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Christina Ricci: Nice and Naughty

The ‘Addams Family’ actress takes on her image as an angry, fun, hazardously sexy teen who will say anything

Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci in the U.K. in 1999.

Dave Benett/Getty

Christina Ricci is in Paris, where the Diet Cokes come with spoons in the glass — to cut the fizz — but where, for her, everything else is much the same, a European variation on the life she’s lived since age nine. A car to a set, PAs calling her to the studio, a car speeding her home to bed through the dark. This afternoon, Ricci tugs on a pair of earphones in a red-curtained soundstage. The nineteen-year-old is small-boned, with a large head and wide cheeks — as with many actors, her face is like a flat drive-in screen on which other people (screenwriters, directors) can project emotions.

A French recording engineer hovers nearby — thick accent, microphone, denim shirt. “Do you want to hear the old line?” he asks.

Ricci shakes her head. “No, that’s OK.”

Sometimes, film acting must feel like being an astronaut — all that personnel, cable and equipment brought together to help you lift off. Ricci has come to the outskirts of the city to rerecord a single line of dialogue for the film Sleepy Hollow. Director Tim Burton’s $80 million fantasy thriller, in which Ricci and co-star Johnny Depp fall in love while solving a colonial town’s beheading problem, will open in a few weeks. For Ricci, the movie is a milestone, her first big-budget project in four years. Ricci plays Katrina Van Tassel — “She’s young, romantic and blond,” Ricci explains — and Depp is Ichabod Crane, a New York constable, circa 1799, with many newfangled ideas. In the scene, Ricci is leading Depp on a walking tour of Sleepy Hollow. The actress closes her eyes, slips into the faint English accent that filmmakers have agreed is the voice of the past. “This land is Van Garrett land,” she says, precisely, four times.

Ricci removes her earphones to confusion; clipboards, memos, shooting scripts are being rustled and consulted. The French engineer silently passes a clipboard to Ricci. “It’s the is,” he says. “You are supposed to say was.”

“Oh,” Ricci says with a laugh. “OK. I’m sorry, my mistake. I’m retarded.”

Ricci slips on her earphones. “This is Van Garrett land.” Everyone protests: was. “Fuck. This was Van Garrett land. This was Van Garrett land.”

Is and was have become the defining words of Ricci’s career. Five years ago, she starred in a film called Now and Then, a coming-of-age drama with a gimmick: You saw four young girls and the women they would become. That’s what Ricci’s whole life is: a series of nows and thens, of dissolves and new scenes. First she’s a schoolgirl, then she’s a nine-year-old actress in a New York hotel room for a press junket. By the time Ricci was fifteen, she had made eight films, including two monster hits: Casper and The Addams Family.

Then she disappeared for a while, retreated to the private backroom where actors suffer breakups, comedowns, disasters. Many child actors finish selling what they have early — an extra, energetic childishness, which once they turn adult is beside the point. Four years ago Ricci lost weight, put on weight, climbed into bed thinking she’d failed forever. Today she’s in Paris, with a driver, with her boyfriend, with her dog, with a new film to shoot.

In 1989, Ricci was co-starring in Mermaids with Winona Ryder, who talked about her then-boyfriend, Johnny Depp; ten years later, Ricci is acting love scenes with Depp. One year ago, when The Ice Storm, Buffalo ’66 and The Opposite of Sex were released within nine months of one another, Ricci cemented a screen personality for herself: a stormy, manipulative teen with a hazardous sexuality. She also crafted an offscreen personality for herself: the actress who would say anything. Ricci now considers this an error.

“I misinterpreted something along the way,” she explains. “I’d get annoyed in interviews, and my way of being annoyed was to be sarcastic and shocking. People would be, like, ‘So, you were in The Addams Family — do you like death and stuff?’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I love it.’ ‘Cause it pissed me off. And then people started responding to that. They’d be like, ‘God, you’re so angry — and fun.’ and I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, this is it. I’m holding onto this.’ ” Now, that’s become part of the was, too — a reputation to be lived down. “I’m not, like, this crazy, angry person,” Ricci says. “I’m — boring.”

At an outdoor Paris café, Ricci ransacks her big pony-hair bag for a lighter, locates a cigarette and begins eating lunch. For twenty minutes, talking to Ricci is like entering a reverse Twilight Zone, where everything is perfectly normal. The actress loves dogs, the TV show Friends, home decoration, the actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. “I’m obsessed with that girl,” she says. “I mean, I’m a teenager, and all that stuff is aimed at people my age.” A poodle jumps by. “Look at how cute that fucking dog is — the dog’s manic.”

