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