You know that it’s David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson sitting in the room in front of you, but it’s really Mulder and Scully. The chemistry and the dynamic is the same as it is on the show. Except that maybe Anderson is a little more game for fun and jokes than Scully usually was.
These two have reteamed after six years for the next big screen incarnation of The X-Files, subtitled I Want to Believe. Shot and marketed with utter and bizarre secrecy, the film catches up with Mulder and Scully half a decade after the series finale, living together and out of the monster business. But of course the paranormal keeps pulling them back in [/end Pacino voice] and they get tangled up in a missing persons case where the biggest lead is a psychic priest… who happens to be a kiddie fiddler and who claims his visions come from God.
This press junket took place way too early this past Saturday morning, but Duchovny and Anderson made it totally worth waking up and taking the trip – they’re funny and good natured and had a terrific back and forth. Whatever you think of the movie when it’s released this weekend, it’s great to see these two working together.
What’s it like getting back to these characters after five or six years?
Duchovny: I had two weeks before Christmas of basically running around and chasing Callum Rennie, who plays the… the running bad guy I chase all over the place, and that took a good two full weeks of running, even though it only is a couple of minutes in the movie. Gillian and I started working after the Christmas break. At first I was a little awkward; I didn’t really feel like I wanted to do longer scenes, I wanted to run around. Then as soon as Gillian and I started working and it was Mulder and Scully I remembered what it was all about. That relationship kind of anchored my performance just as I think the relationship anchors the film.
Anderson: I had a similar experience even though I wasn’t running around for two weeks. I did have my own unfortunate beginning, which was to start with one of the most difficult scenes for Scully in the film – it’s later in the script and she goes through a range of emotions in confronting Billy Connolley’s character. I just had a really hard time the first couple of days and I couldn’t… I had a hard time finding her, finding her voice. I must have gone through ten other characters finding her when I had assumed I would be able to show up on the first day and she’d be there. She wasn’t until day three when we got to work together in, not necessarily a familiar environment but in the environment of our relationship. It felt natural and I felt like I’d landed.
Was the script a big part of what drew you back?
Duchovny: My coming back was not based on the script. At this point I have almost complete blind trust in Chris [Carter] and Frank [Spotnitz] to come up with something good, so my only concern was that it should be a stand alone. I didn’t think it should be something you needed specific knowledge of The X-Files to enjoy, and when I read the script I saw 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 that the world that Chris and Frank would remake would be satisfying for me.
Anderson: I’d say my interest in being on board came some time ago as well. By the time I read the script it was a given that this was something we would do. I don’t think there was a point where I jumped more on board or would have backed out -
Duchovny: She wanted a musical.
Anderson: I wanted to sing.
What do you think is the secret to your chemistry?
Anderson: We’ve actually been having a fifteen year affair.
Duchovny: I don’t know why in the beginning. Maybe luck in the beginning. But at this point we do have history, so when I look over at Gillian or when Mulder looks over at Scully there’s a lot of shit I can call on. We have a lot between us. We don’t really have to make it up. I think that as people fifteen years later that we’ve shared so much even if we don’t speak to each other… I expect to see Gillian, even if I haven’t seen her in a year.
[looks at Anderson]
She wasn’t listening to any of that. She just heard the last line.
Anderson:I was. I was -
Duchovny:What were you looking at?
Anderson: I wasn’t, I wasn’t!
Duchovny: You were looking out the window. I don’t have a window like you.
Anderson: Whatever it is between us was there when we started working together. It’s not something quantifiable. I think it’s unique. Yes, they got lucky, but it was something Chris had seen and that’s why he fought so hard to cast me over someone else. He saw something between us that was unique. Whether it’s luck or whether we were meant to be together all along, I don’t know.
Duchovny:There’s chemistry in life and there’s acting chemistry. I’m not saying they’re the same thing but they’re as mysterious.
When you play a character for so long how does that character impact your life? Do you internalize aspects of the character?
Duchovny: It’s a good question, and one I don’t know I can answer. It impacts your life because strangers see you that way, and I’ll be answering questions about this fictional person 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 I liked a lot about the guy when I played him; I liked his courage and his energy to get to the truth in the quest. At one point I think I learned from that like a fan might – I was a fan of the guy. But that’s as far as I can say that he lives in me.