In the middle of eating, Ricci pops a Wellbutrin pill. “Anti-anxiety,” she explains. “They smell like shit. Here, smell them.” Ricci’s family members, she tells me, were “all a bunch of control freaks.” Her parents had a rocky marriage, and ever since childhood she has fought the urge to manage — “you know, appease people, keep the peace.”

Ricci reads my notebook upside down. I’ve written what she’s wearing: cargo pants, long-sleeve T-shirt, gray Windbreaker. “You wrote that I have green eyes,” Ricci says. “They’re usually brown or yellow. I’m all bloodshot today, ’cause I’m tired.” Ricci’s wide eyes told casting agents she was taking in everything, and her tiny mouth — all curdled, wicked disappointment — told them that she wouldn’t forgive a lot. of the many routes into acting, one is by acting in the family: placating, managing, smoothing, wishing away, lying.

Ricci has two histories: There’s the family history, which is about regular Christina, and the movie history, which is about what she calls fabulous Christina, and she alternates between the two. When she put on weight and stopped getting cast in films, Ricci must have worried that regular Christina was taking over forever.

In a sense, Ricci’s whole life has been shaped by the movie business. She was born in Santa Monica — big house, beach smells from the water. Sarah, her mother, is a former model; her father, Ralph, was a New York therapist who migrated west to get into Hollywood. Ricci was the youngest of four children — brothers Dante and Raphael (if Christina had been a boy, she’d have been named Titian), sister Pia. Her father practiced therapy with actors and directors, then crossed over into agenting for his clients. When Ricci was two, her father had partners, a thriving business.

One day, her mother told the children they were redecorating; they would pack up and move for a while to their summer house in Montauk, Long Island. “She told us it was a secret,” Ricci says, lighting a cigarette. “It was very dramatic.” Her father lost about $1 million in the business. Broke, the family hunkered down in their unwinterized beach house for four years, until Ricci was six.

Yet Ricci’s happiest family memories are of Montauk. “I loved it,” she sighs, remembering the house: big white gate, sailboat, views of the water. “We didn’t have very much money, but I was so little, I didn’t realize. It was just fun.” After four years, the family had saved enough money to sell the house and move to a proper suburb — Montclair, New Jersey.

All along, Ricci had been acting; but when a kid does this away from directors and studios, it usually ends up being called lying. “I would make things up, because I didn’t think I was interesting enough,” Ricci says. When things were tense in the house — Ralph and Sarah arguing about money, Ralph griping about the kids — Christina would run through the kitchen screaming, “I’m being chased by a ghost.” A crisis team came to educate her second-grade class, and she told them she was in crisis, to see what they would do. “‘Cause I wanted to be one of these kids who had some horrible story. My family thought it was hysterical.

“I was always like comic relief, I guess, in my family,” Ricci says. There were little moments, dinner moments, when the family got tense: arguments, “some wooden-spoon action.” Ricci would slip away from the table, take off all her clothes and run back streaking through the dining room. Or she’d shove a pillow under her shirt and pretend to be “a really fat man.” Or she’d give her father a neck massage, make a joke, anything.

When she was seven, Ricci was cast in her school’s Christmas pageant. Her part was a girl who wants a basketball but whose parents instead “keep getting her all these weird-ass things. I was very disgruntled.” It was Ricci’s first shot at playing the role she has played ever since — a girl not quite getting the right things from her family.

A mother in the audience spotted something else: A girl who keeps holding out for one specific gift she wants is a girl who can sell products. This mother had a son who acted in commercials; she explained to Ralph and Sarah that Christina could do it, too. Soon, Christina was advertising credit cards, Quaker Oats, dolls, curtains. “I did a lot of voice-overs,” says Ricci. “I had a really young voice, but I could read really well. And most kids couldn’t. I was shocked at that.”

Movies came next. At eight, Ricci auditioned six times for the role of Cher’s youngest daughter and Winona Ryder’s sister in the weeper Mermaids. Flying home from the final audition, to be dramatic, Ricci lied and told her mom she saw an angel near the wing of the plane. It turned out Cher liked her. That’s the touch-and-go way a life takes shape: Cher likes you, and eleven years later you’re shooting your twenty-sixth film, in Paris.

