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Bringing a comic book to the big screen is always daunting. It's even more so when the source material is a beloved underground title like "Hellboy." The film's chances for mainstream Hollywood appeal could be further hampered by its unlikely hero — a demon, conjured from hell by Nazis, who is rescued and subsequently raised by a secret government agency and ends up as the world's greatest defense against evil powers.

Comic flicks have become big business, but can "Hellboy" draw audiences outside of the legions of fanboys already down with Mike Mignola's Dark Horse source material? So far the flick has won over one convert: actress Selma Blair, who knew nothing about the comic before being handpicked by director Guillermo del Toro for the role of pyrokinetic beauty Liz Sherman. MTV News' Ryan J. Downey recently spoke with Blair, who talks about pleasing hardcore "Hellboy" fans (like her husband) while still making a movie that speaks to mainstream moviegoers.

 Selma's character shares a private moment with Hellboy.
MTV: Have you ever worked for a director with the same kind of passion that Guillermo del Toro has for "Hellboy"?

Selma Blair: No, and this is the first thing I say about Guillermo — he's the most generous, big-hearted, passionate man I've ever met. He did this movie for what is not a big budget. It was such a labor of love, and he did it with a smile on his face every second. He gave me this package [before shooting], and it's nine pages of my character [Liz Sherman]'s backstory, from her birth and killing her family and killing operatives out in the field to how she loves Hellboy's flannel shirts and her favorite book. I always carried "The Catcher in the Rye" in my purse [during shooting]. You never saw it. [He provided] these little secrets that made you feel like you really own [your role]. Which is stuff that I do on my own, but when a director gives it to you, you're that much more confident it's the right choice.

 "Hellboy" Photos
MTV: The "Hellboy" comic book has such a rhythm to it, and its sense of humor isn't all one-liners like corny action movies — it's dry, almost observational. Are you satisfied with how it translated onscreen?

Blair: I was so surprised by how funny it was. I saw it the other day [at a screening] with the fans; I was screaming and I was hollering. I had so much fun. It was beautiful, very romantic. ["Hellboy" creator] Mike [Mignola] uses so much black, more than others, and it's so vivid and film noir. The film could've gone more with that, but then it would've been dragged down too much. I think [the look is] perfect. I was very shadowy, and none of us were glamorous, which I thought was great. We all didn't sparkle and glimmer and shine. Liz was right up there with being really awkward. Guillermo was so conscious of everything.

MTV: How do you think the movie will do in terms of connecting with a broader audience outside of comic-book fans?

Blair: I am not a comic book girl. I wasn't; now I really am. I had no idea what "Hellboy" was [at first]. I thought it was some child, and I was gonna play his mother. Really, I had no idea. Maybe immediately it won't grab the women audience, although it should, 'cause it's really romantic. Hellboy's so endearing with his love for Liz Sherman. The monsters are just [part of] the world they're set in. It's really [a] love story [about] father-son [relationships], and [Hellboy's] love for Liz and finding her womanhood — all this stuff that girls can completely relate to.

MTV: You didn't even have to audition for the part, right? Del Toro was like, "I want Selma Blair."

Blair: Yeah, it was very kind. I'm very grateful to be thought of [that way]. He just stuck to his guns. He wanted Ron Perlman, and he wanted Selma, and that was very flattering. Liz was really just a presence in the movie, but hopefully in "Hellboy 2" she'll kick some ass. I wish that was the next project I was going to [do]. I love being with all these people.

MTV: Your MTV history began with an MTV Movie Award for "Cruel Intentions," and now you've gone and married Ahmet Zappa, an MTV personality.

Blair: I actually saw him first on MTV like 10 years ago, and thought, "Oh my God, what a geek. They just hire any ol' fool to host a show these days. What a fool." I just thought he was repellent. Then when my friend introduced us, I thought, "There's no way I'm gonna go out with that guy." I mean, he is just the biggest geek in the world. But no, he's the kindest, most loving, joyous person I've ever met, and I'm so happy to have Ahmet in my life. I found out he was a "Hellboy" fan on our wedding day. I was like, oh, now it makes sense.

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Photo: Sony Pictures

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