Interview: Director Craig William Macneill for LIZZIE
Director Craig William Macneill on the set of LIZZIE | Photo Credit: Eliza Morse | Courtesy of Saban Films and Roadside Attractions

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

For the release of the upcoming historical thriller, LIZZIE, which centers around the legend of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her family, Shannon had the chance to speak with director Craig William Macneill (Channel Zero: Candle Cove) about his latest film. During their chat they discussed everything from bringing Lizzie Borden’s story to life to the circumstances surrounding the murders.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Craig, thank you so much for speaking with us today about your latest film LIZZIE. Having grown up outside of Fall River, MA, the story of Lizzie Borden has been embedded in my brain for as long as I can remember. For those who aren’t familiar with Lizzie’s story, can you give some insight into the film and how you became involved with the project?

Craig William Macneill: LIZZIE is an intimate and terrifying portrait of Lizzie Borden, who was a woman accused of murdering her parents in Fall River, MA in 1892. The film explores the events that surround the killings and takes a close look at the bond she formed with the family’s housemaid. I grew up close to Fall River and was haunted by tales of Lizzie Borden throughout my youth, so when my reps sent me the script I jumped at the opportunity. I put together a lookbook that detailed the tonal and visual approach I would bring to the project. I then met with producer, Naomi Despres, Chloë Sevigny, and writer Bryce Kass. Shortly after that, I signed on and we then attached producer Liz Destro.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Chloë Sevigny has stated that bringing Lizzie Borden’s story to life was a passion project of hers. How closely did you both work together on this project?

CWM: Chloë developed the project years ago and had been working on bringing it to life for quite sometime. She’s the lead and in almost every frame of the film so we worked closely together throughout the production on everything from character to costumes. She knew the character so well and I was blown away by her talent on a daily basis.

Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny in LIZZIE | Photo Credit: Eliza Morse | Courtesy of Saban Films and Roadside Attractions

Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it about Lizzie Borden’s story that interested you the most and was there a certain aspect that was important for you to showcase?

CWM: I was really interested in understanding what set of circumstances could have led to these killings and questioning how such dangerous urges might begin to manifest in her. Was she born with this seed of darkness? Or was she pushed to that breaking point? I like keeping that a bit of a mystery – it leaves the audience room to draw their own conclusions.

Nightmarish Conjurings: To prepare for the film what type of research did you do? Were you able to visit Lizzie Borden’s home? What challenges did you face in bringing this story to life?

CWM: Chloë, Elizabeth (production designer), Noah (DP), and I spent the night at the actual Borden home shortly before we began pre-production of the film. The house is a bed and breakfast and caters toward Lizzie and murder enthusiasts. They offer ghosts tours and work hard to fill your mind with terrifying thoughts before you drift to sleep. It was both a frightening and eye opening experience. We also spent the afternoon at the Fall River Historical Society and met with the head curator. They provided us a wealth of wonderful information on Lizzie’s history and the town of Fall River. The biggest challenge we faced was bringing this world to life on a tight budget. The story takes place in New England, but for financial reasons we shot the film in Savannah, GA. Unfortunately, Savannah doesn’t look much like New England, much less 1890’s New England. And as a result of our limited resources in terms of time and budget, we had to mostly imply the outside world as opposed to showing it so we designed our shots and blocking to embrace our interior locations.

Nightmarish Conjurings: With LIZZIE coming out this Friday, are there any additional projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for?

CMW: I have a couple projects that are in the works that I’m really excited about, but I’m too superstitious to talk about them just yet!

LIZZIE opens in theaters this Friday, September 14, 2018.

Shannon McGrew
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