Ricci is meeting friends at the Louvre, a few blocks away. “That’s one thing I want to ask you,” she says. Ricci is careful with the press, like someone approaching a fiery object that once burned them. “You can say anything bad you want to about me. But don’t say anything bad about the people we’re going to meet. They’re innocent bystanders.” When the waiter brings our check, I explain that the magazine will cover it, and Ricci watches the waiter leave. “We should’ve gone somewhere more expensive,” she says. And so, because Ricci is pragmatic, a fast learner and a person who follows through on what she says, the next places we eat are much, much more expensive.

Ricci’s three friends are waiting near the museum. All of them are very nice people. There’s Kate Jones — blond, tall, thirty — who was Ricci’s assistant during Sleepy Hollow‘s six-month London shoot and who has come to Paris to work on Ricci’s new movie, The Man Who Cried, which also co-stars Johnny Depp. There’s Kate’s boyfriend, Antony, who has a job with British television. And there’s Ricci’s boyfriend, Matthew Frauman, 27. Frauman is slim, handsome, with deeply incised face lines; he looks like Tom Cruise playing the Scarecrow part in The Wizard of Oz. (I don’t know if Ricci would consider this mean or not.)

Once inside the Louvre, Ricci is at liberty. Sometimes she kids with Matthew, jokes about paintings, asks why tourists take pictures of them. “I guess it’s for proof,” she says. Other times, she turns quiet, drops into thoughts of her own. Her friends have the same effect on her that Wellbutrin might: a kind of insulation, like sandbags protecting her from powerful internal tides and floods.

Frauman asks Ricci to demonstrate her double-jointed arms. She stretches; her sleeves ride up; there are raised round scars on her forearms, burns on the back of one hand. She later explains where each mark came from: how she heated a lighter, held it against her hand, a stunt to impress some boys when she was angry about “not looking very good.” The forearm scratches come from soda tops and fingernails: “It’s like having a drink,” Ricci says. “But it’s quicker. You know how your brain shuts down from pain? The pain would be so bad, it would force my body to slow down, and I wouldn’t be as anxious. It made me calm.”

Ricci has spent a good deal of time in museums — not finding out about art, but learning how to be more self-conscious. Years ago, a creative executive on one of her movies took an interest in her; he told her that what mattered was not what you did but what you thought about while you did it. “He would take me to museums, and we’d stand in front of paintings for a really gratuitous amount of time, until I had an interesting thought,” Ricci says. “Then he’d question me on what I was thinking — so I became really aware of it. I was too young to be with him; he said he felt like Pygmalion, and he was creating the perfect wife. I was fifteen — there was nothing sexual about it at all.”

As Ricci glides past cracked Greek sculpture and old master paintings, a heavyset young woman in a Tori Amos shirt slips to her side; the girl falls into the blushes and stammers that are the international symbol for recognizing a celebrity. She asks if Ricci would mind posing for a picture with her; she tells her she’s attending college in Paris for a year — it’s her first time away from home. Ricci listens patiently. Here is a girl she might have become, if she’d never been an actress. When she leaves, Ricci says, “That must be scary, being alone.”

From the moment she stepped on the Mermaids set, Ricci has spent the most important parts of her life away from home. During the first movies, her mother was her chaperon. Films were immediately a better deal than school or family life: Instead of a teacher, she had a private tutor; instead of chores, Ricci was handed a script. When she didn’t feel like doing school-work, “I would hide in Cher’s trailer, because my tutor was too intimidated to knock on her door.”

And there were PAs everywhere — twenty-five-year-olds, kids with first jobs and walkie-talkies. “I just flirted with them all day long,” says Ricci. “And they’d flirt with me and, like, carry me around. I was convinced they were all in love with me.” Ricci laughs. “Secretly. And I could just imagine them crying at home, because I wasn’t old enough for them. At that age, I thought I was really foxy.”

For Ricci, everything on the set was a lesson: how to be an actress, how to be a woman. She’d go into Ryder’s trailer, where the older actress would tell her secrets and ask Ricci to light cigarettes for her. (“I was like, ‘No, no — that’s bad.’ “) Cher and Ryder were talking about someone on the set being gay, and Ricci wanted to know what it meant. “So Winona put me on the phone with Johnny,” says Ricci. Depp explained approaches, medical theories, lots of specifics. When he dropped by the set, Ricci was all over him, and Ryder told Cher, “She’s flirting with him.” “And I remember thinking, ‘I’m not flirting — he’s in love with me,’ ” Ricci says.

