Selma Blair wants you to see her live with multiple sclerosis

selma blair We could only talk for half an hour in our first session. That was until she relied on her brain and her body to cooperate – anymore she feared that her attention might start to wander or her speech might begin to stall. “We are responsible in knowing that the small moments will be the obvious moments,” she said.

No day is free for Blair from the effects of multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune disease she learned of in 2018, but she believes began attacking her central nervous system several years ago.

This particular Friday in September had a particularly difficult start: She said she woke up in her Los Angeles home to “just feel bad like everyone gets out”, but she found that talking with people made her uncomfortable. decreased. Blair said they had a good conversation earlier in the day and she was waiting for us.

So, if she needed to take a break during this interview, she said with delight, “That means you’re boring me.”

The same unbridled bluntness persists in all of her conversations, whether scripted or spontaneous, with cameras on or off, even when she’s sharing accounts of her time She went to “The Tonight Show” wearing a strappy top that she accidentally tucked sideways. It’s a story she proudly told me within five minutes of our introduction over a video call, while her fingers formed a maelstrom of her tousled, bleached-blonde hair. (By explaining this style choice, she bursts into a brassy, ​​Ethel Merman-esque voice and sang, “I want to be an education.”)

But Blair’s candor has meant something else in the three years since She went public about her MS diagnosis. Now, whether she’s posting personal diaries on social media or appearing on the red carpet, she understands that she’s a representative with an opportunity to educate a wider audience about what she and others with MS are experiencing. Huh.

It is a philosophy of maximum openness that she is taking further by featuring as the subject of a new documentary, “Introducing Selma Blair.” film, directed by Rachel Fleeta, is an inexhaustible description of Blair’s life with MS and the stem-cell transplant to treat it in 2019. (The documentary will hit theaters on October 15 and will begin streaming on October 21 on Discovery+.)

As Blair explained, he hoped the film would be meaningful to audiences who felt challenged and uncertain, whether or not they had a chronic illness.

“It’s my human condition,” she said, “and everyone has their own, but I find ourselves united in feeling lonely or intimidated when we make a big change in our lives. It’s all about vanity. The project didn’t, and I’ve been very capable of loving the vanity.”

For Blair, the documentary is just one piece of a larger effort to understand herself – to determine how much of her illness has shaped her identity, and what will remain or change now that she is being treated.

“If this had happened in my 20s, when I was trying to start a career and was putting aside a few shekels, I would have been humiliated,” she said. “I am quite old now. I am getting to know a completely different personality, and I have no shame.”

Reflecting on his upbringing in suburban Michigan, Blair described himself as a 7-year-old who rummaged around his copy of the Physicians’ Desk reference, a vast tome of information about prescription drugs, and thought that Why did she experience constant pain, fatigue, and unexpected mood swings.

These difficulties persisted into adulthood: the pain became worse, especially after the birth of their son Arthur in 2011; He had problems with his vision and experienced involuntary muscle contractions in his neck.

Until she received a diagnosis, Blair said, she didn’t understand why her symptoms varied from setting to setting. “I can walk better in my house, but outside it’s like a pit of sand,” she said. “With some lighting, my speech becomes intermittent even when my larynx is fine.”

“It never occurred to me that I had a traffic jam in my head,” she said.

In a flurry of attention, following Blair’s disclosure of his diagnosis, he is introduced to Fleet, and they agree to begin shooting the documentary just days before Blair moves to Chicago for a stem-cell transplant.

Fleet said that Blair exercised no editorial control over the film, adding that the effort would only succeed if the actress was “ready to show the world what really happened—that brutal intimacy and honesty you just don’t see.” are – and she was completely open to him.”

Fleet, who has alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, said she felt a special connection with Blair as filming progressed.

“Being a bald woman in the world has given me unparalleled access to a certain type of emotional pain,” Fleet said. “It no longer scares me, and I feel uniquely worthy to have room for someone else who is experiencing it.”

But not everyone in Blair’s life was immediately comfortable pursuing both the film and the stem cell transplant. Blair’s “Brutal Intention” co-star and longtime friend, Sarah Michelle Gellar, said she was terrified about the treatment, which included an intense chemotherapy regimen.

“I felt like it was too risky,” Geller said. “And her attitude was, yes, I’m managing now, but in 10 years I can’t be, and I won’t be a candidate for this treatment. It was now or never. And now or never Selma’s very good.” definition.”

Geller was also unsure about the film project — “I’m a very private person, I can barely go to the supermarket,” she said — but she understood Blair’s position: she felt it was important to her son. .

