SELMA TAKES NEW RISK AS ABUSIVE MOM
by Paul Fischer
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Selma Blair is one of those actors who rarely repeats herself. On the small screen she played the spoiled teenager in the US version of the Australian sitcom Kath and Kim, and prior to that reprised her fiery role of Liz in Hellboy II. Now she returns to Indie film territory as a drugged out abusive mother in Lori Petty’s feature debut, The Poker House, a tough and damaged character. Blair talked to PAUL FISCHER in this exclusive interview.
QUESTION: So, clearly this was a character that must have spoken to you when you read your script.
SELMA BLAIR: I did. I read the script, and I thought it was beautifully written. And I thought—I love playing characters that have really fallen apart. You know, in ways. I really enjoy that. That’s what I think is kind of one of my strengths. [LAUGHTER] And my weakness, you know? As an actress. But—so, this is a woman that fully lost her way, and was so filled with—you know, rage and hate and victim-complex, that there was no way she was probably going to be likable. But, you know, I don’t think, really, one is, when they’re so gone with drugs and alcohol. I think this is a very honest look at it.
QUESTION: Very strung out, very intense character. What do you do to – or, how difficult is it for you to identify with a woman like this? I don’t think you’ve played a Mom before. I don’t even remember if you’ve played a mother before.
SELMA BLAIR: I might have played a Mom, little bits and pieces where the kid wasn’t much of a focus, and as a young Mom, or who knows, you know? But this is the first time playing a Mom who is, essentially, not a Mom at all. I mean, there was nothing maternal about the woman. It was too painful for my character to look at her children, after how damaged she was, and how far she had already come with—with being such a painful experience in their lives. So, my character really—I was just always trying to push the pain away, and numb out and numb out. And it just left me spewing more hate. And wanting to be sexy to make money, and to feel good about myself. It was really refreshing to get to play a character that walks differently, and is really, really ugly at that period in her life.
QUESTION: How important is it for you to take risks as an actress?
SELMA BLAIR: I think it’s always important. To stretch your mind and your muscles, and how people perceive you. I mean, people might not agree with me. You know, I think some people think, “Oh, God, couldn’t you have stuck to one thing so we’d know who you are? You know, and ever decide if we like you or dislike you. But I don’t even know what kind of films you’re doing. It’s all over the place. But that’s important to me. You know, I’m an actress. I’m not a personality. And I want to be a really good actress. So, I think all these experiences—and ones that people don’t want to take, because they don’t want to be so unlikeable. Well, you know, my hand’s up. I’ll take it. You know? It’s the role. I don’t—I’m not in this to be liked. I mean, it’s to tell people stories.
QUESTION: Did you try to do any research on this woman? I mean, did you try to meet any recovering addicts?
SELMA BLAIR: No. I mean, God knows, I have enough of that in my life. You know. I mean, my life is filled with people that have completely screwed up and gotten back together and haven’t, and—you know, everyone has had such major screw-ups. Almost everyone that I know. So it was easy to go to that place. And I know plenty of people, you know, that are in the midst of major, major drug use, that have abandoned their lives. And it’s heartbreaking. But, you know, I didn’t meet Lori’s mother, who it’s based on. And so I was a little nervous, but Lori kept me in check. And – but her mother—she has a great relationship with her mother now. You know, her mother’s one of the biggest supporters of this film, and as a fan, and loves it, and wishes she had a bigger part in the movie. You know, she can really look out of this— you know, a time in life that everything went wrong. So, they’ve all recovered now.
QUESTION: Now, what’s happening with you next? I mean, I take it Kath and Kim is gone.
SELMA BLAIR: Yeah. Kath and Kim is buried. Although you can get it on DVD, I hear.
QUESTION: Was that a learning experience for you?
SELMA BLAIR: It was a real learning experience, and I’m glad we got our season out of it. And it was kind of, in a lot of ways, my goodbye to playing a teenager. You know, it was this arrested development, vapid young woman I’m playing. And for me, that role was a real stretch. To let go of my vanity, to play Kim on this Technicolor show on a network, where you have so many cooks in the kitchen kind of messing with a creative process, if you’re not used to that medium. It was a real challenge for me, and I’m glad I had that experience. And I’m glad I’m getting to flit around on film again.
QUESTION: What are you doing next?
SELMA BLAIR: I’m shooting a film called Columbus Circle, that George Gallo wrote and is directing. He wrote Middlemen, and directed Middlemen, that was just at Cannes with Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi, and that’s an amazing film. I loved it. So I saw that film, and was very eager to do this one. And so we’re shooting it right now, in LA. I play an heiress who’s a shut-in. A complete shut-in, in her apartment.
SELMA BLAIR: I wish there would be another Hellboy, but I don’t know. I don’t see it, and Guillermo’s busy for the next four years doing hobbit movies. And—you know, I just don’t know. But I would love to. You know, the second Hellboy really paved the way for an amazing third one, and I feel like the characters are owed it. But, you know, that’s not how this world works.
QUESTION: What else would you like to do besides acting? I mean, do you want to direct or produce?
SELMA BLAIR: I would love to produce, I would love to direct. But honestly, I don’t know if I have the confidence right yet. I really would love to get a place where I feel safe with my career. But maybe one never feels safe until you take a chance, and break out of the mold, and make things happen. But I really want to write. Writing is the one that I feel a calling for the most.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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