LOS ANGELES — Christina Ricci is one of only a handful of Hollywood actors who have successfully made the leap from child star to critically acclaimed box-office bait. She's done so by tackling, shall we say, rather unconventional roles — and the indie queen won't be veering far from that strategy with her upcoming dramatic flick, "Black Snake Moan."

Helmed by "Hustle & Flow" writer-director Craig Brewer, "Black Snake Moan" depicts an anxious white girl (Ricci) who's "cured" of her self-destructive nymphomania by Lazarus, an older black bluesman played by Samuel L. Jackson.

"Some people in my character's town don't know anything about panic disorders or post-traumatic shock syndrome, so they call her a nymphomaniac," Ricci told MTV News at the recent red-carpet premiere of "Hustle & Flow," where she was showing support for her new director. "But the term 'nymphomania' is so broadly and incorrectly used that I hesitate to sum her up that quickly. It's basically about a girl who suffers physical flashbacks to a childhood rape. Some women and young girls freak out, panic, and need to cut themselves. [My character] needs to cause herself the same kind of pain when she has panic attacks by having anonymous sex.

"It's basically about how two people can save each other and free themselves from the places they've been reduced to in society," the actress explained. "There's very intimate communication between my and Sam's characters. It's really moving."

"Moan" is slated to start shooting in about seven weeks, and boy-bander-turned-thespian Justin Timberlake has signed on to play Ricci's love interest (see "Justin Timberlake In Talks To Co-Star In Flick With Samuel L. Jackson"). "Justin's a Memphis boy, so we had to work together," Brewer joked. "But I think people are going to be surprised by Justin. This movie really pushes the envelope, and it's about the blues — which means it's about race and sex and God and the devil. So, you know, it's going to be big." Timberlake will don military garb for his role. "Justin plays a soldier who's going off to Iraq," Brewer said. "The movie explores his and Ricci's characters' unique relationship."

"Justin's going to be great," Ricci said of her co-star-to-be. "He seems perfect for the part. He's a really sweet guy. Me and my sister are like, 'Do you think Justin will teach us how to pop and lock?' I really want him to." "Black Snake Moan" is scheduled for a 2006 release.

Check out everything we've got on "Black Snake Moan."

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