Christina Ricci

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Biography

A child star who managed that rare successful transition to onscreen adulthood, actress Christina Ricci's early career was aided in no small part by the fact that her roles did not depend on dimpled cuteness, but on an unnerving maturity that suggested a keen intelligence beyond that of her adult co-stars. Ricci spent her teens as a gloomy, precocious lead in several successful comedies and melodramas such as "Mermaids" (1990), "The Addams …
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Job Title

Actor, Director, Producer

Born

February 12, 1980

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About

A child star who managed that rare successful transition to onscreen adulthood, actress Christina Ricci's early career was aided in no small part by the fact that her roles did not depend on dimpled cuteness, but on an unnerving maturity that suggested a keen intelligence beyond that of her adult co-stars. Ricci spent her teens as a gloomy, precocious lead in several successful comedies and melodramas such as "Mermaids" (1990), "The Addams Family" (1991) and "Now and Then" (1995). Still in her teens, she exploited both her maturity and burgeoning sexuality in more artful projects that included "The Ice Storm" (1997), "The Opposite of Sex" (1998) and "Buffalo '66" (1998). Despite the growing respect she received from her peers, the narrow confines of Hollywood proved problematic for Ricci, whose later projects varied from little seen indie films like "Prozac Nation" (2001), to well-acted visceral dramas like "Monster" (2003), to such commercial pabulum as "Cursed" (2005). Later decade work included the sexually-charged potboiler "Black Snake Moan" (2006), opposite Samuel L. Jackson, and "Speed Racer" (2008), a visual spectacular directed by the Wachowski Brothers. Eventually settling into a comfortable mix of small personal projects, big budget fare and more frequent television work, Ricci maintained a consistent presence as one of film's more interesting and accomplished young actresses.

Christina Ricci was born on Feb. 12, 1980, in Santa Monica, CA but raised mainly in the liberal upper middle class town of Montclair, NJ. Her mother was a former Ford model-turned-real estate agent, while her father was a psychiatrist. He specialized in experimental "scream therapy," which involved regular shrieks of terror emanating from his in-home practice. This environment might have contributed to the young girl's unusually guarded, despondent demeanor. Whatever the source of her unsettling mature vibe, it was obviously apparent to a local theater critic who approached her after a performance in a school play and suggested some avenues for the eight-year-old to get into the professional arena. Right out of the gate, she landed several commercials before quickly advancing to a supporting role in the critically acclaimed "Mermaids" (1990), playing the long-suffering daughter of town floozy Cher and sister of the obsessively religious teen, Winona Ryder, to whom she loosely resembled.

Ricci made such a strong first impression - including winning a Young Artist Award - that the following year, she was cast in the career-defining role of Wednesday Addams in the wildly popular big screen version of "The Addams Family" (1991). This second role established Ricci as the go-to actress for unconventional young girls cursed with the lethal combination of intelligence and world-weary cynicism. Following the release of the popular sequel "Addams Family Values" (1993), her life was upended by the acrimonious divorce of her parents. Ricci went to live with her mother and began attending the Professional Children's School in New York, a private school catering to the needs of teens with careers in entertainment. In 1995, she returned to the big screen in the audience favorite "Casper," lending her macabre tendencies to the adaptation of the beloved "friendly ghost" cartoon. More in keeping with the drama that first earned her reputation, she was nominated for a Young Artist Award as part of the ensemble cast of "Now & Then" (1995), a beloved chronicle of four female friendships spanning several decades. Ricci next landed a supporting role in Showtime's Emmy-winning adaptation of Dorothy Allison's heartbreaking "Bastard Out of Carolina," as well as appearing in more lighthearted family titles like "Golddiggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain" (1995) and "That Darn Cat" (1997).

In 1997, however, Ricci began to shift away from more benign films and make a name for herself in more challenging and independent fare. The film adaptation of Rick Moody's "The Ice Storm" (1997), directed by Ang Lee, only received limited theatrical release but was one of year's critical picks and enjoyed increased popularity as a DVD release. For this project, Ricci received multiple award nominations for her outstanding portrayal of a promiscuous teen in a dysfunctional suburban 1970s family. She enjoyed even greater success with "The Opposite of Sex" (1997), earning a Golden Globe nomination and overwhelming critical kudos for anchoring the dark comedy about a cynical teen whose pregnancy upends her untraditional family. The following year, Ricci truly came into her own with half a dozen well-respected, largely independent dramas. She was complicated, vulnerable and gaudy in actor-director Vincent Gallo's oddly engaging "Buffalo 66," playing a kidnap victim forced to pose as her abductor's wife in order to impress his parents. She followed up with more outsider roles, including that of a Barbra Streisand-obsessed artist in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and a laundromat owner who finds instant fame in John Waters' gently subversive comedy, "Pecker."

