The History of Long and Brier Islands

Dolores Claiborne/Long & Brier Island’s Part

by | Aug 9, 2021 | Brier Island, ferry, Long Island, Videos | 2 comments

Dolores Claiborne Making the Movie

Digby Courier;  April 1994

Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer and some local stars in the movie “Dolores Claiborne”       

A flurry of excitement surrounded Digby Neck and the Islands last week as the casting crew of seemingly hundreds spent two days shooting scenes for a big – budget American film.

            The movie, based on horror writer Stephen Kings novel “Dolores Claiborne” is filming the bulk of its footage in Lunenburg County, however, the Digby area will be seen in a small portion of the film.

            The Joshua Slocum, the ferry which runs between Freeport and Westport, was a $30,000 prop used to shoot scenes involving big stars such as Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Christopher Plummer. Counselor Caroline Norwood reported the money would go to the provincial government.

            Several residents were approached in restaurants last week and asked if they were interested in acting is extras in the film. Those who agreed had their pictures taking, gave out phone numbers and probably heard, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

The cast and crew of about 60 is due to return to the area for more filming this Saturday and for several weeks in June. However, no one on the set was available to confirm this.

About the Movie

Dolores Claiborne is a 1995 American psychological thriller film directed by Taylor Hackford and starring Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and David Strathairn. It is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The plot focuses on the strained relationship between a mother and her daughter, largely told through flashbacks, after her daughter arrives to her remote hometown on a Maine island where her mother has been accused of murdering the elderly woman whom she cared for.

The screenplay for Dolores Claiborne was adapted by Tony Gilroy, and the film was shot in Nova Scotia in 1994. Kathy Bates stated in a retrospective interview that her performance as the titular Dolores was her favorite performance she had ever given. In 2013, Time magazine named the film among the top ten greatest Stephen King film adaptations.


In 1995, Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) works as a domestic servant on Little Tall Island in Maine. Dolores has a struggle with her elderly, paralyzed employer Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt) in her mansion, after which Vera falls down the staircase. Dolores ransacks the kitchen and is then caught by a mailman as she stands over Vera with a rolling pin, apparently intending to kill her. Vera dies and the police begin a murder investigation.

Dolores’ daughter, Selena St. George (Leigh), a successful New York City journalist who battles depression and substance abuse, arrives in town to support her mother, despite her own doubts about Dolores’ innocence. Dolores insists she did not kill her employer, but finds little sympathy as the entire town believes she murdered her husband, Joe St. George (David Strathairn), almost twenty years earlier. Some of the town’s inhabitants harass her by vandalizing her home, taunting her in the street, and driving by her house and screaming at her. Detective John Mackey (Christopher Plummer), who was the chief detective in her husband’s murder case, is determined to put Dolores away for life.

Selena also believes Dolores killed her father and has not spoken to her mother in over a decade. In 1975, Joe was an abusive alcoholic, and one night Dolores had threatened to kill him if he ever harmed her again. Selena, then 13 years old, was unaware her mother was being abused. Dolores went to work as a housemaid for millionaire Vera Donovan in order to raise enough money to pay for Selena’s education, and had gone to the bank to withdraw her money so she and Selena could flee Joe’s abuse. The plan backfired, however, when the bank notified Dolores that Joe stole the money from Selena’s savings account.

Dolores says Vera threw herself down the staircase and begged Dolores to put her out of her misery. Mackey refuses to believe her, and reveals that Vera has left her entire fortune to Dolores. Mackey informs them the will is eight years old, which nearly convinces Selena her mother is guilty. Dolores eventually tells Selena that before he died, Dolores realized Joe was sexually abusing Selena, which Selena furiously denies. After a fierce argument, Selena storms out, leaving her mother to fend for herself.

Back in 1975, Dolores broke down and confessed Joe’s abuses to Vera, who remained characteristically cold until Dolores mentioned that he was molesting Selena. Turning unusually sympathetic, Vera implied she killed her own late, unfaithful husband, Jack, and engineered it to look like an accident. Vera’s confession formed a bond between the two women and convinced Dolores to take control of her situation. As a total solar eclipse approached, Dolores, who was pointedly given the rest of the day off by Vera, and the young Selena had an argument about Dolores’ suspicions regarding Joe’s sexual abuse. Selena fled home for the weekend to work at a hotel, where guests had flocked for the eclipse. Joe soon returned from working on a fishing boat, and Dolores offered him a bottle of Scotch to celebrate the eclipse. After Joe got drunk, Dolores revealed she knew he stole from Selena’s account and molested his own daughter. Dolores provoked him into attacking her and falling down an old well, leaving him to die as he plunges to the stone bottom.

