Christina Ricci interview
At 27, Christina Ricci is a veteran of the film business. She started out as a child actor with films like ’Mermaids‘ (1990) and ’The Addams Family‘ (1991) before developing a knack for playing mouthy teenagers and vulnerable women in films like ’Buffalo 66‘ (1998), ’The Opposite of Sex‘ (1998) and ’Monster‘ (2003). She bares all in Craig Brewer‘s ’Black Snake Moan‘ as Rae, a wild young woman in the deep south who treats her body with zero respect until she meets Lazarus (Samuel L Jackson), an ageing divorcee who decides to teach her a lesson by chaining her to a radiator in his front-room.
Your character in ‘Black Snake Moan’ is a right old mess.Yeah, she’s got a few problems. A few issues. She’s a girl suffering from post-traumatic stress from a childhood full of rape and abuse. But because her abuse when she was a child was sexual, then she looks to sexually abuse herself. It’s a way that a lot of victims have of stopping it from happening again: they do it to themselves. They’re the ones in control, degrading themselves, and abusing themselves, and no one else can have that power over them again. That’s usually what happens to kids who go through that, unless they get help. She has these anxiety attacks. and usually if someone’s anxiety attacks are not treated then they will start drinking or cutting themselves – or something else that’s self-abusive.
You’re half-naked through a lot of the film. You spend half of it in pants and a t-shirt tied to a radiator.Craig [Brewer, the director] said that sometimes he felt that he was making a ’70s porno. I had to walk around basically in my underwear all day long. And I would. I wouldn’t even cover up in between takes because I needed to feel comfortable with it. I think you can see it on camera when someone’s not comfortable with nudity. And she has no shame.Also I needed the crew to be so used to seeing me like that so that every time I looked at them I wouldn’t see it in their eyes: Oh my God, you’ve got no shirt on.
So how did Craig Brewer claim to steer his film away from the exploitation route?One of the things that he does – he does this in ‘Hustle and Flow’ too – is to lead the audience a little bit to lust after her, and then all of a sudden, a scene will come which is so painful and it’s like being smacked in the face. I think it was his own sense of guilt of lusting after someone and then feeling really guilty about it. He wanted her to be, in a weird way, hot. But, at the same time, it goes just too far, to that point when you think: this isn’t fun anymore, this isn’t sexy anymore. I can’t believe that I was thinking those things.
The film struck me as being quite evangelical: your character is healed through the love of a good Christian.I can see why you might think that, but in the end it’s quite a spiritual film. I don’t think it’s specific to any one religion. They might be Christians, but in the end I don’t think it’s a Christian movie. It’s a spiritual movie, it’s about having faith and being healed – stuff like that.
You often play weirdos nutcases.I think I’m better at playing difficult than I am at being normal. And to me that’s something I’m working on now. I’m not really that difficult or complex a person, so it’s interesting to me that it’s just so much harder for me to play an everygirl. I think that I need to work on being comfortable at being normal, everyday-ish on camera. Unlike a lot of actors, I think that’s the thing that I’m not so comfortable with.
It’s ten years since you made ‘Buffalo 66’ with Vincent Gallo.I was seventeen, yeah. It was my first movie away without my mother. Not a wise choice. I really didn’t understand what was going on most of the time working with a crazy lunatic man. I’d never encountered such insanity.
He said some nice things about your weight.Oh yes, I’ve been there. Horrible things. He waited three or four years and then decided to make fun of my weight at the time that we were shooting ‘Buffalo 66’. He waited that long to make fun of a seventeen-year-old. It’s so bizarre, and I hadn’t seen him in years, I hadn’t done anything to him. It was just like: okay, asshole.
Did you get on with him when making the film?No, not really. He’s one of those people who sometimes he’s so nice to you and then the next he imagines that you’ve done something horrible and he’ll start screaming at you. It’s difficult to get on well with someone like that.
Did you see his next film, ‘The Brown Bunny’?Oh, I didn’t see it. I have no interest in seeing anything he ever does again.
‘Black Snake Moan’ opens on Friday.
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