When Ricci was ten, she was cast in the part that made her famous: Wednesday, the frosty daughter in The Addams Family. For the first time, Ricci was told not to smile; she no longer had to make believe she was from a happy family. (“I hated that,” Ricci says. “People telling me to smile — just because they could, ’cause I wasn’t an adult.”) Ricci found the part she has played, in different versions, ever since: the coolly calculating girl who suspects that her parents might be no better qualified to lead the family than she is. Co-star Anjelica Huston was so impressed, she steered Ricci to her agent, who has remained Ricci’s agent since. Kim Basinger was filming at the same studio. “She had this huge-assed trailer,” Ricci recalls. “And I slipped a little note under her door. I just wrote, “‘You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen — Love, Christina.’ “

Basinger’s assistant found Ricci; a few days later, Ricci was brought into Basinger’s trailer. “And she was wearing just a bathrobe, and her hair was all out, and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, this woman’s so fucking beautiful. And she was so nice to me, too, ’cause everyone’s nice to little kids.” Nine years later, Ricci flew up to Canada and acted with Basinger for a few days in a movie called Bless the Child. “It was odd,” Ricci says, “but I’ve gotten used to things like that.”

Basinger didn’t remember her. She laughed at the story and then told Ricci how much she’d liked her in The Addams Family. When that film was released, people kept congratulating her. “I remember, um, Gene Siskel coming up to me after a screening and telling me that I was really good. And being, like, really impressed with myself.”

The Ricci family flew along on the movie’s junket, camping out at hotels in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, at Paramount’s expense. “It was really exciting,” says Ricci. “Junkets — I love junkets. Most of the time, you don’t feel like a movie star or whatever. Um — but when you’re on a junket, you do.” As a child actor, Ricci put a fourth of her income into a trust fund. The rest was going into family expenses; like a young athlete, Ricci was the primary bread-winner in the house.

A year later, when Ricci filmed the sequel, Addams Family Values, the movie was centered around her. But anxiety was beginning to creep in. “In rehearsal, they sort of mentioned to my mother that I had started to get a little hefty,” says Ricci. “So then I started doing the Cindy Crawford workout video. I loved that video.” How did Ricci get heavy? Movie sets offer what’s called craft services: plates of cookies, candy bars, potato chips, boxes of cereal you can slip in a pocket. “Well, a kid and a craft-services table — I mean, come on,” says Ricci. “And it’s not like you get any exercise while you’re shooting. Candy, Twinkies. I would actually try to work in candy bars — like, ‘Shouldn’t I be eating a Baby Ruth in this scene?’ ” On the L.A. junket, Ricci’s sister blew up at her for her behavior. Ricci’s self-consciousness began.

At thirteen, Ricci became conscious of something else: She felt like an actress. “During the second Addams Family, I sort of thought, ‘This is really fabulous,’ ” she says. “I liked the lifestyle. I liked my trailer. And I liked my school room, and I liked having four PAs watching us all the time.” A year later, she was working on Casper — playing Kat, the levelheaded caretaker of her dad (Bill Pullman). Casper was the first film where Ricci was billed above the other actors. “It meant I was really special,” she says, laughing. “Just like I’d always suspected.”

It’s a rainy Paris Monday: wet streets, clogged avenues. Because Ricci has been granted a day off, she drops by the Paris Versace. Her friend Kate becomes what Ricci calls “Mommy Kate” and helps Ricci pick clothes. (A little while later, Kate notices a bathroom and tells Ricci, “If you need a toilet, it’s right there.”) Ricci examines belts: one leather and silver, one with turquoise beads that look like they might be used as currency in Fiji. They are pricey — at the exchange rate, near $550 each. While Ricci is in the dressing room, Kate mentions something to the sales staff — women in black, with Ally McBeal bodies — who suddenly become very excited. One of them asks, “Is she from — the Family of Addams?” I nod. “Ooh la la,” she says; it is the first time I’ve ever heard a French person actually utter the phrase.

A few minutes later, a thickly built man in a black suit shakes Ricci’s hand and tells her the store will offer the actress a thirty-percent discount — a sort of appearing-in-movies bonus. The total is 11,578 francs — nearly $2,000. The salesgirls have gotten the relationships squared away; they hand the bag not to Ricci to carry, but to Kate.

Somewhere between The Addams Family sequel and Casper, Ricci’s parents officially divorced; Ricci hasn’t really spoken to her father since. Add to that the pressures of puberty. Casper included Ricci’s first extended kissing scene. “I can be kinda snappy when I’m embarrassed,” says Ricci. Her kissing partner, Devon Sewa, bore the brunt of it: “I scared the shit out of that kid.”

At school, regular Christina was also feeling a little shaky. “I was really flat-chested, and I was considered a prude,” she says. “I stopped feeling fabulous around age eleven. I got much less confident and more angsty; I think it had to do with boys not liking me.” Ricci began idolizing the girls boys did find fabulous, in the same spirit in which she now idolizes Jennifer Love Hewitt: Sasha Lubowski, Phoebe Malice, Catherine Hart. “They were just gorgeous,” Ricci sighs. “Catherine Hart — she was so beautiful. I would have fucked her. She had a beautiful house, really nice parents, one of those girl bedrooms with a white bedspread, white pillows and a light-pink carpet. Everything about her was tasteful and pretty and easy.” Ricci had doubts about herself. “This is so subversive and awful, but I started thinking that people just couldn’t see how fabulous I really was.”

During this stressful period, Ricci happened to see two unfortunate things at the same time. First, she came upon a still of herself from an old movie, “and I remembered thinking my arms looked so fat.” Then she saw the Tracey Gold portrait-of-an-anorexic TV movie For the Love of Nancy. “This film is supposed to make you not be anorexic,” Ricci says. “But I was like, ‘Damn — good drama.’ So I sort of willed myself into it.”

Ricci had her reasons. “I thought it would be fun to be sick,” she says. “I wanted people to want to take care of me again. ‘Cause people are so nice to you when you’re a kid, and people made a big deal out of me. So I think I sort of needed something else to get attention. All of a sudden, I was a teenager, and everything I did was much more impressive when I was little. I really loved it when I finally got skinny enough that I could buy stuff in the children’s section.” Ricci ate salad once a day and slept face down, with her fist jammed against her abdomen, “so that I could feel my stomach being hungry.” After six months, Ricci had fallen from 110 to 80 pounds and looked like a Popsicle.

High school in New Jersey had also become complicated for Ricci. She was anorexic and scared. Her siblings were all in college or working. The summer she was fifteen, Ricci and her mother moved to New York, to a Tribeca apartment. The money came from Ricci’s trust fund; she and her mother would borrow against it. “The apartment was so fucking expensive,” Ricci says. “And then there was private-school tuition on top of it.” Ricci enrolled at the Professional Children’s School, where the other kids were actors and dancers. She resumed normal eating, but anorexia plays tricks on the metabolism; in one month, she gained thirty pounds. “I was chunky — I was fat,” she says. “It’s weird weight, too, ’cause you just look puffy and strange.”

It had been almost a year since she’d had any acting offers. She was a junior in high school, and there were bills to pay. Ricci was offered the lead in the remake of That Darn Cat. Her mother said, “It’s good money.” Ricci felt disgruntled; she’d joke with the producer, “I can’t believe I’m doing this disaster. It’s pathetic. It’s so cheesy.”

After the shoot ended, in January of 1996, Ricci climbed into bed and essentially didn’t get out for three months. She ballooned from 110 to 135 pounds. “I wasn’t weighing myself anymore,” she says. “But I was pretty damn thick.” She didn’t want to make any more Darn Cats but knew she’d have to if that’s all that was offered; she’d need the money. “I was really depressed. I was just sleeping all the time. And I wouldn’t go to school. I would go maybe Monday, have an anxiety attack, and then be in my bed for the rest of the week.” Ricci can’t explain why she had anxiety attacks, but she knows why she was upset: “I felt like a failure, like I had really fucked up. And I knew it was my fault. It was a dull panic. My career and my life never seemed separate. It was like my life — and I was ending it. I had caused my life to stop, in a way.”

Ricci has turned careful. But there are rumors she can’t control, like one that linked her romantically with Johnny Depp during the making of Sleepy Hollow. The actors had dinner in a London restaurant and walked to a hotel bar. “They just assumed that Johnny was staying in that hotel and I had gone up to stay at his room,” she says. The next morning, Depp brought the tabloids to the set: “It was hysterically funny. Johnny said that it was a really good rumor, and what we should really be saying is that he and I have been having a secret longterm affair since we first met, since I was nine and he was twenty-seven.”

