‘Lizzie Borden’ Star Christina Ricci, EP Judith Verno Offer Insight About The Film

    January 20, 2014
    Meaghan Ellis
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Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Although the skipping-rope rhyme may sound relatively playful when heard by children at play, its lyrics have a deep, dark origin that traces back to the 1800s.

Lizzie Borden isn’t just some fictitious character of old folklore being brought to life in a film adaptation. She was actually a real person who was accused of committing one of the most gruesome crimes in history.

The new Lifetime film Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, starring Sleepy Hollow actress Christina Ricci, chronicles the timeline of the heinous crime, delving deep into the historical accounts that led up to the infamous “forty whacks.” However, it will also reveal exactly what happened after that.

According to the New York Post, the film comes across as “part horror film/part court procedural” as Ricci’s portrayal of Borden is a cross between sociopathic and psychotic.

The film’s executive producer Judith Verno explained why Ricci’s role was delineated to depict a “thoroughly guilty” Borden. Verno shared that after extensive review of the original police documentation and court transcripts, one could see exactly how Borden should have been found guilty. So, the film will add a visual to some of the details that have never been revealed.

“We added a line which is right out of the real transcript: ‘It’s very hard to imagine that if you found your father dead, on the couch, that you would remain in the house.’ To me, the natural instinct would be to leave the house, because the killer’s probably there,” Verno says. “That she sat down and remained so calm was very telling.”(image)

Ricci also weighed in revealing one aspect in particular that piqued her interest with the portrayal of Borden. “What I thought was interesting about playing this part,” says Ricci, “was the question of, ‘How does a person behave once they’re accused of this in trying to convince everyone they’re innocent?’

She also shared some inside details about the ‘exhausting’ experience of whacking bodies for the film, reports Yahoo! News. “My arms got tired because the axe was heavy. You film scenes from a million different angles, and for every take I did 12 chops with the axe. My arms were ripped for about two days after. I didn’t like getting fake blood in my hair though.”


On August 4, 1892, Borden allegedly killed both her father and stepmother by bludgeoning them with an ax. Her father Andrew Borden was struck 10 or 11 times with what was described as a hatchet-like weapon. It has also been stated that her father’s face was completely mutilated. Her stepmother Abby Borden was fatally struck 19 times in the head, and was left with a crushed skull.

On June 20, 1893, after only an hour and a half of deliberation, Lizzie Borden was acquitted. Her acquittal went down in history, often compared to the high-profile trials of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and OJ Simpson.

The world premiere of Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is scheduled to air Saturday, Jan. 25 at 8/7C on Lifetime.

Image via Facebook | Lifetime (1) (2)  Wikimedia Commons | Lizzie Borden

  • marta

    I saw the film about Lizzie Borden years ago, the late Elizabeth Montgomery played the Lizzie, she will be a tough act for Christina Ricci to live up to, but she will no doubt.
    The article states “Borden took an axe and bludgeoned her father and stepmother to death”, it should have said “allegedly” as she was found not guilty.
    However, I really think she did do the gruesome deed, she should have been locked away for life, or executed. She went on to live with her older sister, who was so afraid of Lizzie it drove her crazy, I can’t remember what happened to her sister.

  • Jason

    Thanks for the correction, Ms. Ellis. As strong as the sentiment and legend was against her, she is entitled to her verdict- and I like your writing style. :)

    • http://www.meaghan-ellis.com Meaghan Ellis

      Thanks! The topic actually prompted me to do extensive research on Borden. However, it can be quite difficult to follow at times because some sources lean toward the historical documentation, while other sources rely heavily upon the court transcripts. I initially structured the article to coincide with why the film portrays her as guilty to tie it all in. That’s why you noticed the insinuation of guilt throughout. It wasn’t an opposing view of the verdict.

  • JonaD

    This is the perfect part… for Wednesday Adams.

    • JonaD

      Addams : )

  • K Edwards

    I read the book and saw the movie with Elizabeth Montgomery and even in that movie; you just knew she was guilty. The jury just couldn’t believe that a woman coul be strong enough or evil enough to do it. I have seen documentaries about it as well and the one thing I keep coming back to in my mind is this…The doors of the house both inside and outside had many locks on each door. Lizzy was too old to be still at home with her father and should have been married off but was not allowed to leave or marry…why? Assuming she did it; why did she chop her stepmother more times than her father? To stab or chop that many times requires immense passionate hatred; why? It is my suspicion that Lizzy was from childhood being sexually abused causing extreme mental illness (sociopathic/disassociation; killing them with cunning and great passion; releasing herself & sister from their evil. Her sister always knew the truth; hence her extreme fear.

    • Debbie

      I wonder about the sexual abuse also, because she was still home during that era. I saw the movie too. There did seem to be alot of hate from the way she was treated.