As Geller recalled, “She used to say, ‘God forbid, if I don’t make it, Arthur has a whole video diary of everything that happened. She’ll never have to wonder, did I give up? Lee? He’ll know how hard I worked for him.'”

to Parker Posey, a friend and colleague For nearly 20 years after Blair, the decision to make a documentary was a legitimate form of expression, just like any other artistic venture.

“That’s the only thing we have in common — your life as an actor, it’s all physical, it’s all story,” Posey said. “Am I going to do something that gives me meaning, away from the pettiness of most entertainment?”

Posey continued, “Anyone who can find purpose in creating what they want to create and bravely live their life, that is art. That’s victory.”

Blair, for his part, said that once shooting began on the documentary, “I don’t think I paid attention. There was really no directing and I mean that in the best possible way.”

He continued, “I don’t think I realized that there is a film coming out where I am the subject of it. I haven’t really processed it.”

With our half hour finished, we said goodbye and I told Blair that I looked forward to reconnecting with her in a few days. In a comically ethereal voice, he replied, “God willing, if I live.”

Our next session, planned for that Monday, had to be delayed when Blair fell from the horse she was riding over the weekend. As he told me in a follow-up conversation—this time on the phone, because the video call was making it difficult for him to focus—he had lost his balance and extended his thumb, but was doing fine otherwise.

She was more embarrassed by how she behaved in our first conversation, using her blatantly disrespectful spirit to paper over her concern. “I get so nervous because I still have a stigma in my mind, you won’t bring it up — you won’t be able to make this mind-body thing work,” she said. “When I feel like I’m faltering, I’ll use the defense of a shtick.”

She was also upset by the comment she saw his instagram account from someone who offered support for her documentary, but said, as Blair described the comment, “I wish there was a regular person doing it, like a person who isn’t a celebrity, because it’s not the same Is.”

Blair insisted, “I’m a regular person.”

Cynthia Zagibiolo, President and Chief Executive Officer National Multiple Sclerosis Societysaid Blair’s decision to share the story of her experience could be beneficial to others who have the disease and want to learn more about it.

“There’s no right way to proceed like this,” Zagiboylo said. “No two stories of MS are the same and for people to express themselves, it’s very personal.”

When someone like Blair is open about their illness, Zagbiolo said, “people may feel less alone in facing the challenges of their own MS. People experiencing potential symptoms may recognize something from this. MS may have a pre-confirmed diagnosis, which means people can be treated faster and lead to better outcomes.”

He adds, “There really is no shortage of things to do, from sharing your journey with the world in a really authentic way.”

Blair said she was told her MS was in remission, which she said was “no clear path for my disease to get worse, and it’s huge. It gives you space to breathe.” There was no fixed timetable for how long her stem-cell transplant might take effect, but as she puts it in her typical style, “I could have hit a bus before that.”

One of the strange benefits of this period of relative calm is the chance to learn whether past behaviors he considered fundamental components of his mood and personality – outbursts, impulsivity – might be a manifestation of his illness.

Blair described a conversation with a neurologist who asked whether she took medication for pseudobulbar effect, a condition that can result in sudden uncontrollable laughter, crying, or anger.

“I said, ‘No, it’s just me, what are you talking about? Blair remembered. “He’s like, ‘Or maybe it’s not.’ It never happened to me.”

Blair said, “I don’t know if I’ll ever work out a way out of neurological damage. I know I can find new avenues, but I’ve been scared for so long.”

She continues to help raise Arthur, whose custody she shares with her father, Jason Blick, a fashion designer, and her ex-boyfriend. But he said that his son has not been able to watch the entire documentary.

“At about 20 minutes, he wasn’t comfortable,” she said. “He worried that people would look at me that way and talk behind my back or not hire me.”

Blair said that she wants to continue working as an actress and to the extent that she is perceived as a retreat from the industry, it is not because she is not pushing herself out for roles.

“The parts that have been offered to me since my diagnosis are the old woman, the person in the wheelchair, the person hitting the walls,” Blair said. “I may be those things, but I am still everything I was before, and I shouldn’t be blamed for that.”

But now that she’s put herself out there in the best way she knows how, Blair hopes her efforts will remind others — and strengthen themselves — that there is value in this kind of transparency.

“It can make a difference to people,” she said. “I don’t mean it in a flaky, bland way. I mean, really take the time to go further, because you never know what people are holding up to, and to get to know lovely people like me. What a relief” – she couldn’t suppress one last laugh – “troubled by her mind” and body at times. That’s the comfort I wish I could give.”

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