“Ques­tions that per­mit the an­swer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are an­swered in just that fash­ion”

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

Or vir­tu­ally any­body from vir­tu­ally any Tim Bur­ton film. Look, he has these big sharp fin­gers that stop him from em­brac­ing any­body and for­bid any kind of emo­tional con­nec­tion. He’s just like you. Now, go to your room and read Emily Dickinson po­ems to your stuffed raven.

The orig­i­nal pre-teen Goth, Wed­nes­day was cre­ated by car­toon­ist Charles Ad­dams back in 1938 for the New Yorker mag­a­zine. Christina Ricci’s su­per per­for­mance in the hit movie brought that sulky malev­o­lence to a whole new au­di­ence. Was equally good in Ad­dams Fam­ily Val­ues.


Frank Skin­ner has a good joke about this. He claims that when­ever he saw some­body in a long leather coat, he used to si­dle up and – adopt­ing Ken­neth Wil­liams’ voice from Carry On Ma­tron – cam­ply in­tone: “Ooo, Ma­trix!” You ei­ther get that or you don’t.

On its re­lease, the film was best known for that tragic in­ci­dent in which Bran­don Lee, who plays the eye-liner-heavy hero, was killed af­ter be­ing shot with a dummy bul­let. But the char­ac­ter grad­u­ally ac­quired icon sta­tus fans of Fields of the Nephilim.

Still pop­u­lar as a Hal­loween cos­tume. manded sullen ac­tors who al­ways looked on the point of storm­ing off to their bed­rooms. Ricci fit­ted that tem­plate per­fectly. She has a won­der­ful way of clip­ping snarky di­a­logue. Her stony glare is a fear­some sight to be­hold. Ricci was su­perb in Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm as an an­gry daugh­ter cop­ing badly with her par­ents’ drift into sleazy 1970s ex­cess. That does, how­ever, just about count as a ju­ve­nile per­for­mance. Vin­cent Gallo’s Buf­falo 66 saw her stretch to­wards adult­hood. Play­ing a strange tap dancer kid­napped by Gallo’s even stranger ex-con, Ricci of­fered am­ple ev­i­dence she was in it for the long run.

What about Vin­cent Gallo then? The no­to­ri­ous ac­tor, writer, di­rec­tor and mu­si­cian seems like a very ec­cen­tric fel­low.

“Yes. He’s very in­ter­est­ing.” In what way? “As you say. He’s very ec­cen­tric.” Okay. Let’s try an­other an­gle. Did this ec­cen­tric­ity man­i­fest it­self on set? “Yes. It did.” She is clearly do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to avoid ex­pand­ing. “He is an in­cred­i­bly tal­ented per­son and that film shows how tal­ented he is. He is a very flam­boy­ant per­son, very emo­tional.”

Did she feel that the film launched her to­wards an adult ca­reer? “I don’t know that I would have had then – or have now – the ob­jec­tiv­ity some­body writ­ing about me would have. I just felt that I was 17 and was play­ing a 17 or 18 year old. That’s just what the char­ac­ter was.” Ricci worked con­sis­tently through­out the last decade. She was su­perb as Char­l­ize Theron’s lover in Mon­ster. She tore up the screen as an im­pris­oned tear­away in the barmy Black Snake Moan. But true com­mer­cial hits have proved rel­a­tively hard to come by. Hap­pily, the con­tin­u­ing qual­ity of con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion of­fers such ac­tors a re­spectable route to­wards qual­ity ma­te­rial.

In re­cent months Christina has been star­ring in ABC’S glossy pe­riod drama Pan Am. Play­ing a se­nior flight at­tended on the tit­u­lar air­line, she gets to wear sharp dresses, sashay past modernist ar­chi­tec­ture and gen­er­ally revel in the cur­rent vogue for early-1960s chic. The se­ries takes an am­biva­lent ap­proach to the char­ac­ters’ po­si­tion in so­ci­ety. They have some power. But they are cer­tainly not prop­erly lib­er­ated.