In 1999, Ricci returned to the realm of wide releases when she appeared opposite Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's haunting rendition of "Sleepy Hollow." Her blond hair in the film was the first step Ricci took towards a new look, and an indication that the independent young adult was caving to the pressures of Hollywood. Even when she reverted back to her black hair, the once pleasantly voluptuous actress slimmed down to a waif-like body, later admitting that she had struggled with anorexia in addition to earlier battles with self-injury and depression. Ricci's personal background certainly made her a qualified candidate for the screen adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's "Prozac Nation," which was was shot in 2001. With her newly-formed production company, Ricci took on producing duties of the project, in addition to starring as a troubled young woman trying to deal with her depression and chemical addictions. The film would have provided a much-needed declaration of Ricci's adulthood, however it was shelved for several years reportedly due to the distributor's uneasiness over the controversial subject matter. The film never opened in theaters; instead premiering on the Starz! Network in 2005 and a year later, being released on DVD.

In 2002, Ricci again produced and starred in a pet project; this time, the film "Pumpkin," a controversial dark comedy about a sorority girl who falls for a disabled man. After detouring through a slate of questionable thrillers like "Miranda" and "The Gathering," Ricci took a highly publicized stint on the final season of TV's "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002) as the provocative young attorney, Liza Bump. She returned to the big screen as a neurotic actress who intentionally or unintentionally tortures smitten writer Jason Biggs in Woody Allen's weak "Anything Else" (2003). After a turn in "I Love Your Work" (2003), the directorial debut of her then-beau, actor Adam Goldberg, Ricci seemed back on her game, earning praise for her turn in the harrowing "Monster" (2003). Based on the life of drifter and female serial killer Aileen Wournos (Charlize Theron), the film resonated with moviegoers, and Ricci as Selby, the young lover who may or may not have turned a blind eye to Wournos' string of murders, had one of her most effective dramatic roles to date.

From "Monster" to a genuine monster movie, Ricci teamed with director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson for the werewolf thriller "Cursed" (2005), but received more notice for her Emmy-nominated guest spot on the television medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ), then at the peak of its popularity. In a post-Super Bowl episode which was widely watched, Ricci played an inexperienced paramedic whose hand must remain inside a patient's chest to prevent an unexploded artillery shell from detonating. After a brief, almost inconsequential appearance in "Home of the Brave" (2006), a heart-wrenching tale about a National Guard unit in Iraq sent on a humanitarian mission, Ricci gave a strong performance in "Black Snake Moan" (2007), a bold, if controversial, film about a promiscuous woman trying to be rehabilitated by a God-fearing blues singer (Samuel L. Jackson) who chains her to the radiator.

Ricci's first 2008 release, the Reese Witherspoon-produced "Penelope" was a disappointing attempt at fantastical comedy that missed the mark of masters of the genre like Tim Burton. Forced to wear a pig snout through the majority of the film, it did little for Ricci's image, as it marked yet another outcast teen role for the nearly 30-year-old actress. Later in the year, Ricci would go wide with a co-starring role in the highly-anticipated "Speed Racer," a high-tech adaptation of the Japanese cartoon cult favorite from the 1960s, co-starring Emile Hirsch and Matthew Fox. The actress eased back on to screens the next year as a part of the ensemble cast in the Big Apple-based romance anthology "New York, I Love You" (2009). Additionally, she could be seen in a recurring role on the Holly Hunter drama "Saving Grace" (TNT, 2007-2010) and as a co-lead in the little-seen metaphysical thriller "After.Life" (2009), opposite Liam Neeson. Following a year of little activity, in which her sole credit of note was a voice role in the animated lupine adventure "Alpha and Omega" (2010), Ricci resurfaced in the regrettable porn industry lampoon "Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star" (2011), starring Nick Swardson as the titular under-endowed hero. That same month, the actress hoped for a smooth flight as a part of the regular cast on the 1960s-set airline drama "Pan Am" (ABC, 2011- ), in which she played a feisty young stewardess seeking adventure in the once glamorous profession. Although the series was short-lived, it did offer one personal side benefit: on set, she met a camera operator named James Heerdegen. They married on October 26, 2013.