Why Hollywood won't cast Christina Ricci anymore

From the moment she first snapped her fingers in time to The Addams Family theme song, Christina Ricci was a star. Best known for playing Wednesday Addams, Ricci was notable not only for her fabulous acting abilities, but also for expertly avoiding the kind of Hollywood growing pains that plagued so many professional kids of her cohort. But despite making it to adulthood free of scandal or addiction, it seems like Christina Ricci just doesn't get cast anymore. Why? We've investigated, and come up with a few likely explanations.

As a child star, she was a little too bright

Christina Ricci was just nine years old when she scored her first feature film role in Mermaids, where she all but stole the show from her co-stars, Winona Ryder and Cher. The following year, she snagged the role of Wednesday Addams in the first Addams Family movie, and her status as a pint-sized pre-teen Hollywood icon was complete. From then on, Ricci was ubiquitous in coming-of-age films like Now and Then and big-budget family adventures like Casper, and by the time she reached adulthood she was one of the most famous young actors in the biz — but that can be a liability when it comes to taking on adult roles.

Like many pro actors who made it big as kids, Ricci was still seen as a little girl long after she'd outgrown the desire to play one. And while she managed to bridge that gap with more daring, mature teen roles in smaller films (most notably a haunting turn in Ang Lee's dark, sexy The Ice Storm), it still sapped her momentum at a moment when she could have used a big-budget break into grownup fare.

The curse of the cult character

Admit it: Even now, Christina Ricci just doesn't look right to you without a scowl, a pair of twin black braids, and a disembodied hand named "Thing" sitting perkily on her shoulder. Despite being a grown woman in her mid-thirties, Ricci is still most famous for her role as the only daughter of Morticia and Gomez — and for some folks, no matter how many wholesome or comedic roles she plays, she'll only ever be our own little brunette outcast, Wednesday Addams. Not that Ricci is complaining (she's only ever expressed the most sincere gratitude for getting to bring such an iconic character to life), but that kind of typecasting is never great for an actor's career.

She lacks A-list stature

Although Hollywood isn't necessarily a bad place to be a petite person (see: Tom Cruise, action hero and sex symbol despite being a miniature five-foot-six), body type can definitely play a role when it comes to the roles they'll let you play — and Ricci herself has cited her height as an obstacle to an A-list career. She went on the record about it back in 2007, saying, "I'm five-one first thing in the morning, and I tend to look really small on camera. I can probably go as far as Holly Hunter went, then I think that's going to be it. I have a feeling I am way too small."

Of course, being itty-bitty isn't the whole story for Ricci's career struggles; it certainly hasn't gotten in the way of fellow five-one A-listers like Ellen Page, Kristen Bell, Reese Witherspoon, or—yes—Holly Hunter. But all those ladies have had to fight a similar battle against being perpetually perceived as too cute to play serious dramatic roles, which has to have been a challenge for the former child star as well.

She's a vampire... or something like it

Speaking of being too small and cute to take on heavy roles, Christina Ricci also has to deal with the fact that she apparently doesn't age—which isn't a bad thing under most circumstances, but definitely hasn't helped her in the quest to escape being typecast. Even if she doesn't drink the blood of the innocent to maintain her youthful appearance (and yeah, okay, she probably doesn't do that… probably), Ricci can't count on reinventing her career the way many actresses do, with a transition into middle-aged roles. But she's also way too mature in spirit to play a teenager; what's an ageless vampire starlet to do?

She might have overcompensated with too many gritty roles

Much the way certain Disney stars hit the scandal circuit a little too hard in an effort to shed their family-friendly images, Christina Ricci went through a period in her late teens and early twenties where she really tried to push the envelope and establish herself as a grownup actress. The Opposite of Sex, 200 Cigarettes, Buffalo 66, and a turn in John Waters' Pecker all proved that she could hang tough in dirty, sexy, sleazy, limit-pushing roles—but it also may have been a little too much at once. Being pigeonholed as a teen queen of crass offers slightly more opportunity than being pigeonholed as a creepy deadpan child with a disembodied appendage for a pet…but, y'know, only slightly.

Her breakout performance was eclipsed by a Monster

In 2003, Christina Ricci scored what should have been the role that catapulted her onto the A-list: playing Selby, the girlfriend of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, in the terrifying biopic Monster. Only instead of earning mass accolades for her nuanced, heartbreaking performance, Ricci went virtually unnoticed in the film—because Charlize Theron's multiple award-winning performance (not to mention her forty-pound weight gain and complete lack of eyebrows) soaked up the entire spotlight.

