Dark star

She’s fly­ing high now in but star Christina Ricci made her name play­ing goth heroine Wed­nes­day Ad­dams – and she still gives good gloom, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

CHRISTINA RICCI is just 32. Wideeyed and com­pact, she perches on the lush sofa in a man­ner that sug­gests Ker­mit’s nephew sit­ting on his favourite step of the stairs. An en­tire bas­ket­ball team could be ac­com­mo­dated in the space left un­oc­cu­pied. In short, she still looks like some­body who has an en­tire life ahead of her.

Two decades have, how­ever, passed since she first be­came an idol to dark, eye­liner-suf­fo­cated youth. When she was 10, she ap­peared op­po­site the fear­some Cher in Mer­maids. The real boost kicked in with her per­for­mance as Wed­nes­day, per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of mor­bid child­hood, in the 1991 ver­sion of The Ad­dams Fam­ily. Util­is­ing per­fect comic tim­ing, mak­ing an art of im­pas­sive­ness, she stole the movie from vet­er­ans such as Raoul Ju­lia and An­gel­ica Hus­ton.

Now she turns up as a stat­uesque Belle Epoque so­ci­ety lady in De­clan Don­nel­lan and Nick Ormerod’s adap­ta­tion of Guy de Mau­pas­sant’s novel Bel Ami.

“We had move­ment classes and lessons,” she says. “There was a lot about the way women sat and held their hands out. The hard­est part was you had to sit with­out us­ing your hands to steady your­self. I am bit clumsy. So that was tricky.”

Then she falls silent. It quickly be­comes clear that – for to­day at least – young Ricci is not a talker.

Maybe the press have burnt her in the past. Per­haps she’s just a lit­tle jet-lagged. But she does not come across as the sort of per­son who, if en­coun­tered in a lift, would pin you to the corner with anec­dotes con­cern­ing her dif­fi­cult morn­ing. Ques­tions that per­mit the an­swer “yes” or “no” are an­swered in just that fash­ion. Amus­ing yarns con­cern­ing celebri­ties are left for an­other day.

What about that early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with Goth cul­ture? What did she make of the fact that Wed­nes­day be­came a heroine to nico­tine-stained out­siders? “I never iden­ti­fied as a Goth,” she says.

Okay. But did she un­der­stand why the char­ac­ter ap­pealed to that tribe? “Yeah. Be­cause most Goths have a sense of irony.” Maybe it was a stupid ques­tion.

Of Ir­ish and Ital­ian de­scent, Christina Ricci was born in Cal­i­for­nia, but spent most of her child­hood in a north­ern re­gion of New Jer­sey. Her fa­ther was a lawyer and her mother, once a model, worked in real es­tate.

When she was just eight she be­gan do­ing voiceover work and ap­pear­ing in com­mer­cials. She main­tains that her mother, who di- vorced in the early 1990s, was never ag­gres­sive in man­ag­ing her ca­reer. All that mat­tered was that the kid was still hav­ing fun. The early suc­cess must, how­ever, have caused its trau­mas. We have heard of many child ac­tors who failed to re­sist the temp­ta­tions of drugs, booze and bad re­la­tion­ships. The press are al­ways wait­ing for such stars to fall off their perch.

“That was be­fore the in­ter­net re­ally started,” she says. “It was be­fore tabloid cul­ture got quite so preva­lent. I still lived in the same town in New Jer­sey and had the same friends.”

The fragrant Robert Pattinson plays the cyn­i­cal ac­ci­den­tal jour­nal­ist whose ad­ven­tures drive the plot of Bel Ami. They must have had some in­ter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions about the pres­sures that early suc­cess can bring. There are few idols more hotly pur­sued than the star of the Twi­light films.

“He’s won­der­ful,” she says. “He’s han­dling ev­ery­thing very well. He never brought any of what he was go­ing through to the set. He was al­ways in­cred­i­bly well pre­pared, very pro­fes­sional and a very great ac­tor. I loved work­ing with him. We joked a lot. Made fun of each other and had a great laugh.”

Did she have ad­vice for him? “Not re­ally. He seems to be han­dling it all very well. I can’t imag­ine be­ing as fa­mous as he is.” There comes a point when ev­ery teenage ac­tor has to de­cide whether they will stick with the busi­ness for the rest of their lives. Fol­low­ing the pat­terns set by Jodie Foster, stars such as Ju­lia Stiles and Claire Danes have man­aged to at­tend col­lege while still keep­ing a ten­ta­tive toe in the the­atri­cal world. Christina did ap­ply to univer­sity. But, af­ter sev­eral de­fer­rals, she de­cided that she was fated (or doomed) to live life in front of the cam­era. If you are hop­ing for some nu­anced anal­y­sis of that decision, you are about to be dis­ap­pointed.

“I liked do­ing this a lot,” she says. “Then, when I was around 14, I re­alised this is what I wanted to do. I looked around and thought I re­ally love do­ing this. There was noth­ing else I could re­ally do.” The 1990s was the high pe­riod for mumbly slack­er­dom. Young movie-go­ers de-

irish­times.com/cul­ture

Christina Ricci with Bel Ami co-stars Kris­ten Scott Thomas and Uma Thur­man

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