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Q and A With… Christina Ricci

The Penelope star on self-confidence, the search for love, smooches, and more.


In Penelope, you play a young woman afflicted by the mysterious family curse, a pig nose! In order to break the curse, you have to find true love, but every suitor that sees you is horrified by what you look like. Why do you think people care so very much about physical appearance?

I don’t know! Don’t they say it’s some kind of biological imperative kinda thing?! I’ve heard that we are looking for someone’s immune system that will fill in the blanks in our own. I’m not sure! I think we all are very superficial.

The thing is, she does have a pig nose! It’s an abnormality. It would be something you would definitely have to get past if you wanted to date her! I don’t blame the guys for their initial reaction, being a bit shocked. I don’t think they have to run from the room screaming though!

All that changes when your character meets the very sexy James McAvoy (Atonement), whom you had great chemistry with! What do you think he teaches her about love?

This is the first time she has really liked someone. He is really soulful; she hasn’t seen a lot of men like that. Mostly, they have been superficial, so this man is very mysterious to her. He really teaches her to be honest in love, and that’s very relatable.

And lucky you, you got to kiss him!

Yes, but it’s funny, in acting, we block everything in the scene ahead of time! I can’t remember a single sex scene I’ve had with anyone! It’s all just hitting your mark, not blocking the other person’s light, that kinda thing!

What do you think is the dating message of this film?

For me, the most important message is to not allow your insecurities and other people's criticism to cripple and keep you from living your life. My character in Penelope is literally trapped in the house because her parents want to protect her, and she herself feels ugly. What better metaphor for people not going out and enjoying life, like not going to the beach because you think you’re overweight or something. People not experiencing life because they are so crippled and trapped. We need to learn this early—it’s a great thing if you’re a (single) parent to teach your kids as well.

Also, the message is about self-acceptance; she ends up loving herself. She ends up appreciating all the qualities that make her who she is. Without attaching anything negative. You are who you are. It only has to be negative if you let it be!

Contributing entertainment editor Susan L. Hornik is based in Los Angeles.
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