ShockTillYouDrop.com spoke to David Duchovny on the set of Fox's new X-Files sequel, opening in theaters on July 25th.
ShockTillYouDrop: So much about the plot is being kept in the dark, so what can you tell us about some of the themes of the film?
David Duchovny: I think the reasoning behind being mum about what's going on the film, at least for Chris, is to give the audience an experience of surprise which is so hard to do with trailers. Having said that, the themes are the same as the show [which were] belief and faith and the relationship between Mulder and Scully and how that develops over the past four or five years the show has been off the air. As if they've been living, as we've all been living - they're not stuck in time. They've moved on in some fictional realm as we all have, yet their issues remain the same.
Shock: How has the X-Files changed now that the world has changed?
Duchovny: Has the world completely changed? People say the world changes all of the time, yet human nature remains the same, good stories are good stories and people are going to see them. I don't think people go to movies because of what's going on in the world. They go usually to escape what's going on in the world and that always remains the same. I think what changes is the size of our cell phones.
Shock: Why is now the right time for you to make this movie?
Duchovny: I don't know. I always felt, at any time, it would've been fine, whenever Chris was ready to come up with a script, when his burnout was over. As actors, our burnout was probably a little shorter than his - I think he carried a heavier load, producing, writing and directing. I know it took me about a year to feel whole after the show was over. After that point, it was always my intention and desire that the show would continue on in movie form. It was never my intention, when I left the television series, to sabotage the show in any way. Yes, we've done all we can on television, let's take this into movies like we always said we would. I wouldn't see any reason to do X-Files unless it [was carried into film]. It's a serial show by its nature. The frame and the characters throw off an infinite number of stories and situations. It's a classic, archetypal relationship between a believer and a non-believer with this unrequited love in the middle of it. That all works and it can work forever as long as your stories are good.
Shock: How excited were you to slip back into the Mulder persona after all of these years?
Duchovny: I was very excited to do it, then as the date to do it approached I started to wonder if I needed to work more. To get back into that. So, there was a certain amount of fear, because maybe I haven't changed... I think what happened was that my facility, my range or interests might've changed, so this character might've represented a narrower box than I've been working in the last four or five years since I left. I had to bring what I've learned the last four or five years into this box. Last night, they have internet access here, and somebody pulled up one of these homages to the show with this romantic song [cut to] all of these kisses between Gillian and I. That was actually really helpful to feel the show again, because it was this overview and very romantic. It was like, Oh, I can watch that, and it would help me get into work. Whoever put that together, I thank them.
Shock: In the past you've had input in some of the X-Files scripts, have you contributed anything here?
Duchovny: Not in the initial conception or first writing of it, hardly at all because we signed off on the script right as the [WGA] strike happened. We had discussions about particular scenes and things we might try when we get there but it's a tightly-plotted thriller. In essence, if you have a tightly-plotted thriller there's not a lot of rewriting that should be done. The story drives forward. If you f**k around in the scenes you're not going to drive the story forward. It's not a form that tolerates improvisation and it was well enough put together when it was presented to me and Gillian, I thought there was nothing to add in that way.
Shock: This film reportedly delves into the realm of the supernatural, was it a relief to find that the story breaks away from the classic mythology involving aliens, etc.?
Duchovny: I like the mythology stuff, I always liked it more when we were doing the show because it usually gave Mulder an emotional stake through his sister - he was personally involved in the episodes. That was a relief and more fun as an actor to approach that during the yearly grind of the show. I could understand it, chew it up a little bit rather than being just a Law & Order procedural. So, in a way, I think I had an opposite reaction, I wish this [movie] was more about me. [laughs] But in effect, it's more about the show and about establishing the parameters of the show for those who don't know it, for those who've forgotten and even for those who love it - they'll get that part as well. If there is [another film] and I hope there is, I think we would get into a story where more of the mythology [comes in], because that's the heart of the show.
Shock: If there is another X-Files film, how interested would you be in taking the helm of that?
Duchovny: I'd be interested, but it's not in my wheelhouse to direct a big action film like this. I would feel out of my element which is probably a good thing. I wouldn't offer it to me. I might try to get it, I don't know. No, I think I'd stay away from this. I might try to direct an action film, but I don't think it'd be wise trying to direct myself in an action film or to screw around with this franchise. I feel like there are other opportunities to direct and I have other interests. If it was my only way into directing, then I might. It'd be fun and great but there are better people for it.
Shock: A lot of actors on hit television shows run the risk of, and fear, being typecast, but obviously you feel comfortable now playing Mulder.
Duchovny: I gave up a while ago worrying about the whole phenomenon of typecasting once I realized it happens across the board. It doesn't just happen in terms of television shows. Some comedy actors get trapped in there, some dramatic actors can't do comedy. Even movie actors who have long careers have two or three roles that they get stopped for unless you're Brando. So, I don't worry about that. What overcomes that is my sense of love for the show and belief in the show's legitimacy as an interesting movie franchise with a lot to offer - the thriller aspect, the horror aspect but also the intelligence. All of those things make it a very fertile area to move on in.
Shock: Why do you think people love your character?