Selena hears this entire story on a tape left for her by Dolores, who had foreseen her departure. While on the ferry, Selena suddenly uncovers a repressed memory of her father forcing her to give him a handjob. Realizing her mother was telling the truth all along, Selena rushes back to Dolores as she is attending the coroner’s inquest. As Mackey makes a case to be sent to a grand jury in an attempt to indict Dolores for murder, Selena tells him he has no admissible evidence, he is only doing this because of his personal vendetta against Dolores, and that despite an often stormy relationship, Vera and Dolores loved each other. Realizing Dolores would very likely be acquitted, Mackey reluctantly drops the charges. Dolores and Selena reconcile on the ferry wharf before Selena returns to New York.


  • Kathy Bates as Dolores Claiborne
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Selena St. George
    • Ellen Muth as Young Selena
    • Taffara Jessica Stella Murray as 5-year-old Selena
  • Judy Parfitt as Vera Donovan
  • Christopher Plummer as Detective John Mackey
  • David Strathairn as Joe St. George
  • Eric Bogosian as Peter
  • John C. Reilly as Constable Frank Stamshaw
  • Bob Gunton as Mr. Pease
  • Roy Cooper as Magistrate
  • Wayne Robson as Sammy Marchant
  • Ruth Marshall as Secretary
  • Weldon Allen as Bartender
  • Tom Gallant as Searcher
  • Kelly Burnett as Jack Donovan

The Islanders Part in the Movie

I think the first thing Islanders were asked to do was take down our Canadian flags and fly the American Flag. Some did some didn’t. What seamed strange is our ferry flying the American flag.

Some locals were asked to be in the movie as extras along with their cars or trucks. The first thing that was done with their vehicles is to change their plates from Nova Scotia to the state of Maine.

The Ferry Joshua Slocum had just came back from refit at Meteghan and was completely all painted and looked like new again. This wouldn’t work for the movie so they painted rust looking paint on the ferry to make it look old. The Government of Nova Scotia received from the movie company $30,000 for the ferry Joshua Slocum being used as a prop in the movie.

Jennifer Jason Leigh & Kathy Bates on the Westport Ferry Slip

The Actors of the Movie “Dolores Claiborne” by D.B. Kenney’s Office Westport

Captain’s Cabin Restaurant in Digby was asked to supply the food to the cast and crew of the movie. This was set up in the old fire hall in Freeport. All the food was prepared in Digby and brought to the Islands.

One of the scenes in the movie was taken by a helicopter flying along side the ferry going to Westport. The helicopter was booked to be here for one day but ended up staying three. The reason was each time they flew along side the ferry shooting the scene, the water would take on a different colour. The helicopter when not flying would stay in what is known now as the Freeport Ball field in the square at Freeport.

Helicopter in Freeport Ball Field

Jennifer Jason Leigh on Joshua Slocum

Did you Know That; Filming of the scene on the ferry between Kathy Bates’ Dolores and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Selena proved troublesome when the latter suffered from severe sea-sickness.

In fact, Jason Leigh became so ill that a student from a local high school was employed as an emergency stand-in at the last minute.

While filming the scene on the ferry between Dolores and Selena, Jennifer Jason Leigh became seasick. The movie company asked the locals that were taking part in the movie and they suggested there was a person in ICS that had a strong resemblance to Jennifer Jason Leigh. Monica our daughter was writing exams at the time and arrangements were made to write the exams later. So she was pulled out of class to act as a stand-in for Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Monica’s Pay Stub for payment for being Jennifer Jason Leigh’s replacement in the move “Dolores Claiborne”.

Video I Did of the Dolores Claiborne Film Crew and our Daughter Monica in Grand Passage
This is a Pic in the Movie of Monica as a stand in for Jennifer Jason Leigh, where she is coming into Westport Ferry Slip and she is looking at Christopher Plummer who is in the car.

Digby Courier: June 8, 1994

Kathy Bates in Dolores Claiborne

Kath Bates and the Ferry Joshua Slocum at Westport

Joshua Slocum at Digby

Jennifer Jason Leigh & Ferry Joshua Slocum at Digby

Long & Brier Islands were mentioned in the credits


  1. Tammy Frost

    Awesome movie. I have it on VHS tape, watched it several times.

  2. Albert Milo

    My spouse and I from California had visited Lunenberg, Digby and Halifax several years ago and really enjoyed our driving trip of Nova Scotia. However, I had never seen the 1995 film until today (8/6/22) when I viewed it on one of the TV movie channels. It was a very well done Stephen King film. Quite suspenseful. I only regret not timing my visit to Nova Scotia with the viewing of the film. I would have loved eating at the local restaurant that catered the meal for the film crew.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *