Christina Ricci: The One and Only
Christina Ricci has made her mark as a child star, indie queen, leading lady, and all-around unique presence on-screen and off. Now she's adding producer to her resume with the upcoming films Prozac Nation and Pumpkin. Here the prodigiously talented, invariably outspoken actress talks about why she doesn't need any more therapy, what cult classic she'd steal an Oscar acceptance speech from and how she couldn't help giggling when filming sex scenes with Johnny Depp in The Man Who Cried.
Christina Ricci walks into the living room of her home in the Hollywood Hills, sits down, lights a cigarette, and takes a swig from a bottle half-filled with orange swill. "What's in the bottle?" I ask.
"You mean The Crack?" she says. "It's lemon juice, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I'm on a liquid fast. When I'm done I'll feel cracked out."
It's understandable that Ricci feels the need to load up on an energy drink--at age 21 she's already made 26 movies. But Ricci is not just another Hollywood workaholic. She's done more in her career than almost any other actor her age, and she's mostly done it her way. She's never been the cute wholesome kid who befriends an orphaned alien, the young ingenue who rides a black stallion or the Juliet to anyone's Romeo. This is the kid who stole the show from her Addams family, who stole her half-brother's boyfriend in The Opposite of Sex and who seduced the preteen son of her neighbors in The Ice Storm.
The youngest of four siblings, Ricci grew up in L.A., New Jersey and Manhattan. When she was 12 and already had a blockbuster under her belt, her parents split, and she entered a dark period. Therapy and anorexia were part of her teenage years. She enjoyed walking on the wild side and speaking her mind. Shock was good; it was fun. Though she's still as opinionated as ever, Ricci is now 21 and looking at the long run. After making a rash of indies (200 Cigarettes, Pecker, Desert Blue) for which she earned several sterling reviews, she upped her star profile two years ago by starring as Johnny Depp's mysterious, alluring leading lady in Tim Burtons commercial hit Sleepy Hollow. Since then she's opened a production company, Blaspheme Films, and developed not-exactly-mainstream fare such as Prozac Nation, an adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's best-seller, and Pumpkin, in which she plays a sorority girl who falls in love with a disabled boy. Both will be released later this year. This summer, she's starring as a Russian woman who romances Johnny Depp in the high-profile, classy World War II drama The Man Who Cried.
In person, Ricci seems much older than 21, though she still looks 16. She comes off as professional, polite, direct and unshakable.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: Was turning 21 a big deal for you?
CHRISTINA RICCI: It's a big deal because everyone talks about their 21st birthday and all the things you have to do, like go to bars, show your ID. The bartenders all tell you to get drunk. Apparently this is the ritual.
Q: Did you go through the ritual?
A: Yeah. I went to this restaurant down the street and then to this dive bar, Ye Olde Rustic Inn. I like dive bars. [Suddenly gets up to turn off some lights] I live with my boyfriend and my roommate, and they don't turn the lights off.
Q: Are you compulsive?
A: My roommate and my boyfriend, they both know I am compulsive and controlling. You see my house--it doesn't look like an obsessive-compulsive person lives here, but if the keys are not in the middle of the coffee table, I'll complain about who moved them.
Q: Are you controlling when you're working?
A: No. When I'm acting in a film that I'm not producing, I stay to myself. When I made The Man Who Cried, the director [Sally Potter] was very into talking. I've never seen anyone so moved by their own material. I'm the main character in every scene, so the rehearsals would be two-hour conversations with other actors. The first couple of weeks made me feel weird, and I began to feel that nothing I did had any honesty, so I stopped. In my real life I have the normal insecurities anybody my age would have, but when I'm acting I don't feel self-conscious. To talk about it makes me self-conscious.
Q: This is the third time you've worked with Johnny Depp. Is each time different?
A: On Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he was being Hunter S. Thompson; he wasn't being Johnny. Sleepy Hollow was great. We had fun together. In this movie it's weird because we're having sex in almost every scene we're in, and it's rough sex. The first time we tried to be serious about it, we both started laughing, saying, "This is ridiculous." Then there were all these scenes where we were rooting around like pigs.
Q: Do you have a sisterly feeling toward Johnny?
A: It's almost more like he's my big brother's best friend and all of a sudden we're in sex scenes together.
Q: Did people in the Industry treat you differently after the success of Sleepy Hollow?
A: The movies I made early on may not have been great, but they were all commercially successful. I was always viewed by studios as a component in a movie that made money. Sleepy Hollow helped me come back to that.
Q: What made you want to produce and star in Prozac Nation?
A: The fact that in the memoir the author was able to make people feel the nature of depression through this monotonous tone was amazing to me. It made something intangible tangible. And I thought if we could make a movie that honestly reflected this without apologizing for it, how amazing would that be?