'Sex' Symbol

Christina Ricci has come far since 'The Addams Family'

Wednesday Addams is all grown up, and boy, what a piece of work. In "The Opposite of Sex," a scorched-earth comedy of passion and pursuit, Christina Ricci plays a gun-wielding runaway who seduces her half-brother's gay lover, steals 10 grand, flees from the Midwest to L.A., goes into labor, yells at the top of her lungs and gives birth.

For Ricci, who is 18 and has made 18 movies since her 1990 debut as Cher's little kid in "Mermaids," the role of Dedee Truitt in "The Opposite of Sex" represents the proverbial nail in the coffin of her childhood and teen persona.

"They wanted me to do a 'Casper 2,' reports the star of "Casper 1" between puffs of a Parliament. "And my agent was telling them, 'Well, why don't you wait until you see 'The Opposite of Sex?' I don't really think you'll want her after that.' "

Or after they see "Buffalo 66," in which Ricci is a tap-dancing fantasy girl opposite Vincent Gallo; or the still-around "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," in which she's a tripped-out artist; or John Waters' September-scheduled "Pecker," in which Ricci appears as what she calls a "Laundromat Nazi."

"I'm starting to do movies I really love," she says, "and it would be sort of painful to have to go back and do something like 'Casper 2.' Even though, at the time, it was a great experience, to have to go and do that now would be like going backwards for me."

or writer and first-time director Don Roos, Ricci's audition was a revelation.

"For one thing, I thought she was much younger," says Roos, sitting beside his leading lady. "I knew she was a wonderful actress. In 'Mermaids,' she really popped out, more so than Winona [Ryder] did. And then in 'The Addams Family' she was so terrific that the sequel is basically about Wednesday Addams . . . But then I didn't see 'Casper' or any of the other movies, and I hadn't yet seen 'The Ice Storm.' In my head I thought she was, like, 12, so I wasn't considering her for the role, and I was also thinking that maybe we should have a legal adult doing these lines, because it is not a well-brought-up script. It's vulgar in many ways, because our lives are vulgar.

"But then, when her agent told me what her age was and that she liked the script, we flew to New York to meet with her."

And the rest, as they say, is the rest: Roos recalls, "When I was writing the part of Dedee, I envisioned her to be just much more nervous, just a dizzier type of girl. Something more like a darker Gidget quality, and so I was looking at actresses and not seeing that at all, or maybe I was seeing it and not liking it. And Christina's take on the character was much more intelligent very strong yet vulnerable, which I loved instantly . . . As soon as she came in and gave her first take on the character, that was it for me."

Ricci looks sideways, and gives if it's possible a friendly scowl. "I still can't even imagine what you're talking about," she tells her director. " 'Darker Gidget'? I just read the script and immediately saw her the way that I played her."

And what about that childbirth scene? How was that to do?

"I actually like stuff like that. I love being able to scream and cry and throw a tantrum, because I don't really get to in life that often."

"You're not a tantrum kind of girl," Roos says.

"Inside I am," she says. "I throw a lot of inner tantrums."