Details – 2001
Christina Ricci was just visiting Prozac Nation, but the side effects were brutal. Now she’s easing off the fruitcake for a taste of romantic-comedy flummery.
There are bombs going off and the weather is hostile and Christina Ricci, the former roly-poly little bat-faced girl, is staying put in a tiny suite at London’s Lanesborough Hotel, a grand oak-paneled pile overlooing Hyde Park. “When I’m alone, I don’t like a big place where I can’t see all the corners,” she admits. “I don’t want to some where there are places for people to hide.”
And today, England is having a dankly medeival moment: Not only is a splinter faction of the IRA making trouble with TNT, but the shires are piled high burning animal carcasses as farmers attempt to stave off the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. Miranda, the high-cal “romantic-comedy -thriller” that has brought Ricci here, was supposed to include a lot of rolling-hill ribaldry in the Yorkshire Dales. But as the Arcadian backdrops are now folded up in a corner, the cast, including Kyle MacLachlan and John Hurt, have been forced to rusticate indoors.
If you’re a twitchy young american actress, all this contributes to a general sense of menace. Then theres the small matter of another celebrated guest currently bunking at the same hotel- Oxford-Union orator Michael Jackson – whose prescense has the paparazzi infesting every entrance. Far from the fusillade of flash bulbs, we stay in her suite and order up beers, talk incidents and accidents in a place with no hiding places.
Christina Ricci is just 21, but she has an impressive arsenal of films behind her;her 30th clock is this year. All but a handful have come and gone quitely: Many were funky little indie things; well-meant, poorly executed by overexcited chums, too cute or not cute enough. Some were big-budget bungles. The great-on-paper disappointments include her last movie, The Man Who Cried. Sally Potter’s tale of occupied Paris, co-staring Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp, and John Turturro. But the critical or commercial winners- The Addams Family, The Ice Storm, The Opposite of Sex, Buffalo 66 – have this in common: their capacity to confound, shock, or scare the audience.
This year, Rucci takes the lead in a film adaptation of the book Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s bleak riff on familial dysfunction, sagging serotonin, and misfiring mental circuitry.
“More than anything, I was relieved when I met Christina,” says Wurtzel. “Any other actor can fake mental illness; Angelina Jolie has built a whole career out of it. But you can’t fake being smart. And I was always worried about how some dumb actress was going to play me becaise I am smart,” says Wurtzel, a Harvard hatchling. “I didn’t have to worry about that with Christina.”
But nothing indicated how prepared Ricci was to wake her latent Wurtzel. “There were only four days in the filming that I didn’t gave to cry or have a nervous breakdown,” says Ricci. Amid all the high drama, the films’s crew threatened to walk out. “That movie almost killed me,” Ricci admits. “Because of the amount of self-hate that I would make myself experience in scenes.”
The producers attempted an emotional rescue, Ricci remembers. “‘Look, it’s only a movie,’ they said. ‘You don’t need to go that far.'”
She’d lost a lot of weight – slimming down to re-create Wurtzel’s Ritalin-riddled figure – and there was concern about the former anorexic’s well-being.
Ricci was also sharing accommodations, on and off set, with pal Michelle Williams – better known as Jen, the chatty repentant slut on Dawson’s Creek. “We would go back to our hotel room in Vancouver and just feel uncomfortable in our won skins,” says Ricci. “We’re, like, freaking out all day long, over and over again. And then we’re supposed to go home, read a book, and go to bed? Me and Michelle would go out and get drunk. It was a little intense.”
Ricci neatly sidesteps questions about whether she’s suffered from depression herself, arguing that Prozac Nation is not about her. But perhaps it came to be about her.
“There were some pretty traumatic things going on,” observes Williams. “Christina says she’s not Method, but she really threw herself into it. You really have to excavate, go deep and dark with something like that.”
Ricci characterizes it merely as a learning experience, just another splice for her reel: “I know how ugly my ugliness is, and now I can handle it.”
“More than anything, Christina’s got balls,” says Don Roos, who directed Ricci in The Opposite of Sex. “There were times we were making that movie when I suggested that she could kind of wink at the audience, make her character a little more likeable. She told me that those kinds of films were for losers.”
