Duchovny and Anderson Re-Team in New ‘X-Files’
by Paul Fischer
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
It may be one of the summer’s most anticipated films of the year, at least for ardent fans of the Emmy winning TV series. The movie’s title, I Want to Believe, refers to Duchovny’s Mulder returning to the FBI to help solve the disappearance of an FBI Agent. The one clue is at the hands of a psychic paedophiliac priest [Billy Connelly]. At his side is the more cynical pragmatist, Scully [Anderson] ex-lover and partner. The pair seem as comfortable off screen as on. Paul Fischer reports.
Paul Fischer: Can you talk about getting back into these characters after a fiveor six year period?
David Duchovny: Well, I had two weeks before Christmas of basically running around and chasing Callum Rennie, who plays the running bad guy that I chase allover the place. That took a good two full weeks of running even though I know it’s only about 10 seconds in the movie, and then Gillian and I started working on it after Christmas break. The first two weeks I felt a little awkward, and I didn’t really feel like I wanted to do longer scenes. I was just fine running around. Then, as soon as Gillian and I started working and it was Mulder and Scully, then I kind of remembered what it was all about and that relationship kind of anchored my performance, just as I think the relationship anchors this film.
Gillian Anderson: I had a similar experience. This feels so weird. Summertime. I didn’t have all the running around that David had to do, but I did have my own unfortunate beginning, which was starting with one of the most difficult scenes for Scully in the film, where it’s later on in the script and she goes through a range of emotions in confronting Billy Connolly’s character. I just had a really hard time for those first couple of days that that scene was. I had a really hard time just finding her, finding her voice. I think I must’ve gone through 10 other characters in the process of trying to get to her, when I had assumed that I would be able to show up on the first day, and it would just be there. It wasn’t until, I think, day three, when we got to work together, not just necessarily in a familiar environment, which it really wasn’t, but in the environment of each other and the relationship, and that it kind of felt natural and familiar, and I felt like I’d landed this time.
PF: The film was very heartfelt and thought-provoking, similar to some of the early episodes. Did that play a part in coming back to this after all this time?
DD: No. My coming back was not based on script. At this point, I have almost complete blind trust in Chris [Carter] and Frank [Spotnitz] to come up with the goods. So my only concern was that it should be a standalone and not something that you needed specific knowledge of The X-Files to enjoy. When I read the script, I saw that it was that. Other than that, I had no hopes or plans for what this would be. I just knew that the world we made and the world that Chris and Frank would remake was going to be satisfying to me.
GA: I had stated my interest in being onboard sometime ago, as well, and by the time I read the script, it was kind of a given that this was something that we were going to do. So I don’t think there was ever a point where I jumped more onboard or had an opportunity to back out of it…
DD: She wanted a musical.
GA: We’re not allowed to sing.
PF: What do you think the secret is to your chemistry when you two play these characters?
GA: We’ve actually been having a 15-year affair.
DD: I don’t know why in the beginning—maybe just luck in the beginning. But after this long, we actually do have a history, and so when I look over at Gillian or I’m Mulder looking over at Scully, there’s a lot of shit that I can call on. We have a lot between us, and so you don’t really have to make it up. I think that just as people, now 15 years later, we have just shared so much, regardless of how much we speak to one another. I expect to see Gillian, even if I haven’t seen her for a year. She’s not even listening to me.
GA: I was, I was!
DD: You just heard the last line.
GA: I did. I was really distracted. I was listening to every word that you said.
DD: I don’t have a window like you do over there.
GA: You can tune out now. Whatever it is that’s between us was there from the second that we started working together, and it’s not quantifiable. I think it’s something that is unique, and yes, they got lucky, but it was something that Chris had seen, which is why he fought so hard, specifically, and this is something that’s been written about a lot, to cast me over someone else. He saw something between the two of us that was unique. Whether it’s luck or that we were meant to be with each other all along, I don’t know.
DD: I mean, there’s chemistry in life and there’s acting chemistry. I’m not saying they’re the same thing, but they’re as mysterious.
PF: There’s the fact that you’ve both had children and have had children over the past six years or so. Does that align you more with a Mulder or Scully in terms of personal philosophy?
GA: I mean, when Scully had a child, I’d already had a child.
DD: Gillian had a child the first year of the show.
GA: I had a child when I was three [laughs]. But I think that in the series, from what I remember, Scully thought that she had a child early on—Emily. Right?
DD: Oh, yeah.
GA: I don’t think that I would’ve been able to get there as an actor, realistically, if I did do it realistically because I can’t really remember, because obviously that experience would’ve been informed by the fact that I was already a mother. I’m sure that our conversations that we do have from time to time about this child that I gave away must be influenced by the fact that I’ve had children, but the show was so not about maternity. It wasn’t about parents. It wasn’t about that. They were actually anti-parents, in a way.