Anderson: Same thing. I don’t do things, mannerisms that make me think ‘That’s so Scully!’ At the same time I don’t know how much of me today was 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 are directly related to the fact that I lived with her for such a long time. It’s hard to qualify that.
Duchovny: When Gillian operates on a human being, that’s when she’s most like Scully.
Scully was always rocking the cell phone -
Anderson: Rocking a cell phone?
Duchovny:That means using a cell phone.
What’s your relationship with your cell phone? And on a serious note, how do you think your character has affected strong female secret agent type characters?
Anderson: I think I only ever talked to Mulder on that cell phone. I don’t think there was ever a conversation with anybody else.
Duchovny: You were in my Fave Five.
Anderson: Was I number one? [Duchovny nods] Remember how big they were?
Duchovny: You had to have a trenchcoat to keep it in your pocket.
Anderson: A cell phone in one pocket, a Xenon flashlight in the other.
Duchovny: ‘He’s talking on a phone that’s not attached to anything!’
Anderson: But I’ve had letters from people, even recently, who have said, ‘I’ve been a fan for years and it’s because of Scully I’m now a forensic pathologist or I’m now a medical doctor or I’m now in the FBI’ or any of the fifteen things she was as a profession.
Duchovny: You were a talent.
Anderson: So yes.
Duchovny: The cell phone question is interesting because I think it extended the life of the series. Gillian and I were so fatigued and the advent of the cell phone was instrumental in us being able to have time off because we could split up. 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, Gillian could have some time off and we didn’t have to be in every scene together.
Anderson: [laughs] That’s right.
Duchovny: If not for the cell phone, no second half of The X-Files.
In terms of what’s on film, how much does Chris encourage your sense of humor?
Duchovny: Very little. Yeah. 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, we both enjoyed those because they were like vacations. Chris as the show runner was guiding that and letting that happen and saw the virtue in what a huge tent this show was that it could encompass everything from stand alones to mythology to parody of itself. I can’t think of another show that did that – we just never did the musical. Thank goodness. But in terms of like me coming up with stuff in the moment usually Chris doesn’t like that. Chris has a different theory about tension than I do – he thinks it lets the air out and he doesn’t like to do that. I like letting the air out. That’s just a difference of opinion. I don’t know what your take on that is.
Anderson: I’m not funny.
David, you famously pulled yourself away from the series in the last season or two and now we’ve been hearing that you’ve been working to get this movie going. Can you talk about your love/hate relationship with the character and the franchise?
Duchovny: I wouldn’t characterize me as the one who really wanted to get it going, but I’m certainly somebody 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 – 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 twenty 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.
Anderson: But it’s interesting that it’s always something for the press to latch onto. It’s always a surprise, 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.
Duchovny: Right, like you’re ungrateful in some way. Yes, I love The X-Files and I love Vancouver. Those things are true.
Can you talk about working in the severe weather conditions up in Canada?
Duchovny: You’re trying to trap me.
Anderson: Speaking of love/hate.
Duchovny:Take it away.
Anderson: 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 eighteen below. Fortunately it didn’t stay there for too long, but I was out there for probably a good couple of weeks, I guess. It’s beautiful, but it’s also exhausting.
Duchovny: Yeah. Let me try to say this in a way that just in 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.
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 the snow you don’t get a chance to go off and warm up in your trailer because you’re seeing 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 pulling… You just suck it up.
Anderson: 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 -
Duchovny: ‘You mean to say [arm gesture] Billy Miles [arm gesture] came here?!’
Anderson: Are you making fun of me?
Duchovny: No. I just remember it.
Anderson: 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.
Duchovny: But when you see it on film it’s just gorgeous. You look at those big snow flakes coming down in the movie and it’s worth it.
Anderson: It’s beautiful.
Duchovny: 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.
Anderson: If there’s pain involved.
Was the George Bush/J. Edgar Hoover thing scripted or did it just come about?
Duchovny: 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.’
Anderson: 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.
Duchovny: Yeah, so no. That was actually always in it and was written in, literally as George Bush and J. Edgar Hoover.
Anderson: We tried a few other versions of it.
Duchovny: Yeah, what did we do? I thought they were funny. It was funny. I can’t remember.
David, what’s your biggest fear?
Duchovny: Oh…. I don’t know. That changes on a daily basis.
Is there any chance, any hope in your heart, that you’ll end up with Larry Sanders?
Duchovny: That’s both my biggest hope and my biggest fear.
Al ruminates and ponders. — By Al Schwartz