Writing a piece on Selma Blair may be a conflict of interest, so let’s just
get this out now: Selma Blair was not known to me growing up as Selma Blair, but
rather by her Hebrew name Bat Sheva. And long before she rode around in a "big
gas-guzzling car," she rode to and from school on a small brown bus. And
even longer before Ahmet Zappa’s heart beat only for her, a 6-year-old boy
by the name of Aharon whispered quietly to his friends about that 7th grader with
the piercing black eyes. Yes, in 1985, both Blair and myself attended a small
private Jewish day school in the suburbs of metropolitan Detroit. And for reasons
we shan’t go into presently (shyness), I never got her to sign my yearbook.
Two weeks ago, however, the yearbook waited under my seat as I interviewed Blair
in correlation with her new movie, The Deal – a prescient political thriller
that is currently in theaters.
So, when I write that Blair is a refreshing break from the usual egotistical Hollywood
celebrities, that she’s a character study in humility, or that she’s
always impeccably garnished with the most unique bracelets and rings, please do
not read anything into it. I will cite examples of this behavior below and allow
you, the reader, to judge Blair’s behavior for yourself.
Asked to explain The Deal, a delicious film with plenty of twists and turns, we
expect Blair, as most actors would, to talk eruditely about Wall Street, cash
reserves, The Confederation of Arab States and Russian Mafia that pepper the film.
But Blair shrugs.
"I read the script and I liked it … I didn’t get it really,"
she says with a laugh, "but I liked it. I liked that [my character, environmental
idealist Abbey] was a strong girl and I love Christian Slater, and there’s
some great cast members. So I wanted to do it. But I still didn’t really
understand it. But I wised up. Someone finally explained things to this poor ignorant
Self deprecation from an actress? Can they do that? This honesty is disconcerting.
Must be a fluke. Let’s talk about her just-wrapped The Fog – is it a
thriller? Bloodbath? Horror? Where’s John Carpenter going to take this remake?
"I don’t know, we’ll have to see it. I don’t understand what
The Fog’s about." Blair starts laughing again. "Poor Selma! I need
to play a blind mute girl next, because I have no idea what’s going on in
anything!" More self-deprecating laughter (yes, there is such a category
of laughter and Selma has perfected it).
If Blair is being portrayed as ignorant, I have not limned her character properly.
For an actor to openly admit that they, initially, did not understand a role,
or acknowledge that they still have more to discover about acting ("I cried
after my last audition") is about the smartest thing an artist can say. In
fact, Blair is so sharp she’s never been the object de scam as she was in
"Not that I know of," she says, laughing. "The gardener cut down
the wrong tree once, I think he did it on purpose, but whatever." With a
twinkle of pain in her eyes, "I told him to cut down the tree over yonder
and he cut down my favorite tree in the yard. It made no sense. I still get choked
up about it – the miscommunication, yeah." Sarcasm entering her voice,
"‘Please, cut down my favorite fig tree.’ So I didn’t pay
him. I was devastated. A healthy tree cut down! I lost sleep. I had to move from
the house. I felt so guilty."
With the interview coming to an end, and Blair admitting that she’s about
to start a campaign for a huge hush-hush fashion house – "Now I definitely
won’t be able to walk down the street in flip-flops and jean shorts to take
out the garbage," she says – her publicist enters, ready to take her
away. I now begin my breathing exercises. This time I won’t lose my nerve.
As Blair rises to leave, I, with quaking hands, flip out the Hillel Day School
1985 yearbook and, face turning redder than Blair’s lips, ask her to sign
it, sloppily explaining how I fudged it 19 years ago.
Ten minutes later, I leave the interview with something Aharon’s been waiting
for over half his life: a personal message from Selma "Bat Sheva" Blair
ending with a slew of X’s and O’s.
The Deal is currently in theaters.
Article posted on 7/1/2005
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