Kristen Stewart clearly had a killer time shooting Lizzie, director Craig William Macneill’s film about Lizzie Borden, the notorious woman at the bloody heart of one of America’s most enduring murder mysteries.
Borden was accused but ultimately acquitted of killing her wealthy father and stepmother with an ax in Fall River, Massachusetts. The 1892 crimes remain unsolved.
Chloë Sevigny, who executive-produced Lizzie, stars as Borden. Stewart plays Bridget Sullivan, the family housemaid and Borden’s rumored lover.
“It’s entertaining and it’s a tragic love story,” Stewart tells EW, adding, “so it’s kind of trippy to imagine: What did ‘gay’ look like then? What did it look like for young women to have really warm, transcendent feelings with pheromones flying between them, and support they’ve never even imagined from another person?”
“I wanted to be a part of this movie because you see these two girls who are entirely oppressed and unable to breathe and being strangled,” Stewart continues. “Even though it doesn’t end super successfully for either of them, just being able to watch two people who are not allowed to f—ing be and just feel okay or happy for just one second, just share a few moments and kind of breathe together as one is, to me, so triumphant.”
The interviewer points out that while the women undress for the murder scene, they remain fully clothed for their sex scene.
”We were never inserted into overly beautiful [scenarios],” Stewart says. “We were never like, ’Okay, then your corset bursts open!’ Of course it doesn’t burst open! It takes, like, 10 minutes to take off, so if we’re going to f—k, we’re going to do it with our clothes on! That intimacy level, that sort of hushed, quiet, whispered exchange they have, [fits]. It was present and honest.”
“Same with the murder scene: They couldn’t wear clothes because blood would get on them, so they had to take them off. [But] seeing Chloë naked with an ax… is so representative of what this movie is about. Conversely, us in our clothing while being intimate is trying to get under these binds, trying so hard to just get one inch of space closer… we realized what’s sexy is the immediacy of not taking our clothes off.”
The 28-year-old actress also discusses how she and Sevigny presented that same-sex intimacy without being exploitative.
“ Naturally, from an insider’s perspective,” she explains. [It’s] a queer story line in a movie that doesn’t define the movie in its entirety—it’s f—ing cool to make movies that are nuanced, layered, and true to life rather than taking something that matters to me and making it cliché and broad. That gets under my skin; I hate seeing it presented that way. [For them] the word ‘gay’ doesn’t factor. It’s an instinct that doesn’t have a name.”
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Following her high-profile relationship with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, Stewart opened up about dating women in 2016 and came out as “like, so gay, dude” last year on SNL. She later clarified that she identifies as bisexual.
Christina Ricci starred as Borden in the 2014 Lifetime TV movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax and a subsequent limited series, but Lizzie is notable for its focus on Borden’s sexuality and the alleged lesbian affair that may have motivated the murders.
Lizzie, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, also stars Jamey Sheridan, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens, Denis O’Hare, and Jeff Perry.
Lizzie is out September 14 in theaters.