Buzzine talks with the X-Files star about his relationship with Gillian Anderson and working on their new film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
Emmanuel Itier: I read somewhere that you’re not allowed to talk much about The X-Files?
David Duchovny: It’s easy enough to talk about it. The only thing that’s hard is I’m still working full-time on Californication and trying to promote this — it’s kind of getting to me. You know, it’s hard. I haven’t had a day off in like a month, like, a weekend even. I’m going a little crazy.
EI: What’s the worst thing about doing these junkets?
DD: I get a lot of the same questions. [Everyone laughs.]
EI: What got you back into The X-Files?
DD: I never thought about it ending. When I left, it was a decision. I had to leave because of my time commitments — ten months out of every year shooting one show and not being able to do anything else in my life or my career. So it was never, “God damn, I hate this show. I can’t stand working with these people.” It was always, “Let’s stop the TV show now because we’re all tired.” And we’ve all worked longer than anybody’s ever worked on a drama together. You could say that there were dramas that went longer, but not a two-person drama that kept the same two people. E.R. is still on — this is amazing. But nobody’s the same. Law & Order changes all the time. All these shows change. We never changed. We did eight years of the same thing. I did eight years, Gillian did nine.
EI: It was said that the creator of Lost thought X-Files might have served the show better if it ended earlier. He wants to do that with Lost.
DD: He’d be lucky if he got as good as we did.
EI: Having said that, what brought all of you guys back together?
DD: It was the desire that we always had to grow the TV show into a movie franchise because, as I said, we didn’t really want it to end. We love the show, we love the characters, we enjoyed working with one another… We owe each other so much, the three of us. We owe so much to the characters and to the show and, in many ways, to fans of the show. We wanted to keep on doing that.
EI: Is it becoming a movie franchise?
DD: Well, we’ve done two. I mean, we’ll see.
EI: Have you had any supernatural experiences?
EI: Do you believe in this sort of stuff?
EI: Was it shocking and/or challenging to read this script and find out that you and Scully will have a love/sexual relationship?
DD: Yeah, it was somewhat challenging. But when I first read it, I thought that’s very smart, because what you don’t want to do is do what you always did. I mean, maybe we fail at doing this, but at least we failed trying to take it to another place. We didn’t fail just trying to repeat what we always did. So I thought, yeah, that’s smart. If this is to have life, we have to change…like in life. So that was my feeling. That was a big change. Good, good.
EI: Was it weird shooting it as actors? Or was it fine because you also know each other well now?
DD: It wasn’t weird. I don’t think we actually kissed in this movie. We’re just in bed. We did more kissing in the show than we did in this movie. I think it might have been weird if we did an actual lovemaking scene. Maybe that’s next. But actually, there was less physical contact in this movie — more implied physical intimacy than actual physical intimacy. In the TV show, we were often touching a whole lot more, holding hands or kissing on the forehead or, a couple of times, having a real kiss. I thought it was well-conceived by Chris [Carter] and Frank [Spotnitz] in that way.
EI: In the film, it’s more about the feelings you have than really being together.
DD: Yeah. That’s the difference. Whatever comments I had about the script that I would have given when I read it, Chris and Frank said this is a love story. And I said, “I’m not sure. I’m not sure I see it. I hope you’re right. And I will try to play.” And I have to say, seeing the final movie, it is very unique in the way there’s a love story playing during this thriller. They’re kind of intertwined because the issues the mystery brings up are the very issues these two people are trying to deal with, in a way. And I think they were right. They did a really good job interweaving this very strange personal relationship, that’s gone on for 15 years, into a suspense/horror/thriller movie.
EI: Have you and Gillian kept in touch?
DD: Not really. We’ve e-mailed. We’ve seen each other a handful of times in six years.
EI: You shot the movie where?
DD: In Vancouver.
EI: And you filmed the movie on your break from Californication?
DD: No, not on my break. Californication is a 12-week season. One of the reasons I could go back to television was that it wasn’t a ten-month job.
EI: We heard you’re moving to New York…
DD: Yeah, I’m moving to New York in September.
DD: Changing it up.
EI: Was it easy to slip back into that same chemistry between your characters in the film?
DD: It kind of was. And I think probably because we had so little contact. There was an element of missing one another working together that I think was at play early on in the shooting…and to just trust that it would be there, trust that whatever used to work was going to continue to work. You know we never really worked on it before. It’s hard to work on chemistry. It’s either there or it isn’t. Like trying to fall in love with somebody, you know, you can try…
EI: What do you love about working with Gillian?
