At 27, Christina Ricci is a veteran of the film business. She started out as a child actor with films like â€˜Mermaidsâ€™ (1990) and â€˜The Addams Familyâ€™ (1991) before developing a knack for playing mouthy teenagers and vulnerable women in films like â€˜Buffalo 66â€™ (1998), â€˜The Opposite of Sexâ€™ (1998) and â€˜Monsterâ€™ (2003). She bares all in Craig Brewerâ€™s â€˜Black Snake Moanâ€™ as Rae, a wild young woman in the deep south who treats her body with zero respect until she meets Lazarus (Samuel L Jackson), an ageing divorcee who decides to teach her a lesson by chaining her to a radiator in his front-room.
Your character in â€˜Black Snake Moanâ€™ is a right old mess.
Yeah, sheâ€™s got a few problems. A few issues. Sheâ€™s a girl suffering from post-traumatic stress from a childhood full of rape and abuse. But because her abuse when she was a child was sexual, then she looks to sexually abuse herself. Itâ€™s a way that a lot of victims have of stopping it from happening again: they do it to themselves. Theyâ€™re the ones in control, degrading themselves, and abusing themselves, and no one else can have that power over them again.
Thatâ€™s usually what happens to kids who go through that, unless they get help. She has these anxiety attacks. and usually if someoneâ€™s anxiety attacks are not treated then they will start drinking or cutting themselves â€“ or something else thatâ€™s self-abusive.
Youâ€™re half-naked through a lot of the film. You spend half of it in pants and a t-shirt tied to a radiator.
Craig [Brewer, the director] said that sometimes he felt that he was making a â€™70s porno. I had to walk around basically in my underwear all day long. And I would. I wouldnâ€™t even cover up in between takes because I needed to feel comfortable with it. I think you can see it on camera when someoneâ€™s not comfortable with nudity. And she has no shame.
Also I needed the crew to be so used to seeing me like that so that every time I looked at them I wouldnâ€™t see it in their eyes: Oh my God, youâ€™ve got no shirt on.
So how did Craig Brewer claim to steer his film away from the exploitation route?
One of the things that he does â€“ he does this in â€˜Hustle and Flowâ€™ too â€“ is to lead the audience a little bit to lust after her, and then all of a sudden, a scene will come which is so painful and itâ€™s like being smacked in the face. I think it was his own sense of guilt of lusting after someone and then feeling really guilty about it. He wanted her to be, in a weird way, hot. But, at the same time, it goes just too far, to that point when you think: this isnâ€™t fun anymore, this isnâ€™t sexy anymore. I canâ€™t believe that I was thinking those things.
The film struck me as being quite evangelical: your character is healed through the love of a good Christian.
I can see why you might think that, but in the end itâ€™s quite a spiritual film. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s specific to any one religion. They might be Christians, but in the end I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a Christian movie. Itâ€™s a spiritual movie, itâ€™s about having faith and being healed â€“ stuff like that.
You often play weirdos nutcases.
I think Iâ€™m better at playing difficult than I am at being normal. And to me thatâ€™s something Iâ€™m working on now. Iâ€™m not really that difficult or complex a person, so itâ€™s interesting to me that itâ€™s just so much harder for me to play an everygirl. I think that I need to work on being comfortable at being normal, everyday-ish on camera. Unlike a lot of actors, I think thatâ€™s the thing that Iâ€™m not so comfortable with.
Itâ€™s ten years since you made â€˜Buffalo 66â€™ with Vincent Gallo.
I was seventeen, yeah. It was my first movie away without my mother. Not a wise choice. I really didnâ€™t understand what was going on most of the time working with a crazy lunatic man. Iâ€™d never encountered such insanity.
He said some nice things about your weight.
Oh yes, Iâ€™ve been there. Horrible things. He waited three or four years and then decided to make fun of my weight at the time that we were shooting â€˜Buffalo 66â€™. He waited that long to make fun of a seventeen-year-old. Itâ€™s so bizarre, and I hadnâ€™t seen him in years, I hadnâ€™t done anything to him. It was just like: okay, asshole.
Did you get on with him when making the film?
No, not really. Heâ€™s one of those people who sometimes heâ€™s so nice to you and then the next he imagines that youâ€™ve done something horrible and heâ€™ll start screaming at you. Itâ€™s difficult to get on well with someone like that.
Did you see his next film, â€˜The Brown Bunnyâ€™?
Oh, I didnâ€™t see it. I have no interest in seeing anything he ever does again.
â€˜Black Snake Moanâ€™ opens on Friday.