Howconfident is Selma Blair these days? Why don’t we let her explain:”People equate feeling alive with feeling fuckable,” she says in a wrydeadpan, as she kicks back in the lobby lounge at Los Angeles’ swankyChateau Marmont hotel with her beloved one-eyed mutt, Wink. “Whenyou’re in love and busy with work, you feel great, a lot of which issimply because you’re feeling fuckable.”
That’s far more poise than we’ve come to expect from the30-year-old actress, who’s known for playing characters who arehopelessly out of touch with their own sexuality: the naive virginseduced by Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions, the doting undergrad brutally debased by her writing professor in Storytelling, one of Cameron Diaz’s romantically clueless gal pals in The Sweetest Thing. But Blair’s latest film has taught her to understand horniness in an entirely different way.
This month, she stars as one of the few distinctly human characters in the dark fantasy Hellboy, from horror director Guillermo del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II). Based on the long-running Dark Horse Comics series written and illustrated by Mike Mignola, Hellboyconcerns the titular demon (Ron Perlman), first summoned to Earth byNazis during World War II, who grows up to be a superhero in thepresent day. That’s when he hooks up with Blair (who plays aflame-throwing pyrotechnist named Liz Sherman) to fight evil and, well,hook up. Though she wasn’t initially familiar with the source material(“Batman was dark and comforting enough for me in high school”), Blairfound a kindred spirit in her alter ego. “Liz was a misfit as a kid,who had this power she didn’t know how to control,” she says. “Shespent her life as a refugee, and Hellboy [and his paranormal allies]became her freak family.”
Thisshould be an area of expertise for Blair, who in January married AhmetZappa, the oddball actor/musician son of late freak-rock pioneer FrankZappa. Now she can’t help but express her affection in inappropriateways, even when she’s bestowing it on her dog. “I feel like that linein Punch-Drunk Love: ‘I want to take a sledgehammer to yourface,'” she says. “‘I want to squeeze your face into a million littlepieces so I can put it back together again.’ It’s so morbid-I don’teven know why I’m talking about it.”
Before he was felled by one of her industrial-size lovetaps, Ahmet Zappa was able to give her a proper introduction to theHellboy universe. “He’s had the action figures for years. He got meinto that whole Harry Knowles world for the first time.” That wasbefore the gargantuan, red-bearded guru of Aintitcoolnews.com actuallyvisited the film’s set. “I met Harry and was so smitten by him,” saysBlair, “but then I made the mistake of going on his website, wheresomeone wrote, ‘Selma Blair as Liz Sherman? I hope they can fix it inpostproduction.'”
All this time spent in the company of monsters was the ideal preparation for her next project, John Waters’ black comedy A Dirty Shame,in which she plays Ursula Udders, a go-go dancer with “ginormousbreasts,” she says. “Prosthetic ones that took three hours to apply. Iwas naked in front of everyone every day. I don’t have a modest bone inmy body anymore.” Someday, “I’d love to play ‘the normal girl’ if thatmeans getting the wider audience and the better lighting,” Blair saysthrough a devious grin. “But I don’t have a competitive streak withother actresses. Although that Dakota Fanning-when they chose her overme for The Cat in the Hat, it really fucked me up. I guess executives thought she was more fuckable.”
The Devil You KnowRecounting the whole damned origin of Hellboy
“I won’t say Draculais all I ever think about,” says veteran comic-book artist MikeMignola, “but since I was in sixth grade, that stuff is all I’ve everread.” For more than 20 years, the 43-year-old Mignola has earned hissingularly spooky reputation illustrating (and often writing) storiesthat placed superheroes in atmospheric, horror-inspired situations, abody of work that includes the creep-tacular Batman-meets-Jack theRipper graphic novel Gotham by Gaslight.
By the early ’90s, Mignola had begun concocting a characterof his own, one that would allow him to explore his macabre fixationsmore fully. A series of doodles scrawled at comicbook conventionsyielded a demon in street clothes, whom he impulsively named Hellboy.”If I were a different artist,” he says, “I probably would have [madehim] a normal guy who’s an occult detective. But knowing that I wouldget tired of that, I said, ‘Let me make the main character a monster,and he fights monsters, so then I’m drawing nothing but monsters.'”
A decade later, Hellboy is a monster hit withindie-comics fans, one that combines elements from the masters ofgothic horror (including Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft) with imageryfrom Mignola’s Catholic upbringing: “All that sitting in church,listening to someone talk about hell and punishment, does something toyou.” But ultimately, Hellboy is about an inhuman creature witha soul. “I can’t write [dialogue for] the big hard-ass hero,” Mignolasays. “Hellboy is partly me, he’s partly my father, and yet he’s theBeast of the Apocalypse.” If you think that reveals more about thecreator than his creation, Mignola agrees. “Yeah, there’s a lot ofstuff to be dealt with there.” DAVE ITZKOFF