DD: Well, I don’t know, that’s the thing. It’s just like one of those things that works.
EI: You’ve said in the past that you didn’t want to do TV anymore. But you’re now on this show that you were Golden Globe-nominated for. That said, is it strange being back in roles that you thought you might not play again?
DD: No, because at the time that I left, it was all-consuming and felt like a box. But now, six years later, I feel like I’ve done a bunch of other stuff that I enjoyed and proved to myself, not anybody else, that I could do certain other things. It wasn’t an issue anymore. And if you were saying, “Would you go back to doing the television show of The X-Files?” I would never do that. The time commitment was crazy.
EI: Is television the more creative interesting field nowadays for an actor?
DD: I think it’s been that way for a long time, especially with the advent of the cable channels. What you have on cable television, you don’t have to please as many people as network television or movies do. Movies, especially now, are made to please people 13-80, men and women. How can you do that? What kind of thing can you make that’s going to do that? It’s going to be very general. Let’s say it’s the better version, like Iron Man or Batman, or I don’t know what you guys like, but the better version of it. It’s still not very personal, not small, not human. On cable television, you can really make the kind of work that used to be called independent cinema. Even independent cinema is no longer independent cinema, unless you have your true independents. You don’t know who they are, neither do I, because that’s how independent they are. [Everyone laughs] The so-called independents are really just person-generated lower budget movies that huge corporations decide to take a minor gamble on by putting up a five to ten-million-dollar budget, secretly hoping it catches fire and makes them a shitload of money.
DD: Yeah, Juno or Little Miss Sunshine, or even my movie. They would have hoped House of D… You know, they spent four million dollars. Well, while making that movie, I’m being pressured to expand the allure of it. Being pressured to sand down what might alienate somebody. So what you have is the freedom on cable television to actually do the kinds of things that American movies, perhaps in the ‘70s — European movies in the 70s — European movies now, perhaps, or true independent cinema does. On top of that, I get to do it in a 12-week season. So it’s kind of the best of both worlds for me.
EI: How was it to make the transitions of your character’s relationship in the film?
DD: I don’t really know. That’s kind of like the mystery of doing it. That’s kind of where you go with your instinct. You take the facts of whatever the relationship was, how you used to play it on the television show, and understand the facts of the script as they’re given to you. You can try to feel that with your gut, what that might look like, or how that would feel like, about how that might change, how we relate it. It’s my feeling that we acted as a couple on the television show in all but physical intimacy. We bickered like a couple. We argued like a couple. We needed each other like a couple. So I think it’s actually quite similar to actually being a couple.
EI: Do you think, having had that time away, you’ve grown and changed a bit?
DD: Yeah, I’m sure. I was doing an interview with Gillian yesterday and we’re both asked what’s different about David, what’s different about Gillian now, and she said something really interesting. She said, “David wants to be there now.” So that was really hard for me towards the end of the run of the series. I didn’t really want to be there. I was miserable.
EI: That behavior seems to have mirrored your character in the film. He doesn’t want to do it until he gets sucked into it.
DD: Because that’s really what he should be doing. He’s kind of been deceiving himself that he can be content in his room growing his beard, doing his thing. Mulder is Mulder. He needs to be out there. And the kind of romantic part of the film is that he really rediscovers that passion and still says at the end, to Scully, “I’d rather have you.”
EI: So is that like you coming back to this film?
DD: I wouldn’t draw too many of those parallels. [Everyone laughs.] I think that’s more of the writer. Chris has really taken six years off, and I’m sure he needed it. He worked harder than any of us. I think if you’re looking for any autobiographical material, I would say there’s something of Mulder in Chris, which is it’s very hard to be obsessive about something in your personal life, and it’s always going to be a question. And there’s always going to be kind of an opposition between work and life.
EI: How do you stay looking so great? What’s your secret?
DD: I don’t have any. I eat well. I exercise. Take One-A-Day vitamins. I don’t know. My brother and sister always look younger than they are. I think it’s just...
DD: Could be. I mean, we look good but then we die young.
EI: Do you “want to believe” too?
DD: Yeah, I do.
EI: In aliens?
DD: Not necessarily. I want to believe in other things. I’d say “love.”