“Pan Am has been a re­ally won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says, bright­en­ing up some­what. “Yes, these women aren’t liv­ing in lib­er­ated times. But, as long as they play the game and go through cer­tain rit­u­als, they get to live their lives un­en­cum­bered. They earned among the top 10 salaries in the world for women. They see the world the way most Amer­i­cans didn’t.”

Ricci seems like a pe­cu­liar crea­ture. There’s clearly an in­tel­li­gent, ar­tic­u­late per­son lurk­ing in there. In the next few weeks – as if to prove the point – she be­gins re­hearsals for the role of Her­mia in a pro­duc­tion of Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream. But she doesn’t do a great job of con­vinc­ing us that she re­tains en­thu­si­asm for her cho­sen ca­reer path. I won­der what else she might have done with her life. It seems like she’s had a busy life.

“Not re­ally. It just feels like my life.” What would she have done if she hadn’t be­come an ac­tor? “God knows. I never think about that.” What else is she good at? “Noth­ing. I’m not good at any­thing else.” She must be good at some­thing. Can she play the pi­ano, do dif­fi­cult sums or paint land­scapes? “No. I have some or­gan­i­sa­tional skills. Maybe I could or­gan­ise peo­ple’s clos­ets for a liv­ing.” The room is silent again. Can I go now? I’m not re­ally a shy per­son; I’m very out­go­ing and I love to talk to peo­ple, but I would say that I much pre­fer be­ing in front of a crowd of peo­ple rather than in a crowd of peo­ple. I want to put on a good per­for­mance; that’s the way I’d want to watch some­one on stage, too. The songs are sto­ries that are very per­sonal, and they may come from a place where there is a deep de­jec­tion, or an anger, or a sad­ness — but it’s me try­ing to be as hon­est with our au­di­ence as pos­si­ble, I guess. Our songs aren’t re­ally po­lit­i­cally based, or based on any­thing that’s not out­side of the nat­u­ral world; hu­mans, feel­ings, emo­tions. That’s all I know, so that’s all I can re­ally write about. No, I was a loud­mouth rapper in high school, so when I went off to col­lege, I wanted to find a pro­ducer to make beats for me to per­form as a rapper. Hip-hop and jazz were re­ally all I lis­tened to and all I wanted to do. Then I met Wil­liam [Cash­ions, bas­sist/gui­tarist] on the first day of school, and he was a mu­si­cian and was us­ing a com­puter to com­pose re­ally in­ter­est­ing stuff with field record­ings and live in­stru­ments. In the be­gin­ning, it was ba­si­cally one mu­si­cian and three non-mu­si­cians in our first band [Art Lord & the Self-por­traits]. I was like, ‘This isn’t gonna work’ (laughs), so we brought Ger­rit in. As soon as the three of us came to­gether, the mu­sic we made has al­ways sort of pulled some­thing out of me. This is some­thing that the three of us have talked about at length, but I don’t wanna show my cards yet (laughs). I def­i­nitely feel like it could make us a great band. Not to say that we aren’t, but I think it could take us to an­other level. But it would have to be the right per­son. There’s a friend of ours we’re talk­ing to about maybe try­ing out, but it’s one of those things that might not hap­pen for an­other cou­ple of years, or a cou­ple of months. Or it could never hap­pen. The thing is, if we brought in a drum­mer, I bet we would write a new al­bum in a month. That’s the way it works when you add a new el­e­ment. You try some­thing new, it’s scary, but it’s a good feel­ing. We’ll see what hap­pens. Oh, it’s gonna be men­tal. We haven’t been in Dublin for al­most two years, and it’s a city we re­ally love. The last time we were in Dublin, it was the last day of a seven-week tour and we had lost our minds. But when we got there, it was just slam-packed with mu­sic, and when we played Inch of Dust, the first four of five rows of peo­ple just screamed the words back at me. My body was tired, my mind was bro­ken, but all of a sud­den I just felt so alive. The crowd gave me my soul back, ba­si­cally — so you guys have a lot to live up to at Whe­lan’s.

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