To her credit, the actress was gracious about it; in a 2010 interview with The Advocate, she said, "I like to think I also made a dramatic physical transformation, so it would hurt me a little bit when people said that…but from the very beginning I understood it was Charlize's passion project. I took the part of Selby knowing that I was going to be a supporting part of that experience, so it never seemed weird to me at the time." And Theron praised Ricci in her Golden Globes acceptance speech as the "unsung hero" of the film, which was no doubt appreciated. Still, it was a lost opportunity at a pivotal moment, and there hasn't been another like it since.

Her confidence took a hit

Many actresses struggle with body image and disordered eating at the expense of their ability to hang in Hollywood, and Christina Ricci sadly wasn't immune from the pressures of her industry. Although she's always been very petite, the actress pointed to her fluctuating weight in the mid-2000s as a detriment to her career at a moment when she really could have used a boost—and as the culprit for her lack of blockbuster roles.

"I know that had I been thinner at the time my indie movies were hitting, I could've been in a much better position in my career," she lamented. As it was, she said, that hit to her image led to her having to work harder than many other actresses to get on the radar of casting directors: "I have to say I still audition for movies. I don't really have as much control over my career as others would like to pretend that I do."

She couldn't find her niche

Network TV? Grossout comedy? Period drama? Voiceover work? Ricci tried it all, with roles that ranged from a star turn on the short-lived Pan Am TV series to a goofy appearance in the frat pack film Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. Unfortunately, even the projects that did well didn't open doors for her the way one might have hoped, leaving her with a very eclectic résumé but not much direction.

Her next pivot was more like a slip-and-fall

For an actress in need of a boost, a serious period romance—the kind that requires a posh English accent and includes an all-star cast of prestige actors—can be just the thing to reinvigorate a career, which is probably what Ricci was hoping for when she signed on to be part of Bel Ami. The film about a caddish, social-climbing playboy in 1890s Paris had Kristin Scott Thomas and Uma Thurman on board, plus the massively popular British heartthrob Robert Pattinson in his first big post-Twilight role. It should have been a nice little feather in the cap of all involved; alas, the movie flopped hard at the box office. Thanks to a limited release and lousy critical reception, the movie didn't even earn back its production budget of nine million pounds. And while Ricci's performance was generally praised—she was even singled out by Roger Ebert as the only good thing about the movie—it wasn't enough.

She took time off to have a baby

Not that we blame her! The poor lady had been working her butt off since the age of eight; a little downtime with family was more than deserved. But Ricci's brief disappearance from Hollywood to give birth to her son, Freddie, didn't do anything to keep her on the radar of big-name directors—and more than that, it clearly made a huge difference in how she approaches her career.

"Having a child changed everything," Ricci admitted, in an interview with People after Freddie's birth. "It's made everything in my life actually important and matter. I now have to take things seriously, and I never did before. I want to succeed for him. My choices matter more."

But for fans, there's good news

Christina Ricci's latest choices have not just mattered, but they've been good ones—really, really good ones. In fact, the change of perspective brought on by motherhood seems to be exactly what Ricci needed, because she's been on fire ever since. For one thing, she's no longer trying to go against the grain of her legacy for the macabre and quirky; instead, she's straight-up embraced it, and thrived. In 2015, she took on the title role in The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, playing the notorious axe murderess who was acquitted in the late 19th century for the brutal killings of her parents. And in 2017, she'll lead the cast of a biopic series about Zelda Fitzgerald, the beautiful, brilliant, and deeply damaged wife of famed American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In other words, it's the most natural evolution on earth for the girl who became famous for playing Wednesday Addams—and Ricci is the first to admit that while these roles might be predictable, they also feel right. In an interview with the Today Show in advance of the Lizzie Borden Chronicles premiere, she said, "I've always sort of trusted my instincts, and if you do the things you naturally gravitate toward, there's going to be a through line through your career. And all your choices are going to reflect who you are, and your taste."

And at this point in her life—as a wife, mother, and showbiz professional with nearly three decades of experience under her belt—Ricci knows exactly what her taste is, and what kind of roles she intends to play from now on. As she put it, "I really love a crazy person."

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