PF: But in terms of having your own children, does that make you moreof a skeptic or a believer of miracles or in absolutes?
GA: That’s interesting. I never related the two. Probably absolutes on my end.
DD: I’m gonna look out the window. [laughs] It’s miraculous. It’s spiritual. It’s otherworldly to have kids. It’s more Mulder, I think, but I don’t know.
GA: But then, also, when you have kids, when your kids get sick or when family members do, not just your kids, but when there’s death there’s also absolutes and that can hit home at any stage of one’s life.
DD: See, we’re starting to argue.
PF: When you play characters this deep for so long and then it stops, how much of that stays with you for life? Does it impact your personality in some way for life?
DD: That’s a very interesting question, and I wouldn’t know how to answer it. I mean, it impacts your life because strangers can see you that way. I’ll sit here and I’ll answer questions about this fictional person and so it stays with me in that way. I wouldn’t say that I ever get up and think of Mulder unless I’m working on it. I think that I liked a lot about the guy. When I played him, I liked his courage and I liked his energy to get to the truth and to the quest and all of that, and I think that at one point I’d learned a little from that, like a fan might. I was a fan of the guy. So that’s as far as I go in terms of saying that he lives in me.
GA: It’s the same for me. I don’t do things, mannerisms or something and think, “Oh, that was kind of like Scully.” But by the same token, I don’t know how much of me today wasn’t influenced by the fact that I got to play her for such a long time. It’s possible that there are aspects of my seriousness or my independence or my inquisitiveness about the medical profession or science or something that aren’t directly related to the fact that I lived with her for such a long time. But that’s hard to qualify and hard to say.
DD: When Gillian operates on a human being—
GA: That’s when I’m reminded of Scully.
PF: Gillian, Scully was always rocking a cell phone way before everyone else. Always on the cell phone and using it. What’s your own relationship to your cell phone, and how do you think that the character has informed strong female law enforcement characters?
GA: I think I only ever talked to Mulder on that cell phone. I don’t think that there were any conversation that was ever had with anyone else except for Mulder, if you remember.
DD: You were in my fave five.
GA: Was I number one or number two? Remember how big our cell phones were? We just happened to have them in our pockets.
DD: Yeah. You had to have like a trenchcoat to have them in the pocket.
GA: A cell phone in one and a Xenon flash in the other.
DD: “Hello? I’m talking to you on a phone that’s not attached to anything.”
GA: I’ve had letters from people, even actually recently, who have said, “Funnily enough I’ve been a fan for many years and it’s because of Scully that I’m now a forensic pathologist…’ or ‘I’m now a medical doctor…’ or ‘I’m now in the FBI…’ or any of the 15 things that she was as a professional to be able to say all those complicated words.
DD: You were talented. The cell phone question is interesting because I think that it extended the life of the series, because Gillian and I were so fatigued and the advent of the cell phone, in what year? ‘96? I don’t know. But it was instrumental in us being able to have time off because we could split up and we didn’t have to be in the same room to have a conversation. I’m being totally serious. I could have some time off and Gillian could have some time off, and we’d just talk on the phone to one another rather than being in every scene together.
GA: It’s very true.
DD: So if not for the cell phone, no second half of The X-Files.
PF: In terms of what’s on film how much does Chris encourage a sense of humor?
DD: Very, very, very little. Chris and I have always kind of battled over that. In the series, it got in more and more for both of us as we went on and did what we thought of as the funny episodes, and we both enjoyed doing those because they were like vacations and certainly Chris, as the show runner, was guiding that and letting that happen and saw the virtue in what a huge tent this show so that it could encompass everything from stand alones to mythology to parody of itself. I can’t think of another show that ever did that. We just never did the musical. We never did that, but that’s the only thing, thank goodness. But in terms of me coming up with stuff in the moment, usually Chris doesn’t like that because he has a different theory about the tension than I do. He really feels like it lets the air out of things and he doesn’t like to do that. I feel like I like to let the air out. So that’s just a difference opinion we have. I don’t know what your take on that is.
GA: I’m not funny.
PF: Did you ever ask her to the No-Pants Restaurant?
DD: No, I never did. But I think I will.
GA: Give me a few months, please. [laughs]
PF: David, you famously sort of distanced yourself from the show in the last season, being fatigued, and then we hear that you’re really who was big into getting this movie done. Can you talk about that? Is it a love/hate relationship?
