Following in the footsteps of Renée Zellweger and Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Ricci, 21, had to master a British accent for her latest film, The Man Who Cried (opening Friday). The arduous task would have brought the Opposite of Sex star to tears herself, if it weren't for the help of cast and crew.
"I would get nervous before scenes, which is really different for me," says Ricci, who plays a Russian-Jewish refugee who grows up in pre-World War II England. "I work best by not thinking about what I'm doing, but when you do an accent, you have to think about every word."
Ricci was coached by Barbara Berkery, the dialect wiz who trained Zellweger for Bridget Jones's Diary and Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love and Emma. And when Berkery was MIA, the Golden Globe nominee relied on her British co-workers for assistance. "There are so many British accents, and when I had problems with a word, four different people would chime in," she laughs. "My driver Phil is cockney, and he couldn't be in the studio because I'd see him out of the corner of my eye and all of a sudden have a cockney accent."
Despite Ricci's speech impediment, director Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson) had no qualms about casting her for the film, which also stars Cate Blanchett, Johnny Depp and John Turturro. "[Christina] uniquely has the combination of both experience and youth," marvels the filmmaker. "At 19, when we made the film, she had [already] made 20 films... And for this role, she had to carry the world behind her eyes."
She also had to make "movie" love to Depp, which Ricci admits was "very strange... Anytime you're rooting around like two pigs in front of 20 men and women on the set — especially with someone who was 27 when you were nine years-old — it's a little weird. But we get along so well that we both could be like, 'This is really irritating.'"