Details – January/February 2004
Anyone who’s worked with Christina Ricci mentions her eyes. Wes Craven calls them soulful. Don Roos calls them cinematic. Vincent Gallo, six years removed from Buffalo ’66, says he still gets a certain tingle when he thinks about them. And John Waters, well, he sees the bigger picture. “Christina has a large, beautiful head,” he says. So it makes sense that the first time we see Ricci in Monster- a snipped-from-the-tabloids film about America’s first female prostitute serial killer, Aileen Wuornos- it’s from the neck up. She’s sitting in a gay bar rocking a Billie Jean King mullet and chewing on a straw, but it’s the stare you remember.
“You could use a two-second clip of her and get everything you need,” says Monster director Patty Jenkins.
For a long time, though, no one cares much about the 24-year-old actress’s eyes. As an angst-ridden proto-Avril in films like The Opposite of Sex and The Ice Storm, she was never thin enough. Then she was too thin. (Anoretic, actually.) And from the set of Prozac Nation came reports of what one can only hope was method acting. Yet when the erstwhile Wednesday Addams and I meet she seems content, bordering on optimistic. And her eyes, they’re a mile wide and the color of virgin Astroturf.
Ricci’s in town for a second go at Cursed, a werewolf flick from the people who brought you Scream. Production was shut down several months ago while the special effects and script were upgraded. “Actually, it was so much fun the first time we decided to do it again,” she says. The horror film seems an unlikely choice from the once and future Sundance queen, though it’s one she’s comfortable with. “I could easily exist on less money,” she says, “but I like the way I live now.” Plus, she and her boyfriend, Adam Goldberg, just bought a duplex in Chelsea. “The food is better there,” she says. “And Adam’s like, the mayor of New York.”
Die-hard Ricci fans may feel betrayed by her mainstream success. At least she knows when she’s selling out. “I like being tired at the end of the day,” she says. “I know really true artists may crucify me for saying this, but sometimes a script is just good enough.”
And sometimes it’s great. Like in Monster, the unlikeliest entry in the noble-prostitute genre, which stars Charlize Theron as the highway hooker. Here Ricci plays Wuornos’ manipulative lover, polishing off cases of Sclitz Ice while her meal ticket gives $10 blow jobs. And it’s a credit to Ricci that while Theron plugs seven guys in the chest, you leave the theater hating Ricci.
“She’s talented like a mother-fucker,” says her co-star.
Ricci doesn’t have much of a plan for life post-Monster. Prozac Nation, her much delayed (the paperback tie-in featuring her face hit Amazon three years ago) turn as human medicine cabinet Elizabeth Wurtzel, is supposedly due out this spring. Forgive her if she doesn’t start hand-writing invitations to the premiere, though. In response to a New York Times article in which Wurtzel herself called the movie “just awful”, Ricci strains to be polite: “She says I was just like her.”
So she’ll move to New York and hit her favorite East Village dives. Maybe she’ll do television again. (She’s probably the only one who enjoyed shooting that last season of Ally McBeal.) Maybe she’ll do theater. Yes, she too would like to direct, though her long-planned adaptation of the dark comic novel The Speed Queen has been scrapped. (The vagaries of Hollywood financing.)
What she’d really like to do is make more movies like 2002’s Pumpkin- the perfectly deranged love story of a sorority girl and her distrubed boyfriend- an indie she produced and starred in that made no money but was apparently a lot of fun. “Cassavetes was paid as an actor, and then made the films he wanted to make,” she says.
And that’s not defeat in her voice. As John Waters says: “She’s cynical in the best sense of the word.”