DD: I wouldn’t characterize me as the one who really wanted to get it going, but I’m certainly someone who would always say, “Yes,” whenever Chris and I would talk about it. The love/hate has nothing to do with the actual content, the actual people, the actual anything. The love/hate had to do with me wanting to get on with the rest of my life, the rest of my career, and when you think about it, that I did eight years and Gillian did nine, that’s a lifetime. There are no other dramas that keep the same characters that run that long. If you look at Law & Order or ER, they’re 20 years old or whatever they are, but they’re completely recast. So it’s just not something you see. You don’t see actors not get fatigued and not get frustrated in a drama where we’re working, cell phones or not, everyday for many, many hours playing the same characters. So it’s just natural to burnout. There was always love for the show and love for the character. There was never any hate for that.
GA: But it’s interesting that it’s always something for the press to latch onto. It’s always a surprise, in some way or it’s a good headline, that someone wants to leave. It creates good drama and so it always becomes this thing where actually it’s just a natural thing.
DD: Right, like you’re ungrateful in some way. Yes, I love The X-Files and I love Vancouver. Those things are true.
PF: Can you talk about working in the severe weather conditions up in Canada?
GA: This time around I didn’t have as much exposure to it as David did. Fortunately, Chris didn’t write those words in the script for Scully. But I was up there in Whistler, and when I arrived, it was about 18 below. Fortunately, it didn’t stay there for too long, but I was out there for probably a good couple of weeks, I guess and it’s beautiful, but it’s also exhausting.
DD: Yeah. Let me try to say this in a way that’s right. Just doing quotation marks is going to get me in trouble. I had to work in one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world for almost three weeks. Pity me. I think it’s hard sometimes. The logistics of it is if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you’re running around in the freezing rain or snow, you don’t get a chance to go off and warm up in your trailer because you’re skiing so much that your trailer is on the other side of the town. So you are stuck in clothes that aren’t fitting for the environment for a long time. So, yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but you just suck it up and it’s not going to be that long and your feet are cold and your ass is cold and your hands are cold and your muscles are cold. You just suck it up.
GA: I think one of the more physically challenging aspects for me at the time were that there were a couple of scenes where we had quite a bit of dialogue and when you’re in that kind of weather and the wind is slightly blowing and the snow is coming down, your lips actually do freeze. They do. There were a couple of times that were reminiscent of the pilot. There was a scene in the pilot where we’re in this pouring forest rain that’s freezing, and I’m screeching at him about one thing or another—
DD: ‘You mean to say 30 miles?! Came here?!’
GA: Are you making fun of me?
DD: No. I just remember it.
GA: I remember it, too. It felt very much like that, but what was reminiscent was the fact that my mouth wouldn’t work. I had all this stuff to say and it just comes out as gobbledygook.
DD: But when you see it on film, it’s just gorgeous. You look at those big snowflakes coming down in the movie, and it’s worth it.
GA: It’s beautiful.
DD: You have to know that when you’re putting up with it, that if you’re experiencing this discomfort it’s probably going to look pretty good on film.
GA: If there’s pain involved.
PF: What are your next projects? And was the George Bush/J. Edgar Hoover thing scripted or did it just come about?
DD: Yeah, that was completely scripted, and that was an example of where I was trying to be what I thought was funny, and Chris was like, “No. No.”
GA: Probably because he knew in the back of his mind that that little bit of music right there was going to be in there, which kind of does the humor for it.
DD: Yeah, so no. That was actually always in it and was written in, literally, as George Bush and J. Edgar Hoover.
GA: We tried a few other versions of it.
DD: Yeah, what did we do? I thought they were funny. It was funny. I can’t remember.
PF: Your upcoming projects?
GA: I’ve got a couple of things coming out, but the next thing I’m going to do is a play in London. I’m going to do a play there a couple of months, after the baby is born.
PF: During your run of the show and of the movie, because of the things that you guys handled, did you ever experience any real paranormal happenings either on the set or outside of it?
GA: At Riverview. There was a place that we shot during the series and also during the film that was an abandoned insane asylum—
DD: But not so abandoned. It was like half-abandoned and half-not.
GA: Yeah. The top floor was being used for something.
DD: But there were some crazy people wandering around.
GA: Yeah. It was miles and miles of institution and insanity.
DD: Actually, where we did the photos for this movie, that was where—
GA: That was really creepy.
DD: We went into these rooms, tiny little rooms, that only had loops on the floor for where you would hook someone’s retraining irons onto.
GA: There’s paint peeling and all of that stuff.
DD: But I’ve never really had a paranormal experience, per se, in my life. I believe in the spirit and the energy, but I’ve never seen it. I’ve felt it, but not seen it.
PF: David, what’s your next project?
DD: I believe I will be doing this movie called The Joneses, and then Californication season two is coming out in September. I have just three more days of filming of that, and then we’re done.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
Got a problem? E-mail us at email@example.com