23 Feb 2008Webmiss
By Logan Hill | Published Feb 21, 2008
Christina Ricci is a fervent believer in seven-year cycles. â€œMy mom told me, â€˜Every seven years, everything changes: your physical being, your emotional being, the way other people look at you. Everythingâ€™ â€¦ Oh, God,â€ she moans, mocking herself. â€œThis is the kind of shitâ€”if I go into the bookstore and ask for the astrology section, theyâ€™re always like, â€˜Oh, a.k.a. the crazy-lady section?â€™ Thatâ€™s where youâ€™ll find me. Yep, the crazy-lady section.â€
The thing is, if you look back at Ricciâ€™s life, her loony theory holds up: Sheâ€™s not so much a star as a Hollywood comet locked into a semi-leisurely orbit. And having just turned 28 on February 12, she sees this spring as â€œthe end of a seven-year cycle and the beginning of a new one.â€
After a very quiet seven-year hiatus, Ricciâ€™s wild-child, unhinged turn in Black Snake Moan has set up what could be a noisy 2008. This week, she debuts a newly sincere side of herself in the tweener-friendly, Edward Scissorhandsâ€“ish fable Penelope, as a young woman who has been sequestered from the world because she has a pig nose. (â€œThe first nose was hideous and had lots of wrinkles and looked more like a boar nose,â€ she says. â€œI was like, â€˜Can I have the keys to the Miss Piggy nose?â€™ And we met somewhere in the middle.â€) In May, sheâ€™ll headline the Wachowskisâ€™ anime-inspired spectacle Speed Racer, playing a kung fuâ€“fighting, hot-pink-wearing Hello Kitty vamp (no pig nose, but lots and lots of wigs).
â€œIt all comes back around,â€ says Ricci, who swears that in her newest cycle, sheâ€™s not going to hide behind her notorious sarcasm. â€œI come from one of these hideous backgrounds where being sincere is likeâ€”ugh, you might as well kill yourself,â€ she says. â€œItâ€™s fun to be sarcastic, but now Iâ€™m able to express myself in a way thatâ€™s much more sincere.
â€œFor whatever reason,â€ she adds, â€œIâ€™m ready to refocus, and Iâ€™ve got my drive back. Itâ€™s a new seven-year cycle. But then again, my mother told me a lot of crazy things.
THE FIRST SEVEN
Perhaps itâ€™s natural that Ricci, who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, would become nineties cinemaâ€™s beautiful young freak: Her mother is a former Ford model, Seventeen cover girl, and â€œstarving socialite,â€ as Ricci has joked. Her father is a therapist who specialized in â€œprimal-scream therapy,â€ which Ricci would overhear and playfully imitate.
THE SECOND SEVEN
Ricciâ€™s acting career was launched via a spectacular grade-school freak-out. When her elementary school held auditions for The Twelve Days of Christmas, Ricci was in danger of losing the lead to another kid. So she hatched a plot only slightly more diabolical than the one she would later act out in The Opposite of Sex. Ricci taunted her rival so much that he socked her. When she tattled, he lost the part. â€œIâ€™ve always been a really ambitious person,â€ she says. â€œI guess thatâ€™s the first time it really reared its ugly head. That whole Chorus Line, fucking-other-actors-over thing, I got that out of my system then. Apparently, my 7-year-old self was like, You. Need. This.â€
A local theater critic noticed Ricci, and soon she was doing ads. She made her film debut in Cherâ€™s Mermaids at age 9 and spurred a controversy over the sexualization of children when a pinup-style photo of a bikini-clad 11-year-old Ricci ran in Premiere shortly after her cute-creepy turn as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family.
THE THIRD SEVEN
â€œFrom like 14 to 21, I got a lot of parts in paying films and became more of an adult actress,â€ says Ricci, who also wrestled with more adult problems after her parents split up in 1993. She began the cycle as another slightly spooky sweetheart in Casper, but later she became anorexic and began cutting herself. And her roles started to mirror the intensity of her life: scandal-courting turns in Bastard Out of Carolina, The Ice Storm, Buffalo â€™66, and The Opposite of Sex, almost always as a strangely seductive outcast. â€œI think Iâ€™ve always been interested in playing people who are judged very harshly,â€ she says. â€œI think thatâ€™s why I get those parts when I audition for them. I hate when people are judged and misunderstood.â€
Ricci peaked at the box office with 1999â€™s Sleepy Hollow, and Oscar buzz grew around her anticipated turn in a high-profile adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzelâ€™s strung-out Gen-X memoir Prozac Nation.
THE FOURTH SEVEN
Prozac Nation, of course, was a disaster, denied a domestic release by Miramax. With it, Ricciâ€™s career suddenly fizzled, too. â€œWhen I was 21, I stopped being as productive,â€ she merrily admits. â€œI kind-of-sort-of gave myself a break from any ambition that I ever had.â€ Ricci racked up a few solid supporting roles (The Laramie Project, Monster). But almost everything else (The Gathering, Pumpkin, Miranda, Cursed) flopped. Her self-deprecating gloss on this cycle is that it allowed her to achieve relative normality. â€œI needed time to grow into who I am now. I needed some personal time.â€ She laughs, realizing how ridiculous that sounds. (She still seems slightly amused by her newfound sincerity, as if itâ€™s a particularly funny hat.) â€œSo, yeah, I took seven years of personal days.â€
THE FIFTH SEVEN
Which brings us to the beginning of her new seven-year cycle. It starts with the very sweethearted fable Penelopeâ€”though Ricci says thereâ€™s â€œa line from Black Snake Moan to Penelope,â€ a new â€œkind of social consciousness.â€ If the Britney Spearsâ€“ish redneck tramp of Black Snake was â€œthe tangible result of all the exploitation of women in our society,â€ then the pig-nosed girl in Penelope is another outcastâ€”a sequestered girl with serious body issues who learns to love herself. And James McAvoy. â€œIt stresses the importance of the individual, which weâ€™ve been trying to kill with makeover shows and everything.â€
The Wachowskisâ€™ Speed Racer is hardly so uplifting. â€œBasically, Iâ€™m their dress-up doll,â€ says Ricci, who plays the bad-ass, helicopter-piloting girlfriend. â€œTheyâ€™d dress me up with matching pink hair and lips and skirt and shirt and say, â€˜Okay, now we wanna see you kung fu fight.â€™â€
But thatâ€™s okay: The film still fits in with her master plan, because, in fact, Ricci sees more kung fu fighting in this next cycle. â€œIâ€™m totally down for more action movies, but I think Iâ€™d really like to find my place in sort of the higher echelon of dramatic actresses. Oh! And Iâ€™d like to play a spy.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m so small,â€ she says, cheekily mocking her oft-scrutinized frame. â€œSo I always figured I would be the one they send through the air vent if something happened. You know: â€˜Can fit in small places.â€™â€
From New York Magazine