While some may find turning 30 a less-than-rosy prospect, the god-humoured Selma Blair, co-starring in the new romantic comedy A Guy Thing, found the age transition somewhat liberating. “When that happened, I woke up the next morning and said: Oh my God, I can breathe, confesses the beautiful actress in a Los Angeles hotel room.
“I do not know what it was, but, before 30, I really felt I needed to please people.” Now, as Blair is at the crossroads of a high profile career, she says that she wants “to do everything, but I also have to be responsible to myself and need to have a little bit more control and power. I need to get something pretty amazing under my acting belt first before I move forward, though”, Blair concedes. Perhaps that is not the ‘other girl’ role of A Guy Thing, but she still enjoys doing these light-hearted studio films. “The roles I have done for studio movies in the past have been very much supporting and character driven, even if they are rather inconsequential roles, which I don’t mind. I take every role very seriously and so I think maybe if you are just playing the foil to the beautiful, glamorous ones, it is bound to be the opposite of the beautiful glamorous one and so you get me,” she adds laughingly. “That means you get the one that is more rigid, goofier or something that is going to be the opposite.”
Blair, whose screen work has ranged from intensely dark as in Storytelling, through to the ultimate ‘other girl’ in the teen hit Cruel Intentions, doesn’t perceive of herself as typically glamorous, because, she says, “as an actress, I think it would be a waste for me to try and play the glamour part, because truthfully, I am really not at all that.” In A Guy Thing, Blair plays Karen, the conservative fiance of a young man whose pre-marital life is unravelling when he meets Julia Stiles. Having last year played just the opposite as one of three friends in The Sweetest Thing, Selma says that her real self is somewhere in between these two character types. “Hopefully, it has to be a balance. I do believe in the things that Karen has on the outside such as good manners making efforts to put yourself together for people, which some people think of as kind of semi-archaic in this town. So many people think some I am so prim and proper and at the same time so outrageous; I am always the one everyone expects to see on Jackass or something. But I guess I have something in common with these roles that I am playing for studios at least in that I tend to play these tightly wound girls that kind of come undone and that is the comedy in them.” Blair loves to show off her comedic side. “I just love making people laugh.”
Unlike the roles Blair has played in independent films such as Kill Me Later or the acclaimed Storytelling, where, she says, “I have much more free rein.”
Born and raised in Michigan, Blair says that she wanted to be everything growing up except an actress. “I wanted to be a ballerina, a horse trainer, and then I wanted to be a photographer,” Blair recalls. “I just never thought it was feasible for a girl from Michigan to ever make it to the stage or screen and tell a story.” For Blair, who early on admired the likes of Sissy Spacek in Coalminer’s Daughter “I always thought that this was the dream job for someone to have and eventually I just wanted for to be transported into a role like that.” After graduating from college in 1995, Blair recalls that her mother “helped me pack my suitcase and I moved up to New York about a week later,” without knowing “if it would be photography that hit or acting. I knew I was going to go and study acting in New York and try to get a book together for photography and assist somebody, so that is what I did.”
Blair trained at New York’s renowned Stella Adler school and before long was a working actress, having made her screen debut in 1997’s In & Out. 1999’s Cruel Intentions clearly put the new starlet on the map, and Blair, who goes from mainstream fare to the Independent world, hasn’t looked back. But it’s Blair’s NEXT project that is causing quite the buzz, even before shooting: Blair has scored the female lead in Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming Hellboy, based on the popular Mike Mignola comic strip, revolving around a demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, who grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness. Starring Ron Perlman in the title role, Blair co-stars as Liz Sherman, “the love interest of Hellboy and the FBI agent as well who is also a fire starter.” Though a dark action film in true Del Toro style, Blair points out that “my character is not so much an ass kicker. That is more Hellboy’s thing, while my character is much more a mental athlete in my telepathic fire starting. I am a girl that is trying to come to grips with this kind of tragic power she has because I killed my entire family when I was a little girl with this power, so it is something I am running from my whole life and try not to admit to myself that I have. However, you cannot run from what you have for too long,” Blair explains.
It is not the kind of big film one associates with the actress, but she is genuinely excited by the opportunity of working in such an unfamiliar genre. “It is the greatest gift. And such a departure for me” having hoped “that someone would see me in something other than some bubbling imitation of a country club girl. So when Guillermo Del Toro called me, my smile did not go away for weeks.”
Blair is also excited about shooting Hellboy on location in Prague. “I actually went to a fortune-teller, for the first time who said my life’s meaning will be coming clear in Prague.” Blair, who was, until recently, dating actor Jason Schwartzman, was also told that “Mr. Trouble will be coming into my life, so I am waiting for that Trouble I am waiting and hoping but I do not know where Mr. Trouble is.”
Selma knows that her career is about to reach a turning point, hoping that “good things are on the horizon. I do think that my life has always been kind of feast or famine and so I do seem to jump back and forth between these all or nothing projects. Even while I am shooting Hellboy, I am contemplating doing another project here that will be a complete independent, no money, you know, no budget, period, so I will definitely be coming back here, living in a shoe box.” After Hellboy hits next year, it is likely her shoe box may be a tad larger.