Christina Ricci is Penelope


Still sporting the short cropped haircut for her role in the upcoming and much anticipated summer flick Speed Racer, Christina Ricci gushed about how much she loves her new film Penelope and why she thinks it has such an important message for women and young people. She talked openly to about her own insecurities growing up and what is was really like to wear a prosthetic on her face the majority of the movie. When you were a teen, were you one of those people that went in your room and were in your own little world?
Christina Ricci: Very much.

CS: What did you have in your room? What your character has is very reflective of who she is.
Ricci: Yeah. Penelope was encouraged to be very expressive and, of course, she couldn’t leave her house and I could actually leave my room, so I didn’t really feel as much of a need to do that. But, yeah, I was very much one of those kids that would go in my room and lie down on the carpet and daydream a lot, and talk to myself a lot. Penelope is definitely like that.

CS: Did you have your favorite things on the walls?
Ricci: Yes, I did. I shared a room with my sister for a really long time, and then I finally got my own room and it was just ridiculous looking. I got my own room when my oldest brother went to college. It was this little room, and I wanted to decorate it any way I wanted to because, living with my sister in the same room, she got to do whatever she wanted to. I don’t know why my mother even allowed this to happen, but I picked green and pink, and this horrible Laura Ashley duvet cover, and rose pink carpeting. I mean, honestly. But, the room I lived in before, with my sister, was purple, and now, every house I live in, I have a purple room, so I guess those were the more formative years for me.

CS: The production design for this film was really beautiful and the costumes were amazing. What was it like to be in that space?
Ricci: It was really fun. I loved any of the stuff that we did on the stages, when we were inside their house. It was so great to just be around that kind of stuff, and it really set a tone for everybody. I think production design is a great way to very succinctly inform a whole group of actors and crew as to what the tone of the film’s going to be, and how to fall in line and make themselves make sense within the environment that’s been created. Sometimes it’s harder to do that because you don’t have a common language yet with the director. So, I feel like, if you have such strong production design, like that, it’s really inspirational.

CS: This film is rated PG, so what message do you hope young people take away from it?
Ricci: I really hope that the strongest message that’s taken away is self-acceptance and self-love, and that you have to learn to love yourself and you have to accept who you are. Specifically for women, and little girls, I like that she does it herself. She always had the ability to make her life full and to be the best version of herself that she wanted to be, and the only one standing in her way was herself and her insecurities. I think that’s a very important thing for girls to know. A lot of our society is based on, “I’ll be happy once I have the right man,” or changing yourself a little bit, or a lot, depending on who you’re with. The things women do to be with different men is just ridiculous. So, I think it’s important that we have young girls that are growing up learn to be really strong and independent and have the right sort of priorities.

CS: Did you ever read anything that helped you through that sort of thing?
Ricci: Not really. Did I? I probably have, but I can’t think of it right now. But, I have really amazing, strong women in my life, and for most of my life, that I’ve worked with, and that really have molded me into who I am. So, I always had women like that in my life. And then, my sister is incredibly smart and strong. She always wants to do the right thing, so she really will go and find out what the right thing is and what it means for other people, and then she tells me and I’m like, “Great! Thanks for doing the research. I’ll do that then.”

CS: What was your biggest insecurity growing up?
Ricci: My sister and I have two insecurities, which are pretty funny. You know how everyone has something? They’ll be like, “I’m worried that I look too…,” and it’s always the same thing that they’re worried about. Whenever we go out, me and my sister always ask each other, “Do I look butch?,” and “Do I look crazy?” [Laughs] Those are the two things we’re both terrified of. We’re terrified that we look crazy, and then on other days that we look like boys.

CS: Before the hair cut?
Ricci: Oh, yeah. All the time. It is really hilarious because we both have the exact same insecurities.

CS: What was it like wearing that nose? How much time did you spend in make-up? Was it uncomfortable to wear?
Ricci: It took about an hour and a half. It’s not fun to have something glued to your face. It just isn’t. It wasn’t really that bad. It didn’t take that long. And, I had a rule that I wasn’t allowed to really acknowledge how irritating it was or touch it or scratch it or complain until we only had like three hours left of the day because I knew that if I started in the beginning, I would just be irritated all day long and want to rip it off my face. So, I felt that, if I started late in the day then I could tolerate three hours of being really irritated.

CS: There are many scenes where you have the scarf over your face. Were you able to keep the nose off for those scenes?
Ricci: Oh, yeah, I didn’t have to put the nose on underneath the scarf.

CS: Did you keep one of the noses?
Ricci: No. I’m not very sentimental, so no.

CS: Did you ever have to go on a coffee run with it?
Ricci: No. They were very sensitive about me being seen with the nose, so I couldn’t walk [around]. We would be on the streets of London and I’d want to go to Starbucks, or something, and they would just panic. I’d walk out of the trailer and you’d see the P.A.’s panic and say, “Does she have her scarf on her face?”

CS: So, you got to go with your scarf?
Ricci: Yeah, which also made me look like a freak. So, really, I just stayed inside.

CS: Could you breathe with the nose?
Ricci: Yeah. It was specifically made for me, so the nose holes were attached so that those holes were my holes. [Laughs]

CS: When you saw the nose on your face for the first time, what was your initial reaction?
Ricci: The first one they put on me was a little bit too hideous and scary and kind of nasty looking. Mark [Palansky] and Scott [Steindorff] wanted to have it really be hideous looking. And then, all the girls in the room were like, “Uh uh. We want that one that looks like Miss Piggy and is cute.” And so, somewhere in the middle, we found it. It just looked like me with a fake nose on. It didn’t really disturb me, in any way.

CS: One of the producers said that it was really courageous for you to take this role, but you’ve taken many roles, like “Black Snake Moan” and “Monster,” that a lot of actors would be afraid to take. Are you conscious of the fact that these roles are difficult? Are you nervous when you take them?
Ricci: No. I think that I have a slightly different set of what I view as risky or dangerous or something I should be cautioned against. It never would occur to me that it’s brave to do a part with a prosthetic on your face. Everyone knows I don’t have a pig nose [Laughs], so I really don’t get why that’s particularly brave. It’s a part of the movie. And then, for other things, I did know that obviously “Black Snake Moan” had a lot of things in it that you don’t do, unless you feel particularly passionate about the subject matter or storyline, and so I could understand why people balked at that one. And then, in “Monster,” I did not want to wear that wig and look like that, as you can imagine, because of the crazy, butch fear I have. [Laughs] But then, in the end, you might not want to look like that during the day, but really it’s part of the film. On “Monster,” I’ve never been so comfortable in my life ’cause we wore no make-up and I was all in boys’ clothes and it was loose and comfy. I was just like, “This is awesome.” It’s not my first reaction to be intimidated or scared or say, “Ooh, maybe I shouldn’t do this. Maybe this is too whatever.” But then, someone will explain to me why it’s a little risky, and then I’m like, “Ah, okay.” But, I think that I have just a slightly skewed version of the world.

CS: Can you talk about working with Reese Witherspoon?
Ricci: I had a great time with her. She was really, really awesome.

Penelope, also starring James McAvoy, hits theaters on Friday, February 29.