We all know that Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks. But do we know what happened next?
â€œLizzie Borden Took an Axâ€ stars Christina Ricci as this deadliest of daughters, and tells the story of her parentsâ€™ grisly murder and her subsequent trial in melodramatic fashion.
Borden, who was accused of killing her father and step-mother in 1892, is portrayed as thoroughly guilty by Ricci, who gives her a sociopathic edge via sly looks, such as when her father is found with his face chopped off.
â€œWhat I thought was interesting about playing this part,â€ says Ricci, â€œwas the question of, â€˜How does a person behave once theyâ€™re accused of this in trying to convince everyone theyâ€™re innocent?â€™ â€
The film comes off as part horror film/part court procedural, as Lizzie tries to convince the police and her sister that she could never have done such a heinous thing â€” a defense that doesnâ€™t hold up when we see Ricci strip naked to destroy her fatherâ€™s face.
The lurid scene was not itself based on evidence but, says Ricci, a likely scenario based on the evidence.
â€œThe best people can do is put all the elements together and hypothesize. [Based on the timeline], there was no way she could have gotten rid of her clothes. So one of the theories is that she committed the crimes naked,â€ Ricci says. â€œIâ€™m a pragmatist, so I thought it was smart. You can wash blood off your body, but itâ€™s harder to get it out of clothes.â€
Borden was acquitted. Her lawyer made the case that she couldnâ€™t possibly have committed such a vicious act because she was a woman.
Executive producer Judith Vernoâ€™s belief in Bordenâ€™s guilt comes from her review of police and court transcripts, some of which appear verbatim in the film.
â€œWe added a line which is right out of the real transcript: â€˜Itâ€™s very hard to imagine that if you found your father dead, on the couch, that you would remain in the house.â€™ To me, the natural instinct would be to leave the house, because the killerâ€™s probably there,â€ she says. â€œThat she sat down and remained so calm was very telling.â€
Whatever is true about this case, for Ricci, playing Borden was a chance to sink her teeth into a disturbed, possibly psychopathic character. Guilty or not, those are often the most fun for actors to play.
â€œThe most interesting people to play are the people who are really troubled, because most people are reactive,â€ she says. â€œThe most proactive person is gonna be the person with a lot going on in their mind.â€