Speed Racer's Ricci and Oliver talk shop

May 6, 2008 at 3:31 p.m. ET

The anticipation for the team behind "The Matrix" has never been higher with their latest -- "Speed Racer." The film based on the iconic animated television series arrives on screens May 9.

Off we go...

Rev up your engines

SheKnows spoke to "Speed Racer" stars Christina Ricci and Christian Oliver. Both were spellbound by what they had experienced on the set of what is sure to be a blockbuster.

Ricci jumped at the chance to play a comic book movie part. "I had to do it," she said of the offer to portray Trixie.

"'Speed Racer' was the most fun ever. That's another example of a great role model for girls," Ricci said. After her turn in "Penelope," the actress was ready to tackle a female character who takes action instead of solely watching it.

"She's smart, she's funny and she does all the things the boys do. She fights – I get to Kung Fu fight. She races like Speed Racer. She flies a helicopter," Ricci said. The 20-year acting veteran appreciated Trixie's feminine traits.

"She has this specific outfit when she flies the helicopter. Her lipstick matches. She's perfect. She's a girl and a woman, but she's not treated any differently than the male characters. It was so much fun in that respect. I like being dressed up. I like doing stunts."

Oh, say, can you see a hit!

Cold-hearted Snake

For "Speed Racer" bad guy Snake Oiler, Christian Oliver, unlike Ricci, he had to audition and found the process thrilling. "I was reading in front of a green screen," Oliver said. "It worked because they entire movie was shot that way. I rarely shared scenes with other actors."

Oliver heard the masters of redefining moviemaking were bringing "Speed Racer" to the big screen and he wanted in on the process. "I had to fight for this part. With the Wachowskis, when you hear that name, you're willing to do anything for them," Oliver said from his Los Angeles home.

You better duck...Snake is a little upset

"They're such talent and visionaries, we all know that, but I never knew how much fun they had, how passionate they are, and how hands on they are. It's amazing to see how that works. They dig in there. As an actor, it was just freedom."

Most performers report acting in front of a screen versus live actors is a fruitless process. "For me it was a great leap into great nothingness," Oliver said. "I let it all go and fell and trust that the Wachowskis are going to catch you. With a character name like Snake Oiler – you're safe going as crazy as you want. I had tremendous fun."

"Speed Racer" not only hits screens with the anticipation of being the Wachowski Brothers first foray into filmmaking after creating cinematic beauty with "V is for Vendetta" and "The Matrix" series, but they carry the weight of "Speed Racer" fans internationally. 

'I cut my hair off and they gave me a wig!'

Ricci arrived on set prepared to tackle the iconic role of Wanda from the legendary anime series "Speed Racer."

After viewing dozens of episodes she knew she had to cut her gorgeous dark locks if she was going to nail the part. She figured if it was a hit, she'd have a wig for the sequel. She would suffer for her art.

"I show up with this super short bob and they hand me a wig," Ricci said and laughed. "I'm like, 'excuse me,' I cut off all my hair. Don't you think you could have told me we were using a wig?"

Her experience with the screen of green was also one of joy. "That was hilarious. We'd be on set and there would be half the helicopter. And the rest is just green. It's an ensemble piece, so there are a lot of other actors to just look at and say 'what the hell is that?' What scene are we shooting? It made it funny," Ricci said. "The whole time we were walking around thinking the mountains are over there, and that is what? The edge of the cliff, OK, so I shouldn't be over there. It was just funny. It made it all hilarious." 

Cold hearted Snake

Christian Oliver embraced his inner reptile to portray Snake and still pinches himself at the opportunity to work with masters even without sharing face time with "Speed Racer" himself, "Into the Wild" star Emile Hirsch.

Racing into theaters May 9

"I didn't get to work with Emile. That's the fun of it. You're used to working alongside other actors," Oliver said. "I constantly love to do new things, for me – this was new. It was exhilarating. It you want to play it safe, you should not be doing a green screen movie."

Although he did not share scenes with Hirsch, the two became friends. "What a great guy. That kid really has it going," Oliver said. "He has a great career in front of him. We have many scenes together but he did his green screen and I did my green screen. At the end we will be screaming at each other and kick each other…out. You'll see who is the winner and who comes out on top."

After audiences scream at his evil-badness in "Speed Racer," Oliver may have to worry about being typecast. "Being a Hollywood bad guy, there are worse ways to make a living," he said. "I'm just thrilled to be working with the people I have had the fortune to be around."

After audiences scream at his evil-badness in "Speed Racer," Oliver may have to worry about being typecast.

Ricci and the eye-popping visuals

As Ricci sat discussing "Speed Racer," her excitement was palpable.

"It's like nothing you've ever seen. I am so proud to have been a part of this movie," Ricci said. "There is this emotional element that is quite moving. Guys, yeah guys, were crying at the end of this really sad guy thing," she said and laughs. "It's sad!"

One actor she treasured his performance was Snake himself. "Christian Oliver was just always so evil," Ricci said of her co-star. The veteran of over 25 films believes that "Speed Racer" is different on infinitesimal levels. "Everything about the movie makes it feel like an event."

Oliver describes the eye candy that the Wachowski brothers have painted. "It's a world without any limits," he said.

Visually arresting

Hearing Ricci's comments about her experience with "Speed Racer" serving as a pinnacle in her career, Oliver is not surprised.

"I heard her say that. You could see it with her. It was genuine," Oliver said. "My God, this girl has a resume that I dream of. To see her having the time of her life was a moment. I realized that this is something special. There was a sense of that with everyone who worked on this movie. It was the sense we were working on something truly unique."