NEW YORK — Some celebrities use their famous names to get every advantage. Others, like Selma Blair, go the opposite route.
After a waiter addresses her by a name not her own, the actress explains: "I go by a pseudonym that was my best friend's name from high school," she says, giggling. "She was the prettiest girl in my high school, and I always wanted to be her, and now I get to be her. And I love it."
She's also loving being surrounded again by her band of misfits in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army", opening today. In the sequel, Blair's Liz Sherman is in a tumultuous relationship with the scarlet hero (Ron Perlman). In between bickering about personal space, boundaries and Hellboy's love of cats, they need to save the world from the ruthless Prince Nuada and his mythical army.
While filming the 2004 original in the Czech Republic, she says, "I was incredibly lonely. I'd gone through a terrible breakup. I depended on these people from Hellboy so much to get me through that, and I became really close to them. When I went back to the second one, I'd missed them so much."
The feeling was mutual. Perlman calls Blair "truly a delight. She's this cute little girl but also one of the guys. She's got this really quick wit. She's a crack-up. She's incredibly bright and very quick, and she's a great partner to work with."
And Blair's character has plenty to do this time. Liz is tougher and stronger than in the first installment.
Blair, 36, says she is now, too: "I'm more capable. But I'm not in the family way, like Liz is. I don't burst into flame. But I think I am a capable, functioning woman this time around, and I can't say I was at any other time in my life."
She pauses, catching herself mid-thought.
"I shouldn't be so candid because I sound like a mess. I've always been the goofball or the dramatic one, and I don't have enough energy for that anymore," she says with a sigh. "I'll always be candid and a bit of a loose cannon because that's so ingrained in me, but now I've set up a way of living that's a little more guarded."
That means no longer spilling details about the men in her life. In June 2006, Blair filed for divorce from musician Ahmet Zappa, whom she married in 2004.
The turning point? She won't name names but says: "Someone came into my life and really, really hurt me. And I realized that I had to cut people out who were dangerous; I had to make a choice to open my eyes. I was so vulnerable my whole life. I have to be protective and stronger."
She's also getting physically more buff. She started working out again a month ago — and quit a 26-year smoking habit. "I've been getting bigger as the years go by, mostly because I stopped exercising for a while." She's committed now. "(But) I dread every second of it."
She also is becoming more focused about her career, after appearing in films as diverse as 1999's "Cruel Intentions", 2001's "Legally Blonde" and 2004's "In Good Company". "Before, I'd take anything. Now, I've been a little spoiled and I can choose some of them, so I do," she says.
This fall, she's starring in the NBC series "Kath & Kim", premiering Oct. 9. She and Molly Shannon play a mother-daughter duo dealing with life in suburbia. For Blair, who favors Marc Jacobs and Chanel, it has been a challenge to embrace Kim's sartorial choices.
"It's so over-the-top. It is disheartening to see a picture of yourself with this long hair and these long nails," she says. "It's just confusing to my mother, who didn't dress me in rhinestone nails with heart appliqués. Most people like a little fancy nail work, but it's not my thing."
Goofing off still is. When a restaurant patron yells into a cellphone searching for a friend, Blair's wry retort is, "I'm here!"