Selma Blair stars as the beautiful, brooding and complicated Liz Sherman in Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Hellboy, opening Friday. Her formidable power, pyrokinesis, first manifested itself when, at age eleven ,she willed a devastating inferno into life accidentally killing those closest to her. Afraid of her own power, Liz has nevertheless become a valued member of the BPRD, fighting against paranormal eveil. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) loves her, but the relationship is tentative at best, with their deepest feelings unspoken and by implication, taboo.
Selma said she didn’t have to work with any green screens for the flame special effects. “They had an amazing computer effects department. They told me what the flames would look like. I got to pick the color of the flames, what I wanted. I just trusted Guillermo that they would figure it out. There was nothing difficult about this movie. I don’t have a good story about it.” And why did she pick the color blue for the flame? “I had this friend that came out to Prague and he was kind of the spiritual teacher and he kept talking about the violent flame, it’s kind of this spiritual thing about God’s flame or whatever being this violet, purple, blue flame. I thought oh well, I think that would be beautiful, and that was a little more interesting than the red flame. I don’t know, it was just kind of a personal thing with the sweet spiritual teacher.”
She added that del Toro is the most passionate director she’s ever met. “He is the most educated, involved, kindest man. His imagination is intense. Being on his set is like walking into his mind. It was so realized, even the sets, that it wasn’t difficult. There was no blank, you never thought of anything as a soundstage. Everything was right there. He had been working on this for so many years and had it all sketched out and had everything and was so precise with his vision that he didn’t leave anything to anyone else. It was there and everyone really worked to make his dream come true. He didn’t take anything for granted and you felt that on set and trusted him completely.”
Selma got the biggest kick out of working with characters that were larger than life. “We really gave my imagination a real kick. I’m a pretty jaded girl and my sense of awe really needs a kick in the pants, and this did it. Guillermo’s passion was the greatest thing to be around. I’ve never been around people who were so grateful and so in love with making movies. And it had to be this way because the work was so intense for the monster makers and the make-up artists, and for Ron to sit in make-up for six hours and Abe Sapien, that for this to be an amazing experience, they obviously have to love what they do with such an intensity that I’ve never experienced before. These wizard world people are another breed. They opened my mind to that kind of imagination. Yeah, it was beautiful.”
Liz Sherman gets to kiss the big red fella, which was quite an experience for Blair. “It was actually our last shot. It was our last day and it was so strange because Ron and I had gotten so close on this. It was so odd kissing Big Red, really weird with those teeth and all. But I bought into it. Ron did such an amazing job as Hellboy that I bought into it. I was so in love with Hellboy. He was so fun and sexy that I completely bought into it. It was the first time in a movie that I actually get the guy, and what a guy he is. I was really lucky.” So did the the make-up rub off on her? “Yeah, it is funny. Since Sarah Michelle Gellar, I haven’t had a co-star wear more make-up than I had at the time, so that was funny. No, it was pretty permanent, but yeah, he did. In some of the creases he had a little red lipstick and stuff. And I think I saw in the close-up my lips were a little infected with Hellboy’s lip color.”
It was easier for her to surrender to this fantasy world since it was such a big project. “I think, in any film, even if it’s sitting by the fireplace talking to grandma, you’re looking at a boom operator and you’re looking at… there’s a monitor with the director whispering your lines, it’s such a strange reality – filmmaking, that this was, the spectacle, these stages and these monsters and everything, they were so grand that you didn’t even notice the regular people around the film set. So it was actually a much easier experience. In a movie like this, you can never go to big. And if you go to small, it doesn’t matter because there are so many other things to look at. So you’re pretty covered in a movie that’s kind of this amazing.”
She says that although it’s a big project, it didn’t really test her confidence in her acting ability. “Liz isn’t the best lightening rod for this conversation because she’s so closed off. It was strange for me because usually I tend to go big as an actress anyhow. I like to really perform in some way and Liz was a very still girl because she had caused so much havoc in her life so she really didn’t do much, she didn’t really do anything – which was difficult for me to just kind of stand still and it’s like, ‘Oh my God there’s all this going on. I have all these opportunities to really react and do stuff,’ and she’s really jaded – seen it, done it, killed it. So she’s kind of shut down.”
Selma is ready for Hellboy 2. “I would be thrilled to be on anything with Guillermo, or Revolution or ‘Hellboy.’ The trust they put in this project was very honorable. You don’t see that much with a studio. Yes, anything that they would want – so God willing it will go well and we will make a ‘Hellboy 2.'” She added that she’s already contracted for the second film.
Speaking of big! Selma Blair just worked with writer/director John Waters on A Dirty Shame, playing Caprice Stickles. “Yeah, that was amazing,” she says. “I play Ursula Utters – Capri Stickles, otherwise known as Ursula Utters – and I play a sex addict who’s addicted to my silicone breasts. I got them out like a couple weeks ago and I’m so sore, still. But, they were more than a mouth full. Write that down, that’s a very important quote. No, I play this girl with these huge breasts.”
She said that they were pretty embarrassing. “I was actually horrified. I’m nude a lot in the film but not really because I’ve never been so clothed wearing these huge prosthetic breasts. But one day I did get dressed in my apartment in Baltimore and there’s this huge construction site outside the door, and I’m wearing a bathrobe that barely closes because they’re so huge, and I just couldn’t help myself and I flashed the whole construction crew. I mean, jaws just dropped. They were horrified, and if you can horrify a construction crew. I mean they thought they were real. Yeah, it was bad news. It was bad news all around. On set, people would whisper like, ‘Poor girl, is she deformed?’ I’d heard rumors that I had really done it, and John just ate that up. He just thought that was the greatest thing, that he would have such control that I would forever ruin myself by having these 40 pound breasts.”