Mademoiselle – 1999

Okay, she’s not all sweetness and light, but who wants her to be?
Mademoiselle, 1999
By Jamie Diamond

Not a single Christina Ricci has played on scren would own a copy of The Joy Of Cooking. Most of her misfits couldn’t even boil an egg—not the sullen depressive from The Ice Storm, the unrepented home wrecker from The Opposite Of Sex, the hapless tap dancer in Buffalo 66 or the world weary manager of the Spin ‘n’ Grin laundromat in Pecker. So if the 18-year-old actress were to invite you over for dinner, you might expect a pizza delivery guy to be leaving as were coming in.

But this time, at least, you’d be wrong: Tonight, America’s furious teen angel is fluttering around the kitchen of the rented Hollywood Hills home she shares with her 27-year-old actor boyfriend, Matthew Frauman. She’s barefoot, humming along to Lis Phair, whipping up a sophisticated three course meal and consulting not one, but two, cookbooks. “Oh Dear,” she says breaking her stride for a moment. “I forgot to buy chicken broth for the sauce.” No matter. Ricci, in black Gucci pants and a black pullover-deftly opens a can of chicken noodle soup and drains out the noodles. It’s hard to read this picture. This is the pubescent provocateur who said “if anyone cries in front of me, I just laugh my ass off,” and “I was so perverted when I was a little girl.” Has Ricci gone from wild child to Martha Stewart overnight?

Sometimes Ricci defends her reputation. “Actors don’t usually talk about being angry, depressed or upset,” she says. “But that’s how teenagers feel. I just happened to talk about it.” Other times, she says she invented, or at least exaggerated, her image. “I’m really not that dark. I’m disappointingly normal, I love prime time TV. When I felt that I sounded uninteresting, I’d make up a shocking story. Now I think I sounded so dirty and obnoxious. I’m trying to grow up and not have to be that shocking.” Whatever, but please pass the chicken piccata and spinach soup. Ricci is a great cook.

The Actress Formerly Known as Angry

Dinner’s over and Matthew, an unassuming beanpole of a fellow wearing sandels with socks, has cleared away the dishes. The living room-a sorry affair with cottage cheese ceilings and white shag carpeting-has been transformed by Ricci with flickering, fragrant candles. In person, she’s more delicate than you’d expect (she’s 5’3”) and, lacking the forced effervescence typical of many young performers, she seemed almost defenseless, the opposite of tough. Her voice is also a surprise: It dosent have that leaden, deadpan quality you hear in many of her films. It’s quivering, feminene. “But no matter how sweet I sound,” she says, “everyone’s going to expect me to play the evil one.” Ricci, the youngest of four, grew up in a comfertable house on a cul-de-sac in Montclair, a New Jersey suburb. Her mom, a former ford model, met her dad, a primal-scream thearapist after she read an article in a magazine. They devorced when Ricci was 13, and Riccihas been estranged from her father ever since-still, it was his spinach soup she made.

Whatever was going on at home, Ricci delt with it, she says, by psychologically building a wall arround herself: “When I was younger, I never wanted to let anyone see my vulnerable side, I thought, How dare you want to see that side! It made me really uncomfortable to be outwardly emotional.”

MADEMOISELLE: What was it like to be raised by a model and a primal-scream therapist?

Christina Ricci: Things were all about appearances. We were supposed to be socialites when we grew up. She’s not like that now, but my mother use to say things like , “When you’re older, you can go on a scotch-and-steak diet.” My dad was also very image-conscious.

MLLE: Your public image and private self seem so different-is that hard to handel?

CR: No, it’s perfect, because I get to be strong and frank in one side of my life, and in the other side, I get to be just myself, which is sort of shy.

MLLE: I read that you’ve put cigarettes out on yourself.

CR :No, but when I was younger, I did self-mutilate. I’d be upset, so I’d do it, and it would calm me down. It’s a horrible way to feel better. But there are two parts of your brain-one that really wants to destroy the other. And sometimes the idea of self-destruction is very romantic. I got over that.

MLLE: You also said you were anorexic.

CR: In a way. I was trying to get rid of my breasts. Everyone my age wanted them, so it was like, whoo-ooo. Then I started hating them. And for all of my movies, I was supposed to be younger, so I’d have to strap them down.

MLLE:Did alcohol and drugs ever become a problem?

CR: I never liked drugs-they made me feel awful physically. Of course I experimented, but soon I thought, This is not worth the shame spiral the next day. I’m the kind of person who, if I went to a slumber party and smoked a cigarette, I assumed my parents were going to die as punishment. So I’d have to call my mom, tell her I’d smoked and feel really bad.

MLLE:Do you think you’ve had a childhood?

CR: If you’re exposed as a young age to the way people really behave, you become disillusioned quicker. Which I think is good. But when I was a kid-I’m still a kid, I shouldn’t say that-I acted out a lot. I was a juvenile delinquent. Had I not started working, that would have continued. Work gave me something to focus on. I’m much more adjusted now.

She’s Not Gothic, Evil or Weird, Okay?

Ricci started acting in grammer school and made her film debut at the age of nine, in Mermaids, with Winona Ryder playing her sister and Cher her mother. In the Addams Family, Ricci was so winning as the anti-adorable child Wednesday that the sequel, Addams Family Values, focused on her character. But after some kid’s flicks (Casper, Gold Diggers The Secret of Bear Mountain), her career came to a stand still. “I was really heavy when I was fifteen, verry insecure and closed off,” she says “I think I appeared angry to people because I was protecting myself. I was sure the next thing out of their mouths would be, ‘God, you’re fat.’ So I was guarded.” Then came The Ice Storm, which was tailor-made for an anti-adorable adolescent. Ricci’s performance as the sexually curious teenager was so uncompromising, it catapulted her into the world of independent films, where-having completed four indies in the last year-she reigns as queen. Next to be released are two ensemble pictures, 200 Cigarettes and Desert Blue.

MLLE: Why do you get picked to play disturbing characters?

CR: Originally, it was because I was a serious child. You could tell I could handle it and understand the characters.

MLLE: What do you think about not being cast in mainstream films?

CR: I’m not mainstream-looking. I’m nt very skinny, I’m not…like…beautiful. The point of mainstream movies is to cast someone that everyone’s going to love. Because of my persona, I’m controversial. I don’t do anything in my real life to deserve that. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, but studio people don’t want to put me in their movies. They think I might offend.

MLLE: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

CR: That I’m gothic or evil or weird. I caused a lot of that because I like to say what no one else will say in interviews. Like, I eat red meat and love fur and, Screw those animal rights people! I love to say that stuff. I love to say, Yeah, I want a shotgun and to join the NRA. I like to say, only because it’s funny, that I buy only cruelty-intensive products. In interviews, that doesn’t come across as kidding. Sarcasm is age-appropriate for me, but not appropriate for my job. Still, I can say to myself, “At least you weren’t some stupid, fawning girl who only said what she was supposed to say and dressed the way she was supposed to . At least I didn’t do that.” And there are many of us who hope she never will.