Ellen Page, the young Academy Award Nominated actress for the 2007 film Juno, was one of the stars of a movie titled Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat that was filmed here at The Elmwood.  About 15 at the time, Ellen who is from Halifax, Nova Scotia, played the role of Natalie Merritt who with her widowed father moves to “Ringwood, New Jersey” (actually Charlottetown) to get away from New York City following the death of Natalie’s mother.  They fall in love with Elmwood formerly inhabited by sweet, elderly Mrs. Ashboro and her pet cat, Margaret.  Ellen is in the news again with her newest release Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

After some subterfuge led by Mrs. Ashboro’s nephew and an unscrupulous developer strange things start happening in the house, and all fingers point to the presence of Margaret, who died the same day as Mrs. Ashboro. But why has she come back to haunt them? Mrs. Ashboros Cat is a cute suspenseful family tale shot on location in Prince Edward Island. It was renamed “Ghost Cat” for the US Cable TV market and “Le Chat Fantôme” for the Canadian French language market.

The production crew took over Elmwood in February 2003 and first emptied 8 rooms of our furniture. Some they trucked to storage and the best antiques they moved into another two rooms. Their original four days of shooting stretched into nearly two weeks and it was nineteen days total until they drove out. We moved up to the third floor Nurse’s Room to sleep and used the Cunard Suite kitchen to cook. Ellen Page’s character Natalie slept in the Victorian Room and her father Warren Merritt slept in the Cunard Suite Living Room, re-configured as a bedroom. You could sleep in Ellen Page’s Room!  Imagine that!  We learned a lot about the art of film making along with many tricks they use to accomplish their tasks. Very interesting!

There were outdoor scenes here, in Victoria Park and at a farm about 6 miles away (through the magic of movies the two properties were apparently just over the hill and a short walk apart). Unfortunately the temperature that March dropped way below zero. That caused havoc with shooting schedules, camera functions and lighting (people huddled around the huge spotlights for warmth) as well as the security staff on a chair at the end of our driveway for 12 to 15 hours each day. One night, Margaret the trained cat was supposed to look from the house to the lawn and trot across the driveway. Well, it was -40 degrees with the wind chill and Margaret had other ideas. The handler used every trick including calls, commands, clicks, meows and finally tuna on a wooden spoon before Margaret would leave the comfort of the doorway and venture out. But the desired two way glance never occurred after many takes. Margaret (who was insured for One Million Dollars) knew best and just darted from house to cage over and over. At 11:00 PM the director finally called, “That’s a wrap!” and everyone, Margaret included, ran inside to warm up.

Shirley Knight (recently best known for The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood who played the title role of Mrs Ashboro also has an Oscar connection.  Her wonderful career on stage, TV and film resulted in being nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, in 1960 for The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and in 1962 for Sweet Bird of Youth. She also won one Tony, three Emmys and two Golden Globe Awards.

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