You know when you meet that guy way back in 1st grade and just know he’ll be your friend for life and maybe, someday, more? That’s what it’s like for Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) and Trixie (Christina Ricci) in the new, color-splashed actioner Speed Racer. This girl is no shrinking violet. Trixie flies a hot helicopter, kicks martial arts butt and drives a sleek race car alongside the hottest guys! Playing a gurl-powered character was super appealing to petite dynamo Christina Ricci. So was acting opposite hottie of the moment Emile Hirsch and veterans Susan Sarandon and John Goodman.
We went down to the Long Beach Grand Prix to watch races and chat with the Speed Racer cast. In a suite above the track, with the sounds of race cars whooshing by below, we met with Christina, and saw that she now looks very different than her character. Gone is Trixie’s molded black bob, replaced by chin-length, blonde/brown streaked hair. In a cute black and white patterned, sleeveless dress, the star looked Vogue-chic. We wanted to know all about working with the wacky Wachowski brothers (who created The Matrix), doing many scenes in a green-screen room with few props and what car Christina would drive if she could have a world-wide choice. Go, Trixie, Go!
TeenHollywood: We like the new hair color. Is this for a role or just for you?
Christina: Thank you. No, it’s for me.
TeenHollywood: You did look really cute in Trixie’s short black bob though.
Christina: But I really didn’t enjoy that haircut. When you have long hair and then, all of a sudden, you get a really drastic haircut, you know, us ladies, we cry. But, other than that, she was a great character to play. She was amazing and fun and they dressed me up like a doll every day but then I got to do all this actiony stuff and had a really good time.
TeenHollywood: What made you want to do this film from the beginning?
Christina: I loved the idea of working with the Wachowskis. I’ve wanted to work with them for a while and then Speed Racer was actually always something that people had mentioned to me like ‘oh, you know they’re gonna make Speed Racer. You’d be a good Trixie’, blah, blah, blah.
TeenHollywood: Were you familiar with the character from the animated TV shows or…?
Christina: I was familiar with her from all the hipster paraphernalia and the Geico commercial but I’d never seen the cartoons. So then, they sent me the script and I had to go in and audition very quickly afterwards.
TeenHollywood: I read that you were nervous at your interview for this. You had on black Converse sneakers and so did the brothers. Tell that story.
Christina: Oh, I thought I gave a horrible audition but, at one point, I caught Andy’s eye and Andy [Wachowski] looked at my sneakers and I looked at his and looked back up at him and sort of smiled. I was like ‘maybe the Chuck Taylors will work’. [laughter] But, I thought I gave a horrible audition.
TeenHollywood: Well, evidently not! When Trixie got to race, I was a little disappointed that she didn’t get to finish the race and was replaced by the Rain character.
Christina: Well, he recovered from his poison and I couldn’t show up at the end and cut out because then I’d be cheating. We were cheating a little bit by having me in there.
TeenHollywood: I heard the script was quite long. Were there any scenes of yours that didn’t make the final cut?
Christina: No. The script was quite long but only because all of the action in the races was described. You know what I mean? Like ‘he turns left and jumps over and double, triple jumps.. nah, na, na, na na’. Half of that stuff I didn’t read [we laugh]. I’m like [running her finger across imaginary script pages] ‘race, race, race, race, he wins’. Okay, ‘race, race, race, race, something evil happens. Oh, a little sabotage, okay, good’. But, other than that, I read all the stuff that wasn’t descriptive racing stuff.
TeenHollywood: You’ve been playing a lot of radical characters who go to extremes lately. This film is a bit of a departure.
Christina: I think I like complex characters and, for drama, the people who do the most dramatic things are the people who have personal problems. Recently I have grown up and become a little less afraid of sincerity and I have a real vested interest in women’s issues and the next generation of girls.
TeenHollywood: Trixie is a good role model. What started your concern for modern girls and teens?
Christina: Just looking around a little bit more and seeing all of the negative images that are out there for young girls. It’s like what are they supposed to grow up into if the only images they have out there are like the brats? It’s crazy. So, I really like the fact that [Trixie], to me, is the ultimate feminist character. She’s girlie as she wants to be but then she does everything the boys do and there’s no commentary on ‘ooo, it’s a girl doing that. Oooo, it’s a girl flying a helicopter’. And the brothers [Wachowskis] are very much responsible for that kind of thing because they have a very strong sense of equality and an interest in leaving the world a better place than they found it. So, I was really excited about that.
TeenHollywood: Since you are interested in promoting girl power and feminist issues, is there a particular character from history that you would like to one day portray?
Christina: Good question. I don’t know. I’ve always been obsessed with Eleanor of Aquitaine but I don’t know if that’s because of any feminist feelings I have. I’d like to go back and revisit that story.
TeenHollywood: How was working with the Wachowski brothers?
Christina: They’re great. They’re so much fun and they’re just wonderful people and they’re so smart and just like, at a party, they’re the most interesting people to talk to. But, working with them was great because they want to have a good time and they want everyone to be happy so, on a set, it’s just everyone hanging out, having fun, laughing at what’s happening, just having a good time.
TeenHollywood: Can you talk about working with Emile? You two seemed to have good chemistry.