Christina Ricci’s not one for repressing her true feelings, and perhaps that’s in her genes: Her father, among other things, was a primal-scream therapist. Her parents divorced when she was 13, and though she remains close to her mother, sister, and two brothers, it seems she entrusts much of her care and feeding to the extended family of the film set., making father figures of her directors and brothers out of the key grips. “When you go on location, you can actually create a really sheltered little world,” he says.
After a couple of years making commericials – she was on the audition circuit at the age of 9 – Ricci starred in Mermaids, a larely forgotten relic from an era when Cher was considered a serious actress. “By the time I was 14, I knew this was really what I wanted to do,” she says, tiny in her sweatpants and cropped-T, a fist size tattoo of a sweat-pea bouquet bleeding across her lower back.
Such was her love for film making that she would tell peopler her idol was Scott Rudin, the demonic man-child who produced the two Addams Family movies and is celebrated for his titanic tantrums. (Rudin was once asked by the producers of Sleepy Hollow to vouch for Ricci’s mental stability.) Now she’s producing, too, with five films in development, including a Joel Silver sci-fi blockbuster in which she’ll play a kung fu superbabe. “I’m really athletic and good at stunts,” claims Ricci, a string to her bow few would have imagined.
For such an indie-film princess, she knows the importance of being commerical. “I don’t regret stuff like That Darn Cat” – a dismal Disney flick co-starring Doug E. Doug – “because it made a shitload of money, and that meant studios were prepared to hire me.”
Ricci says she likes the wheeling and dealing, the pitching and playing, the miasma of manipulation: “I can walk into a room and know immediately what those people want to hear.” She is no longer the teenager who snidded at the idea of romantic comedy because “this is not a happy planet.” For a long time, Ricci was the anti-Jodie Foster, the girl most likely to grow up and rob a convenience store. She could be counted on to say silly things about guns – looking forward to her 18th birthday so she could buy one – and incest (“They share the same genes as you but they’re just other people. It’s such a natural thing to have sex with them.”)
“I would get really irritated by stupid interview questions,” Ricci explains today. “People would say, ‘Oh, you’re readings this book about incest. Do you like incest? So I’m, like, ‘Oh, yeah, I love incest. I think it’s completely natural and everyone should do it!’ I was being sarcastic.”
Neurotica segued into anorexia: Ricci says she developed the disease in 1994, when she was filing Now and Then alongside Demi Moore. She took yo burning her arms witha cigarette lighter as she was forced to deal with the sort of fetishistic interest that faces any child actress whose figure is starting to ripen. Ricci broke with her kiddie-flick past at 18, taking sex-tabby parts in The Opposite of Sex and Buffalo 66. “I had an interviewer come into my house recently and start talking about porn and ask me if I’d seen some scene in a movie where a woman is taking it at both ends and sucking dick. I actually felt really offended. I’m thinking, “I’m in my own home and I’m 21, but I don’t feel that I’m enough of an adult for you to sit here and talk to me about stuff like that.”
Ricci maintains she’s outgrown her “rebellious and strange” phase. “I’m really happy to be over that – just to be able to come home and stay in and not feel the need to go out and just tear shit up.”
In Los Angeles, Ricci holes up in her Los Feliz house with her new boyfriend, actor James Oliver (her ex was similarly not a brand-label actor). For years, she refused to leave New York and regularly dissed L.A. But maturity melted the resistance, along with many other arguements with the world. When she does go out, she puts on pajama bottoms and drops into dive bars with “craggy old men and dartboards.” She has dogs – Rottweilers – and she likes to take them for walks. But mainly she stays close to home, watching TV, she says, starting with The Simpsons at 6:30, through Friends and Seinfeld, and the entire adolescentangsty WB lineup (she has an acute analysis of how the WB manages to balance temperance and girls with nice tits), Friends again, Frasier, and then to bed.
But London is her once and future second home; after wrapping Miranda, she’s staying on for another shoot, and she thinks she mifhr buy a house here. “It’s like New York is a big high school and London is a the grown-up version,” she says brightly, observing that England has a more relaxed attitude toward drinking – and the use of the word cunt: “It’s indicative of a more forgiving culture, an understanding that humans have weaknesses.”
A truly Prozac Nation, in other words.