Duchovny: Isn't that for you to answer? [laughs] Why I love Mulder, first and foremost, was always the truth and the case - yet he wasn't so single-minded that it was kind of a drag, which that character could've been. I always liked that he was so narrow-minded in his pursuit. I think that's attractive, I think people respect that in somebody and they yearn for a quest. He's a guy on a quest and he always will be.
Shock: At this point in the game, has your working relationship with Gillian changed much from the series?
Duchovny: Yeah, it's probably different in that we're not exhausted all of the time. We're excited to come and do what we think is the heart of the relationship. So, we'll do these scenes that are action-oriented with Billy Connelly but then we come back to scenes like the one we're doing today - and this is where the heart is, where the movie is. Then we have to trust each other to hold each other up in these scenes and bring back whatever was there.
Shock: Is there still a sense of discovery in this journey or is it business as usual with you and Gillian back in the groove?
Duchovny: I think there's a real sense that we don't want to cash in on the past. We all want to do something new, we don't want to throw a piece of crap out there for people to go look at for nostalgia's sake. I wonder and worry, how did [Mulder] change in the last five years? When I started, there was a certain boyishness to the guy I don't feel I can play anymore physically. Like Mel Gibson's Hamlet, yeah it was a good performance but the guy was twenty years too old. There are certain things energy-wise. How has he grown up? Remaining the same, how do you ease him into a different stage in his life? That's a creative endeavor, certainly with Chris, directing a big movie like this which is different from anything he has done.
Shock: Has your dialogue with Chris changed much?
Duchovny: Oh yeah, I have ways I like to work and he has ways he likes to work and they're not always the same. With respect, and privately, we deal with it. That's a matter of getting older, too, and of being a professional. It happens privately. And it's not a big deal, it's like telling a lover, That finger there, that wasn't great. [laughs] I know a lot of people like it, but me personally, that's not me, just so you know. I know how I like to work now, I know how I like the director's hands on me.
Shock: Does this film strike a balance between the shout-outs to the series and new stuff for those who have never seen the show?
Duchovny: I'm not a fan of the shout-outs, but in this they're small, like Where's Waldo? things. I think this movie is actually more accessible to the non-fan in terms of story and everything else. In terms of this water bottle maybe having the name of one of our producers on it, this movie probably has a ton of those things, but I'm not even paying attention. Sometimes I'll see them and go, That's stupid. [laughs] But there's a lot of that going on and it's fun for people.
Shock: There was some exhaustion on the fanbase's behalf as the series entered its final seasons, do you think the film will lure them back?
Duchovny: I don't know. You know there were nine years of one-hours. I can't think of another show that did that with the same cast, although I wasn't in most of the ninth year. You look at any drama, any long-running drama, and they don't run that long normally. So, the exhaustion is mutual. [laughs] But I would think in the good will of trying to tell new stories you ultimately reach further in all directions. Probably by the seventh or eight years, the writers were forced to reach and I think there are fans who sit on that moment and wait for that sign of creative bankruptcy which has to come, naturally. A show like this is idea-driven, it's not like, Oh, we've got good jokes, you'll watch. It's not like a sitcom that can run twelve years. If they were exhausted, and they fell in love with the show for the characters and the premise, for the execution and the writing, then that's what we're back to. This is more of a story we would have told in season three or four.
Shock: How scary does this movie get? When those early seasons you refer to went for scary, they were scary...
Duchovny: It gets scary. It's pretty dark, there's some nasty stuff going on. In a way you could do more on TV. Some of those TV shows were getting close to an R, but I know the mission is to make a PG-13 film. It's more of the ideas behind it. What is Saw, rated R?
Duchovny: That should be X. This movie has some danger in there. Twisted, weird - there's no torture. To me Saw doesn't have a point, it's some guy teaching people a lesson, through torture. X-Files was never about the nasty stuff, but hopefully there was a story with a purpose. We'll torture for a reason, like the American government. [laughs]
Shock: I'm just curious if the film leans into my favorite episode which was Home.
Duchovny: There's some of that, but I don't know how much of that you'll see, but it's in the story. You'll come away with, Wow, that's what you were doing? Home is probably the most controversial show we ever made and it was pulled out of rotation and yet it's one of maybe four or five shows somebody always brings up. Obviously, people have enjoyed that part of the show also.
Shock: There's always been a place for humor with Mulder's dry wit. Does the new film feature any laughs?
Duchovny: There's a place for it, I was always looking for a place in the TV show and it's an essential part of the character so I certainly always look for those moments. We've done them here, but whether or not they stay in the film, it's always a matter of juggling the tone. In the show, it was, Is Mulder going to deflate the danger of the scene? In my opinion, it never did, but Chris and the writers and producers have different ideas, so I don't know. I like to have some funny stuff in there.
Shock: When old episodes of the show come on, do you watch them or flee?
Duchovny: I don't flee. I don't seek them out. I'm not an appointment television watcher. I'm a child of the '70s television watcher which is, I sit down in front of it and if something is on I'll watch it, so I'm sometimes open to watching an X-Files if I'm flipping around. I don't TiVo, I'm not silly that way. If something comes on, if I'm in bed with [wife] Téa, and we're just going to sleep watching ten minutes of TV we'll watch a bit.
Shock: Do you know of any major DVD extras that are planned for this film's release?
Duchovny: Yes, a lot because I think there's a lot of extra gore. We're not just shooting a PG-13 version.