is happy to see Churchill House — a Victorian-era home that took eight years to construct— recognized for its unique architecture.

James McAteer, the production designer for Lizzie Borden, was tasked with decorating Churchill House with period furnishings that would set the scene for a Bohemian-styled party.

In an interview on the set, McAteer said Churchill House alone has immense production value.

“It was basically ready and waiting for us. The incredible artistry of the craftsmanship said a certain period to us that we really liked. It’s mystery, it’s unusual and that’s what I’m trying to do with this film,” he said, noting that it would be too expensive to build a set that looks like the house.

McAteer, who lives in Ontario and landed his first job as a set designer nearly 30 years ago, said Churchill House took him by surprise.

“I was stunned because I’ve travelled a lot around the world and I haven’t seen anything like this in Canada,” said McAteer.

“It’s major eye candy.”

The Clockmakers Inn in Windsor was transformed into the Maplecroft house the Borden sisters shared after Lizzie’s trial.

“It’s a little more sedate, a little more lively and white and pure,” McAteer explained.

Some scenes for the forthcoming Lizzie Borden movie, expected to debut in the fall or winter, were also shot in Halifax and Lunenburg County.