CHRISTINA Ricci, star of the li­cen­tious cos­tume drama Bel Ami, talks to Vicky Roach about stage fright, Robert Pattinson’s hu­man qual­i­ties, and the brac­ing ef­fect of a good corset.

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But­terfl ies and bodice- rip­pers

Q: As a young ac­tor, you suf­fered from stage fright. A: Even when I was asked to present an award, my legs would shake, my knees would knock and my voice would quake. It was crip­pling. Q: Hav­ing just played Her­mia in an off- Broad­way pro­duc­tion of A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, I pre­sume you even­tu­ally found a way to con­quer that fear.

A: I still get ner­vous, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing be­cause it makes you re­ally fo­cused. Some­times in pre­views, if I get too com­fort­able, I’ll get a bit lack­adaisi­cal. I won’t be as sharp as I need to be.

Q: It would be fair to say, then, that you went out on a limb with your Broad­way de­but in Time Stands Still in 2010.

A: At the time it came up, I al­most for­got I had stage fright. It had been so long since any­one had pro­posed the idea. I re­mem­ber just say­ing: ‘ Oh yeah, that sounds amaz­ing. I would love to au­di­tion’. It wasn’t un­til af­ter I had got the part that I went: ‘ Oh God, wait, I have ter­ri­ble stage fright’. But I re­alised I wasn’t quite so in­se­cure and ner­vous as I had been in my early twen­ties.

Q: You got great re­views for your per­for­mance. You must have felt a real sense of achieve­ment.

A: The big­gest thing I took from that ex­pe­ri­ence was that I could trust my­self. No mat­ter how scared I was, and no mat­ter how many times I would have a panic at­tack on stage, I could trust my mus­cle mem­ory from re­hearsals to carry me through. You get so much strength from know­ing you can rely on your­self in that way.

Q: Many of the char­ac­ters you have played have been some­what trou­bled ( Mon­ster, Black Snake Moan, The Op­po­site of Sex). Bel Ami’s Clotilde shows you in quite a dif­fer­ent light.

A: It’s dif­fi­cult for me to say. I don’t have that sort of ob­jec­tiv­ity about my­self. I’m prob­a­bly much more multi- di­men­sional to my­self than I am to oth­ers.

Q: Even Wed­nes­day Ad­dams is more cyn­i­cal than Clotilde.

A: It is in­ter­est­ing to play some­one that you imag­ine has never known a day of angst. The first time she goes through heartache is dur­ing the course of the film. That was some­thing I was very in­ter­ested in be­cause, of course, I had never done that.

Q: She’s cer­tainly very dif­fer­ent to the woman [ au­thor] Guy de Mau­pas­sant en­vi­sioned.

A: In the book, she and [ Robert Pattinson’s char­ac­ter] Ge­orges [ an op­por­tunis­tic cad set on se­duc­ing wealthy women] are meant to be two of a kind, both glut­tonous and out for them­selves.

Q: Apart from Sleepy Hol­low, with Johnny Depp, you haven’t done a lot of cos­tume drama.

A: I haven’t done too many of them, but they are so much fun to do. And I love a corset.

Q: Most ac­tors tend to talk about how con­strict­ing they are.

A: They are not the most ter­ri­bly com­fort­able of un­der­gar­ments, but there is some­thing about the dis­ci­pline of wear­ing them that I re­ally like. I like the way those sorts of dresses change the way you walk and change the way you sit and even the way you breathe. I like how much it dic­tates your char­ac­ter.

Q: Your on­screen re­la­tion­ship with Robert Pattinson, who plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter, is some­what volatile. How did you get along be­hind the scenes.

A: He’s lovely. He’s sweet, funny and charm­ing. We would just be silly to­gether and laugh a lot and make fun of each other. He’s got sis­ters, so he is very com­fort­able in the com­pany of women. And just a lot of fun to be around.

Q: The ob­ser­va­tions de Mau­pas­sant makes about the na­ture of fame and celebrity can hardly have been lost on the cast.

A: They say the tabloid was cre­ated dur­ing the Vic­to­rian era. It doesn’t seem like much has changed.

Q: And yet you have man­aged to keep your own pri­vate life pretty pri­vate.

A: Mmmhmm. I do ( long pause). I don’t do any­thing very gos­sip-wor­thy I guess.

Q: The fu­ture of Pan Am [ the ‘ 60s- in­spired TV se­ries in which

Ricci plays a flight at­ten­dant] has yet to be de­cided, but I no­tice you re­cently put your Hol­ly­wood home up for rent. Does that decision sig­nal a shift in fo­cus?

A: I don’t want to talk about that.

Q: That would be how you keep your pri­vate life pri­vate?

A: Mmmhmm.

Q: How did you find your first ex­tended foray into tele­vi­sion.

A: I had a re­ally great time. I re­ally loved be­ing [ on] Pan Am. The cast was great. The crew was great. I loved hav­ing that kind of long- term job where you get to ex­plore a new char­ac­ter for months and maybe even years. Q: A mu­si­cal adap­ta­tion of The

Ad­dams Fam­ily will pre­miere on stage in Syd­ney next year. Your

Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream costar Babe Neuwirth orig­i­nated the

role of Mor­ti­cia on Broad­way. Any thoughts of fol­low­ing suit?

A: I don’t re­ally like mu­si­cals to tell you the truth.

Q: So we’re un­likely to see you belt­ing out a ghoul­ish show­tune any time soon?

A: Never say never.

Q: But it would be fair to say that a much more im­me­di­ate prospect would be Sarah Spillane’s up­com­ing film Around

the Block, set around the 2004 Red­fern ri­ots, to which I un­der­stand you are al­ready at­tached?

A: Noth­ing is fi­nalised so it would be pre­ma­ture for me to com­ment.

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