Christina Ricci: Chris Delmas/ZUMA Press
June 05, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s only been a year and a half since they shared a tender clinch in Tim Burton’s ”Sleepy Hollow,” but Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp obviously couldn’t wait to fall back into each other’s arms. The pair, who have been offscreen friends since Ricci was a little girl, reteam as onscreen lovers in the just-released ”The Man Who Cried.”

But while they barely reached first base in ”Sleepy Hollow,” this film allows them to go all the way. ”It was a little weird,” admits Ricci about their lovemaking scene. ”Anytime you’re rooting around like two pigs in front of 20 men or women on a set, it’s kind of bizarre, especially with someone you met when you were 9 and he was 27. But we get along so well that we could both laugh it off and say, ‘This is really irritating.”’

”The Man Who Cried” marks another breakthrough for the 21-year-old actress; it’s her first role requiring a English accent. Ricci plays a young Jewish girl living in pre-World War II Paris, while Depp costars as the quiet gypsy who steals her heart, then selflessly forces her to flee without him when the Germans enter France. Ironically, for all the time Ricci spent honing her accent (she studied with the same instructor who helped transform Renée Zellweger into Bridget Jones), her character doesn’t speak very much, a deliberate choice by director Sally Potter (”Orlando”). ”Her silence propels her through the film,” says Potter. ”It’s a journey towards somebody refinding her own voice.”

Potter says she chose Ricci for the role primarily because she WAS so credible at communicating her thoughts and feelings without speaking: ”She understands the camera, she understands presence, and she has to carry the world behind her eyes.” Adds Ricci, ”I actually prefer to not speak. It’s more [truthful] to express feelings through actions than words. In real life you don’t say, ”I’m sad.” You look sad and people get it.”

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