I wanted to see if i can handle pain
US Magazine, 1998
When Christina Ricci was a kid (that is a few months ago), she could get away with saying whatever outrageous thing came into her head. In interview after interview, she waxed provocoatively about gun fantasies, death and incest. But the barely 18-year-old actress, who has Hollywood, buzzing with a barrage of films showcasing a more mature talent, is trying hard to act like a grown-up. This month she’ll appear as a low – rent femme fatale in The Opposite of Sex and a drug-addled hitchhiker in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 and John Waters’ Pecker will open later in the year. Today, at a SoHo restaurant around the corner from her new digs in New york (her first apartment since moving out to Mom’s), Ricci seems happy to show off her smart, funny side – free of the need to shock the adults. But toward the end of the meal, she reminds you that she is , after all, still a teen-age girl, still finding her way: Asked about the small, smile-shaped scar on her hand, she says, “I was trying to impress Gaby (Hoffmann, her co-star in 1995’s Now and Then). So I heated up a lighter and pressed it on my hand.” She then rolls up her sleeve to show a multitude of purple burn scars on her arm. “I wanted to see if i can handle pain,” she offers matter-of- factly. “It’s sort of an experiment to see if I can take it. It’s a disturbing moment, one that suggests that the transition from child actor to grown-up star – and from teen-age girl to woman – isn’t as easy as Ricci would have you believe.
You’ve been working a lot lately.
Christina: For a year now. After I got out of high school I was like, this is my job. Before, I was doing it because it was fun. Now I’m like, this is how I pay my rent. Now I have to keep working, because I’m afraid if I stop, I won’t have any money. I keep thinkg maybe I should go to the gym. Maybe it would help.
Your character in “The Opposite of Sex” steals her half brother’s boyfriend.
Christina: At [the] Sundance [Film Festival] , everybody asked, “How do you feel about playing a bitch?” And I’d say, “If you knew anything about human nature, you’d realize that for this girl, being like that is a total front for being unhappy.”
Given some of your roles, do people expect you to be dark?
Christina: I always do these interviews and I sound like this crazy Gothic witch. People start asking me, “Do you like scary movies?” And I say, “Yeah, I love scary movies – especially the ones where they have close-ups of blood and guts.” Then in print it looks like, “Yeah, I love blood and guts.” But I’m just kidding, just being sarcastic.
Are you more careful now?
Christina: I try to be. I got in trouble recently for talking about inceset. I was just saying it happens all the time, so it must be the darker side of human nature. Not: “Yeah, it’s a really good thing; go ahead, f— your brother.” I’m not pro-incest.
What did you agent say?
Christina: I got a call early in the moring; “Christina, I don’t understand why you said this. This is not what you want to be saying.”
With your latest movies, do you think you’ll have a higher profile in Hollywood?
Christina: That’s what everybody keeps telling me. I don’t know if you ever feel accepted. I always felt kind of awkward. I don’t look the way I’m supposed to look. I don’t act the way I’m supposed to act. I come in and my publicist will say, ” You have a huge stain on you shirt.” And I’ll say, ” I know. What am I supposed to do? All my clothes have stains; or they have holes in them, and you won’t let me wear anything with holes in them.” I guess I’m still a teen-ager.
Were you disappointed that you weren’t nominated for an Oscar for “The Ice Storm”?
Christina: Yeah. That would have been so cool. I got invited to my first post-Academy Awards party. I’m going to frame the invite
Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t go. Like a lot of young acotrs in Hollywood, he seems to be resisting the idea that he’s a big star. Care to comment?
Christina: I don’t think that at all. No matter how much anyone says they just want to be an actor, I don’t believe that. I’m so sick of not being able to go into the VIP room.
What do you think of Hollywood?
Christina: There’s a part of me that really loves it. I like going to fancy hotels. I like it when you feel glamorous, someone dresses you up and you go to the big premiere. The other stuff is kind of icky. I have a friend who does casting. Someone will walk in and he’ll say, “So good to meet you,” and then they’ll walk out and he’ll say, “She’s a little big around the middle.” That part of it is disgusting.
In ‘Now and Then’, your character binds her breast becuase she thinks they’re too big. Have you ever done that?
Christina: I used to do that from the time I was 12 till I was 15. You have to. [Hollywood] makes you. It makes you resent yourself. Buffalo ’66 and Opposite of Sex helped me so much. Vincent [Gallo] said, “You have a great body.” That made me feel better.
How did Gallo persuade you to do Buffalo’66?
Christina: He ran for a block in the rain to get me matches for my cigarette. He’s like a professional charmer. He can seduce anyone.
What is the last dream you remember?
Christina: Last night, I dreamed one of my friends pushed me down a flight of stairs. Once, I dreamed that I was in this flower shop in L.A. and there was a waiting list for people to come and lay their head in my lap, and I would pet their head. I said to my boyfriend – I always talk in my sleep – “I know I always pet your head, but I can’t do it now because there’s a waiting list.”
What do you think last night’s dream about the stairs means?
Christina: I probably think one of my friends is going to f— me over. I’m really paranoid. I won’t swim in a pool by myself because I think that somehow a little magic door is going to open and let the shark out. I know there is no way in hell that there is going to be a shark in a chlorinated pool, but I’m so scared.
Is there anything you’d like to changed about yourself?
Christina: I’d like to be taller. Taller and lankier. You have to learn how to dress yourself and what angle doesn’t look good – stuff I’m really interested in.
That would be one of those sarcastic lines that doesn’t come through in print.