Christina Ricci has grown up on screen, playing non-typical females from Wednesday Addams to Charlize Theron's lesbian lover in Monster. In her new film, Bel Ami, she plays a glamorous Parisian adulteress opposite Robert Pattinson. She reveals all about nude scenes, corsets and rolling around naked with the Twilight hunk.
By Albertina Lloyd.
Despite recently celebrating her 32nd birthday with three days of partying, Christina Ricci is the model of professionalism.
There's no trace of dark shadows beneath her eyes, as big as saucers, as she sits looking serious and ready for business in her London hotel room.
The Addams Family star has been in the showbusiness since she was just seven years old and so, while promoting her new film, she's an old hand.
In Bel Ami she plays Clotilde, a Parisian wife and mother, who becomes the lover of young, irresistible social climber Georges Duroy.
She is seen running around lavish period apartments playing with her little girl, dancing at cabarets and rolling around naked in bed with her 'Bel Ami' Georges, played by Robert Pattinson.
But there is none of the giggling Clotilde on display today, as she fixes her striking, unblinking 'Wednesday Addams' stare and politely waits to be quizzed on her latest role.
"Clotilde is somebody who before she met Georges, Robert's character, was just going through life happy," Ricci says, matter-of-factly.
"I don't think she had ever known a day of real angst or pain. She was enjoying finding the fun in life and trying to have the best time she could."
It's easy to forget Ricci was a child star. So many actors who entered the spotlight at the same time as she did have either gone off the rails or dropped out of the business altogether. But Ricci has worked consistently for more than 20 years.
She began modelling at seven, and aged nine made her screen debut as Cher's daughter and Winona Ryder's little sister in hit movie Mermaids.
A year later, she was cast as the death-obsessed Wednesday in The Addams Family, and then played a loner whose only companion was a friendly ghost, in the film version of Casper.
Ricci made several appearances as Lolita-esque seducers in her teens, in films like The Opposite Of Sex and Ang Lee's The Ice Storm.
She played Johnny Depp's bewitching love interest in Tim Burton's terrifying ghost story Sleepy Hollow and won critical acclaim as the lesbian lover of a serial killer in Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning vehicle Monster.
While she was playing all these dark and troubled females, she has since revealed she was battling anorexia as a teenager, admitting to struggling with having her appearance under constant scrutiny.
But in Bel Ami she frequently appears naked, in one scene spread out on a bed, offering herself up to her lover, and the camera.
"It's part of the job," Ricci says primly. "If both the movie and the scene calls for it, and it makes sense, then it's just part of what we do."
And as an adult, Ricci insists she no longer feels any pressure to look a certain way: "I think it depends on what kinds of films you're doing and what kind of career you're after," she says. "But once you get into real film-making and films that are more about substance and story, it becomes less about image."
She adds that despite all the awkwardness of stripping off and filming sex scenes with co-star Robert Pattinson, who skyrocketed to global stardom in the Twilight films, the pair got on like a house on fire.
"He's absolutely lovely," Ricci gushes. "We had the best time together and a lovely rapport.
"We joked around all the time, made fun of each other and laughed on set. And any time we had to do anything uncomfortable, we would immediately joke about how ridiculous this was and just be silly. It was great."
Sitting with her hands folded in her lap, she is looking demure in smart, black trousers and a dark, high-necked, Fifties-style jersey.
But underneath she is hiding numerous tattoos, including a lion on her shoulder blade and a sparrow on her breast. None of these, however, are on display when she's sprawling on the bed as a 19th century Parisian lady in Bel Ami.
"I do have a few tattoos", she says wryly. "They're very talented at covering them up with make-up though."
When she's dressed in her new film, Ricci is laced-up into exquisite frocks, her tiny waist cinched in even further with a corset.
Many an actress has complained about the pain and palaver of the dreaded period costume, but not style-conscious Ricci.
"I actually love wearing corsets," she declares, raising an eyebrow.
"Even though they're uncomfortable. I still love wearing them."
She also loves the costumes she wears in television drama Pan Am, about the glamorous air hostesses of the Sixties, which has been airing in recent months on BBC Two.
Ricci plays free spirited Maggie, a passionate crusader for radical politics and feminism, when she isn't getting distracted by the jet-set lifestyle her career has to offer.
The show was meant to piggyback on the success of hit Fifties office drama Mad Men, but there are reports it has been shelved after just one series.
"We finished the season and we'll find out in May if we're going to have a second or not," Ricci says, the deep pools of her eyes giving nothing away.
She moved from LA to New York to make the show and will next star as Hermia in an off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"I like theatre a lot. I find that every time I do it, I learn so much."
And despite growing up on screen, Ricci is striving hard to hone her craft.
"I'm concentrating on trying to learn as much as I can about acting to be the best I can be.
"I want to work with the best directors and actors, and glean as much information as I can from them to really become a great actress."
Extra time - Ricci's quirky roles :: Mermaids: Christina made her film debut alongside Cher, Winona Ryder and Bob Hoskins in this 1990 comedy-drama, playing Cher's youngest daughter Kate who spends much of her time holding her breath underwater, in a bid to break the world record.
:: The Addams Family: In this 1991 film adaptation of the classic Seventies TV series, Christina won praise for her portrayal of precocious, morbid daughter Wednesday.
:: Black Snake Moan: Ricci ends up being held prisoner by a deeply religious farmer in this gritty drama, in which she stars opposite Samuel L Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
:: Penelope: Christina was cast in the title role of this bizarre love story, co-starring James McAvoy and Reese Witherspoon, about a girl who is kept hidden from the world after a witch's curse leaves her with the ear and nose of a pig.
:: Bel Ami is released in cinemas on Friday, March 9