Ricci began constructing her new press image after making The Ice Storm in 1997. The movie became a point of release, a place to bury the bad feelings of a year. Director Ang Lee had one repeated direction for Ricci: “Less angry — you like him.” When The Ice Storm premiered at Cannes, Ricci had to walk the gantlet of paparazzi, and co-star Kevin Kline literally took her in hand. “We were walking in, and he realized I was freaking out ’cause I had no idea what to do, so he held my hand,” she says. “He kept telling me under his breath, ‘OK, now look to the left. OK, we’re waving. We’re walking again, we’re walking, we’re smiling. Are we smiling, Christina? We’re smiling. We’re waving.’ “

After Ricci graduated from high school, things started happening very fast. “I didn’t really stop feeling like a failure until after The Opposite of Sex,” she says. The film was many things — a comedy, a number of love stories — but it was also a series of shots of her breasts. For the first time, Ricci was a sex symbol. “[Director] Don Roos was obsessed with my tits. He’s upset now because they’re smaller than they were.” Ricci speaks of her breasts in the factual way you might speak about a friend who steals all the attention and takes all the best lines. “Then I started to do press again, and people really seemed to like me, so I thought, ‘OK, so I’m fabulous again.’ “

Outrageous, too. When reporters sat down with her, Ricci reveals, “I felt like I had to deliver.” Suddenly, instead of streaking to lighten up the atmosphere in her living room, Ricci is streaking across the whole country. For example, she has always loved the book Les Enfants Terribles, about a brother and sister who begin an incestuous affair. “So this reporter says, ‘Oh, incest, huh? You like incest?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s amazing, and really natural, and everyone should have sex with their siblings.’ ” Next thing, it’s all over the papers.

Another interviewer asks if Ricci would have liked to play The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway, as actress Natalie Portman did. “And I thought that was a rude question,” Ricci says. So she said that no way would she ever want to play such a martyr. Outrageous. “It was a good thing at first,” Ricci sighs. “And then it got out of hand.”

Ricci is back in her trailer the next morning. Another dissolve: Ricci is smoking, in a white bathrobe, in full makeup, and looks as glamorous as Kim Basinger must have looked to her when they met a decade ago. It starts to rain, and Ricci closes the windows of her trailer.

I ask about her boyfriend. Two years ago, Ricci went out with her pal Gaby Hoffmann, met Frauman and moved in with him. “I just never went home,” she says simply. It was as if, after the anorexia, after getting that last accelerated dash of childhood, she never wanted to be a child again under a parent’s roof. A year ago, Ricci and Frauman purchased a house in the Hollywood Hills, where Ricci plans wall colors, furniture patterns and curtains. When she gets bored, they walk their dogs or talk baby talk.

Ricci tells the story of how Frauman heard two guys at Blockbuster talking about her breasts. “Like, when am I gonna show them, in movies,” she says. “It upset him. I mean, would you want somebody talking about your girlfriend’s tits? It makes me uncomfortable — the idea of little boys in their parents’ bathrooms, jacking off to me, Yuck.” She laughs.

“It was so funny — we were shooting the other day and I had my first sex scene with Johnny. And he’s so nice, and so the whole experience was not bad at all. But before I was doing it, I was so uncomfortable and so nervous. I was in the trailer, I was talking to the makeup woman. And I was like, ‘I’m never doing a movie with a sex scene again, never ever.’ Later on, I thought, ‘No, I’ll be doing sex scenes for the rest of my life.’ “

Looking at Ricci, it’s easy to figure out why she’s managed to keep working while so many other child stars end up in jail or going to college. She has passed through many of the problems her characters have passed through. The parts being written for kids got dark just when Ricci’s life began turning in that direction. A couple of years ago, people began wondering what kind of children our era was going to turn out. Gloomy kids, watchful kids? Ricci, in her life and work, has become one of the ways we can find out — a floating reference point. I ask what she finds so interesting about Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

“I think maybe it’s left over from childhood — that obsession with Catherine Hart, just transferred,” she says. “But they’re probably having less fun than me, because they have to be so happy and such good role models. Personally, I think I’m a good role model. But that’s ’cause I have a different view of what a role model should be. I think role models should be extremely flawed, so then people who are striving, they don’t have to strive for perfection.”

A PA calls Ricci to the set. The director sees Ricci’s part in The Man Who Cried as basically reactive. Co-stars John Turturro and Cate Blanchett are starting an affair in this scene, and Ricci is supposed to watch and record without saying a word. The studio is a mock-up of Paris; tiny Parisian rooftops, tiny Parisian windows, a dignified old limousine with the camera in front. Ricci slips into the back seat with the other actors. The crew gently rocks the vehicle, simulates the lighting effects of a car speeding someplace in the dark. Ricci thinks quiet Ricci thoughts while the other actors speak their lines; she smokes, plays with the handle, fiddles with the window. The director calls for another take. 

In This Article: Christina Ricci, Coverwall


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