Gillian Anderson always meant to play Dana Scully again - but until now life got in the way
Gillian Anderson is something of an enigma, which is perhaps fitting given that she spent nine uninterrupted years playing the paranormal investigator Dana Scully in the TV phenomenon that was The X Files. On the one hand, there is her onscreen guise, defined, whether the actress likes it or not, by Scully’s glacial poise and biting scepticism, while on the other there is her fiery public persona, characterised by a turbulent personal life, which includes two marriages and two divorces, the last in early 2006, when she split from the documentary maker Julian Ozanne after just 16 months. Anderson’s three-year marriage to Clyde Klotz, an art director on the X Files and father of her eldest child, Piper, came to an end in 1997.
Now the 39-year-old actress is living with a British businessman, Mark Griffith, with whom she had her second child, 18-month-old Oscar, in November 2006, and she is reprising the character of Scully in the new movie, The X Files: I Want to Believe.
This is the second X Files film – the first, simply titled X Files, took almost $200 million in 1998 when the show was at the height of its popularity. The new film, however, comes six years after the series ended in 2002, so why shoot it now? Isn’t she tired of playing Dana Scully? And in her private life, after moving to London and settling down with Griffith, is she finally content? As I arrive at the London hotel where Anderson waits, the truth, I know, is in there.
“Making this movie was something that we talked about ages ago,” Anderson begins. “The idea was that the very first film was going to be one of a few, and we’d always come back every few years and have a reunion, do it again and make some money. But then the creator got into a legal thing with the studio and we didn’t know if it was going to come to fruition. But the intention was always there; it just almost fell apart at times.”
The franchise creator, Chris Carter, began work on the film in 2002 and, while the plot details remain unknown, Anderson concedes that there are no aliens in the script and that it is a stand-alone piece, divorced from the conspiracy story that runs through the nine series of the TV show. The story centres on Scully and her partner, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), and their battle with an Earth-bound menace that emerges when a clairvoyant living in a snowy American hinterland (Billy Connolly) taps into a seemingly supernatural force.
Over the years, the X Files creator has proved an important ally for Anderson. In the early 1990s Carter had spotted her in the TV show Class of ’96 and desperately wanted to cast her in his new sci-fi series, The X Files, which was to have its debut on US television in 1993. The studio, Twentieth Century Fox, however, wanted a more buxom, blonder star; they fancied an Anderson, but preferred Pamela to Gillian.
“Well that was somebody who was more familiar to them in terms of what was on TV at the time,” Anderson says. “They were looking for someone, bustier, taller, leggier than me. They couldn’t fathom how David and me could equal success. But Chris stuck to his guns. Really, though, at the beginning, nobody trusted that I could do anything. I had no body of work behind me at all and, certainly, Fox felt very strongly that I wasn’t the right person for the job.
“And yet now I think it’s difficult for people to think of me as anyone other than Scully. Even if they’ve seen me doing an Irish accent in The Mighty Celt or seen me doing Bleak House on the BBC or whatever, people still have a hard time knowing exactly where I fit into the bigger scheme of film-making.”
Anderson admits, however, that as she gets older she is coming to terms with the fact. Which, considering that the film-makers hope to make a third X Files film, to be released around 2012, is fortunate. “I’m much more tolerant of that connection now than I used to be,” she says. “I think when the TV series first ended and I was trying very hard to remove myself from it, to carve a different path. I’d do interviews about a particular film or a theatre piece and five minutes into the interview would be the X Files question. For a while I found that very difficult, but it’s much less of an issue now.”
She was born in Chicago but spent much of her childhood in London before moving back to the States, to Michigan, when she was 13. “I think I was pretty unruly, quite a rumbustious child anyway, and then when we moved back to the States I took advantage of the attention I got from my accent,” she smiles. “Then there was a period probably when that all fell apart and nobody wanted to be my friend. Anyway, back then, the understanding was that we were always going to return to London, that this was a temporary thing. It was good for my dad but I started to think, ‘F***, I’m stuck here in the Midwest.’ ”
Her love for London has made her rent a house there most summers. When The X Files finished in 2002 she took a role in the play What the Night Is For (Anderson will star in a new version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in the spring next year), choosing here rather than New York, and she then decided to buy a home. “I did the house up before rehearsals and then I met my then husband, Julian, and I kind of fell in love with London again and out of love with America at the same time.
“I enjoy the fact that I can pick my daughter up from school and we have 1,001 things we can do in a day: there’s the parks, the markets. I love being here, the countryside too. I miss it when I’m away.”
She’s happy to discuss her children – “Oscar’s just started to talk; he can say his name now” – and says that she worries much less about her weight and her “physical regimes”. That said, she’ll shed no further light on her whirlwind romance with Julian Ozanne; according to reports, they met on the African island of Lamu and married within a few days. They then divorced within a few months.
“P*** off!” she laughs when I ask about the brevity of the marriage. “Is your commissioning editor good mates with Julian or something?” And as for hitting a landmark birthday next month, she claims that it holds no fears. “I’m looking forward to it,” she says, with a hint of defiance. “I’ve given myself such a hard time earlier on in my life, in terms of physical regimes and all that kind of stuff. You know, ‘Oh, my arse, oh, depressed, my thighs, oh my this and that.’
“You’re often depressed in your twenties but later you start to care less. It’s less of a big issue, and that makes you much more content. I don’t follow any diets and, while I go through stages of doing lots of yoga, I also go through stages of doing f*** all.” She laughs. “Right now, I’m sitting around on my butt. I’m in a f***-all stage.”
Like every working mother Anderson faces the dilemma of balancing her professional life with her family commitments. “I guess it’s a bit of a challenge. I can get quite single-minded in my work sometimes and get very focused. So sometimes my family will come and say, ‘Where are you, what are you doing, when are we going to see you?’ It was even harder when we were making the TV show, though.
“Poor Piper lived in my trailer for the first nine years of her life. So now, to be able to make the choice not to work at the end of my last pregnancy – because I worked right up to the end of Piper’s – and not to work for the first six months after having Oscar was quite wonderful. When we started work on the new X Files movie, the difficult thing was that my daughter had to stay here in London, for school, and it was the longest time I’d been away from her. But Piper’s dad and his partner came and lived in our house and took care of her for a month.”
Next we’ll see Anderson in the film adaptation of Toby Young’s How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, in which she plays a PR who seems to run New York. Manipulative and controlling, at first Simon Pegg’s journalist character stands up to her, but he is slowly worn down by her wicked ways. Just when Anderson was getting easier with the long shadow of Dana Scully, we might just start to see her differently after all.
X Files: I Want to Believe is out 0n August 1