Christina: Yeah, he’s really a sweet, sweet kid [geez, she’s only 5 years older]. We had such a good time together from the very first. He already had the part and he was reading with me and he was just so helpful and really nice. I’ve read with a lot of people who are not necessarily so giving. Like they’ve already got the part so what do they care? Those people are not nice. Emile was just really helpful and really wonderful. Then, working on the set with him was really fun. The whole cast had such a good time. Everyone was laughing and making fun of each other.
TeenHollywood: What’s it like working with green screen and just having to imagine what is going to be there? John [Goodman] compared it to working in really, really low budget theater where there’s no props, no sets.
Christina: I liked it because it immediately created a bond amongst all the actors and a lot of our stuff, especially at the beginning of shooting, was all family stuff so it was all ensemble, all of us together. Immediately, you walk into this big green room and you look at everyone else dressed in various hilarious costumes and you just say, ‘Yeah, okay. What are we doing today?’ Then, they’re like, ‘it’s snowing’, ‘oh, Susan, did you know it’s snowing right now’? We’re laughing. It’s ridiculous but we’re committed to it. We don’t know what’s around us but we’re gonna do what they tell us to. It creates a bond that is really wonderful.
TeenHollywood: You shot at studios in Berlin, Germany. Was there any time to have fun off set?
Christina: Yeah. We had a great time. The brothers threw a lot of parties and people on the crew threw parties, a lot of the actors went out and socialized among themselves and we were all staying at the same hotel so we spent evenings together. It was just really fun. It was summer in Berlin which didn’t necessarily make it warm but there were some warm days that we went out and had a good time outside.
TeenHollywood: Did you get to do some of the more physical stuff like ride the gimbal race machine? [that moves and substitutes for the driver’s seat and instruments] How was that?
Christina: It was fun. So much fun. I love doing that stuff and I love getting little battle injuries and stuff like that, battle scars.
TeenHollywood: So you were hurt?
Christina: I did get a little hurt. You get banged around in the gimbal thing so much and you end up with bruises. At one point, I had to get out and throw up and get back in because it’s a lot of shaking and craziness but it was just really fun. I had a good time.
TeenHollywood: Yeow! Was there anything the cars did that you thought “I wish my car could do that?”
Christina: I’d like to be able to jump over people; jump over other cars. That would be pretty good. Also, that whole changing the tire thing by leaping up in the air, that would be great. I just learned how to change a tire myself but it would be so much easier if I could just leap up and press “D”.
TeenHollywood: We’re here at the Long Beach Grand Prix. I was wondering if you have any interest in watching some of the races?
Christina: I’m definitely curious, yeah. I’ve never been to a racecar race before. Is this Nascar?
TeenHollywood: No, it’s Formula 1 racing.
Christina: Oh, okay, I’m curious.
TeenHollywood: Are you a good driver?
Christina: I like to believe I am.
TeenHollywood: What do you drive?
Christina: I don’t want to talk about that. I’m stuck on a lease.
TeenHollywood: What would you have if you could?
Christina: I want a Mini-Cooper because it’s fuel efficient, emissions efficient and all that stuff. It’s small and better for the environment. I think that will be my next car.
TeenHollywood: Young Trixie punches out a girl for dissing her man. Would you do that if somebody dissed your man?
Christina: It depends on what they said. I’d probably strike back verbally. Be snide and quiet.
TeenHollywood: Good move. What did you think of the visual style of the movie? It’s super colorful! Did it look like you imagined it as you went along?
Christina: I don’t think any of us could have known what was in the brothers’ heads completely. What they have managed to create is so much bigger, much more beautiful and engaging than anything I thought was going to be up there. It’s really incredible. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before so it’s kind of hard for me to explain it. I can’t wait to see a lot of other people’s reactions to it.
TeenHollywood: Doesn’t it take a lot of trust for an actor to say “okay, I’ll stand here in front of this [green] screen?”
Christina: Oh yeah. That’s the thing about these two directors is that they inspire such confidence and such trust because you can tell they have this complete vision in their heads and you would be doing yourself a huge disservice to not trust them and just do what they tell you to because how are you possibly going to know if what you do matches what’s in their heads unless they tell you?
TeenHollywood: Do they direct by giving you a little context while you are acting… like saying ‘this is what’s happening?’
Christina: Oh completely and you could know as much about the production design and the effects as you wanted to. The art department was always open for us to go in and they showed us storyboards and images. Still though, it’s their vision and their touch and who they are that makes the movie ultimately look the way it does.
TeenHollywood: Are you a fan of Anime or Manga comics?
Christina: Well, I think they’re pretty.
TeenHollywood: Did you have input into Trixie’s costumes?
Christina: Yeah you can always go in and you’re like ‘I don’t like the way it looks on me’ blah, blah, but I was really into all of the designs and very excited about it and I loved it. Kym Barrett’s our Wardrobe Designer and I loved all her stuff so much that it became really fun.
TeenHollywood: If there is a sequel, any idea what you would like to see your character do?
Christina: I would like her to do more actiony things because I had fun being out there. That was fun stuff.
TeenHollywood: What’s next for you?
Christina: I’m doing a smaller drama at the end of May. I can’t actually talk about it yet because the deal’s not closed.
TeenHollywood: Did you get the sense that the brothers were still passionate at the end, that they had more stories to tell in this universe?
Christina: Oh yeah. Larry and Andy created a world that they love and created characters that they loved and are attached to. When we were all leaving, we were like ‘write the sequel!’ ‘We want to come back’. And they were like ‘I know. I know. We’re going to. Don’t worry’. They were as sad for it to be over as we were.