The actress exposes herself in "Introducing Selma Blair," a fearless documentary that she hopes can help others.
At our first meeting, Selma Blair could only speak for half an hour. It was always that he believed his brain and body would cooperate; if he spread further, he was afraid he would start to ramble or not be able to converse properly. "We are being responsible by admitting that the shorter moments will be the clearer moments," he said.
For Blair, no day is free from the effects of multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune disease she learned she had in 2018 but which she believes began attacking her nervous system many years earlier.
This Friday in September, in particular, had been very difficult: He said he woke up at his home in Los Angeles feeling "just bad" but found that talking to people helped improve his discomfort. Blair said that she had had good conversations that day and hoped to continue in that vein during our meeting.
So if he needed to take a break during the interview, he said while bursting out laughing, "That just means you're boring me."
An unmatched lack of inhibition has always defined Blair's best-known work. She is now 49 years old and has a resume that includes pivotal youth movies ( Sex Games ), comedies ( Legally Blonde ), and comic book adventures ( Hellboy ).
That same sassy frankness persists in all of her interactions, whether scripted or spontaneous, with cameras on or off, even when it comes to the time she was on The Tonight Show and wore a top that she accidentally turned to the side. It's a story she proudly told me, five minutes after our video call presentation, as she touched her bleached blonde hair with her fingers. (To explain this choice of style, she yelled in a shrill voice, in the style of Ethel Merman and chanted, "I want to be a shiksa.")
But Blair's outspokenness has come to mean something more in the three years since he made his diagnosis public. Now, whether through her diaries on social media or during her red carpet appearances, she understands that she has the opportunity to educate a wider audience about what she and others are experiencing with her ailment.
A philosophy of maximum openness influenced his decision to star in the documentary Introducing Selma Blair. The film, directed by Rachel Fleit , is a courageous account of Blair's life with multiple sclerosis and the stem cell transplant he underwent in 2019 (the documentary opened in theaters on October 15 and will begin airing on October 21 on Discovery +).
Blair says she hopes the film will be meaningful to viewers who feel challenged and insecure, whether or not they have a chronic illness.
"This is my human condition," he said, "and everyone has theirs, but I think we bond with feeling lonely or scared when we experience a significant change in our lives. This was not a vanity project at all, and I love vanity. "
For Blair, the documentary is part of a larger effort to understand herself and determine how much of her identity has been shaped by the disease and what she will retain or change now that she is treated.
"If this had happened to me in my twenties, when I was trying to start a career and save a little, it would have mortified me," he said. "But I'm older. I am developing a completely different personality, and I am not ashamed. "
When she thinks about her upbringing in suburban Michigan, Blair describes herself as a 7-year-old who had her copy of the Physicians' Desk Reference, the enormous volume of information on prescription drugs, and wondered why she was experiencing constant pain and fatigue. In addition to unpredictable mood swings.
These difficulties persisted into adulthood: the pain worsened, especially after her son, Arthur, in 2011. She began to have vision problems and experienced involuntary muscle contractions in her neck.
Blair claims that she couldn't understand why her symptoms varied from setting to a setting until she was diagnosed. "I can walk better in my house, but outside it's like a sandpit," he said. "In some light, my ability to speak becomes intermittent even though my larynx is fine."
"It never occurred to me that there is a jam in my brain," he said.
In the surge of attention that followed the revelation of his diagnosis, he was introduced to Fleit, and agreed to begin filming the documentary in the days before Blair traveled to Chicago for his stem cell transplant.
Fleit said Blair did not exercise any editorial control over the film, adding that the project would only be successful if the actress "was willing to show the world what happened, that brutal intimacy and that honesty that you just don't see, and she completely agreed with that. "
Fleit, who suffers from universal alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, said she felt a particular connection to Blair as filming progressed.
"Being a bald woman has given me unique access to a certain kind of emotional pain," Fleit said. "It doesn't scare me anymore, and I feel prepared to understand people who experience that."
But not all of Blair's associates were comfortable with the idea of him doing the documentary and the stem cell transplant. Sarah Michelle Gellar, the co-star of Sex Games and an old friend of Blair's, said she was scared by the treatment that involved an intensive chemotherapy regimen.
"I felt like it was hazardous," Gellar said. "And his attitude was, yes, I will submit to that right now because I may not be able to do it in ten years. It was now or never . And now or never is a perfect definition of Selma".
Gellar wasn't sure about the documentary project, either. "I am a very reserved person; I can hardly share a trip to the supermarket," he said, but he understands Blair's position: he feels that this project is essential to his son.
Gellar remembers his conversations with Blair about it. "She would say, 'God forbid, if I don't make it, Arthur will have a video diary of what I went through. You never have to wonder if I gave up. You will know that I fought a lot to be by your side".
For Parker Posey, Blair's friend and colleague of nearly 20 years, the decision to make a documentary was as legitimate a form of expression as any other art project.
"This is the only thing we have: in your life as an actress, everything is material, everything is a story," Posey said. "Am I going to do something that makes sense to me, away from the pettiness of most of the entertainment world?"
He added: "Anyone who can find purpose in creating what they are supposed to create and live their life boldly, that's art. That is the triumph."
Blair, for her part, said that when filming began on the documentary, "I didn't realize it. There was no direction, and I mean it in the best way".
"I didn't realize I was starring in a movie. I haven't processed it," he said.