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