INT: David Duchovny
David Duchovny is not an easy interview. That's not to say he's a difficult or quiet actor in a Tommy Lee Jones kind of way. But he is one of the smartest people I've ever interviewed. Never flaunting his intelligence, you could just tell listening to his responses. And as a journalist, that keeps you on your toes. I expected him to be more uncomfortable talking about his return to THE X-FILES after all these years but he was very zen about his return and the difficulties he had during the last years of the series. As far as secrets? Well you'll have to read on...
Does it feel like old times being here?
Well, that part's over. We've been at it about two and a half months now. So the first couple of weeks felt a little like déjà vu, but now it's just the business of making a movie. Now it's just another movie in a way.
We don't know much about the movie. What can you tell us?
I think the reasoning behind being mum about what's going on on the film, for Chris at least, is to give an audience an experience of surprise, which is so hard to do with trailers and obviously you guys have a job to do and it's hard to write anything if we're not saying anything. Um, but having said that, the themes are the same of what the show always was. The themes are about belief and faith and about the relationship between Mulder and Scully and how that's developed over the past four or five years the show's been off the air. As if they've been living, as we've all been living. They've not been stuck in time; I don't know if Chris mentioned that. But they've moved on in some fictional realm, just as we all have. And yet their issues remain the same.
I asked Frank before about why now make this movie, and he responded with a very business-like answer. Artistically, why now is it the right time for you?
I don't know. I felt always that, at any time it would have been fine. Whenever Chris was ready to come up with a script, whenever his burnout was over. As actors our burnout was probably a little shorter than his. I think he carried a heavier load, producing and writing and directing. I know it took me about a year to feel whole after the show was over. So after that point I was ready, and it was always my intention, my desire, that the show would continue on in movie form. It was never my intention when I wanted to leave the television series to sabotage the show in any way. It was, yes, ‘We've done all we can on television. Let's take this into movies, like we always said we would.’
So you see it as a series of X-Files movies maybe?
Yeah, I wouldn't see any reason to do it unless it were. It's a serial show by its nature. It starts as a television show which is a serial. The frame and the characters throw off an infinite number of stories and situations, it's a classic, archetypal relationship, with a believer and a nonbeliever, with this kind of unrequited love in the middle of it, and it all works. And that can work forever as long as your stories are good.
Mulder's not a changed person, six years later, being on the run?
Because you're so eager, you're so interested in the world changing and people changing--in my experience things don't change that much. People are who they are.
What has changed then?
You'll have to see. I mean, we, we are affected by things that happen. Does character change? In my life experience, character doesn't change? Yours?
How excited were you to get back into the character, to get back in this guy's skin again after all these years?
Well, I was very excited to do it, and then as the date approached nearer I started to wonder if I needed to work more, to kind of get back into that, and so there was a certain amount of fear because I had maybe changed. I'm going back on my word. That it would be hard to… Well, I think what happened is my facility and maybe my range or interests might have changed. I didn't change. And so, so this character might have represented a narrower box than the one I've been working in for the past four or five years since I left. So it was how to bring what I've learned in the last four or five years into this box. And you know what was interesting, last night, we just, they were on the YouTube and somebody pulled up just one of these homages to the show that has the song, like a romantic song, and then all these kisses between Gillian and I, and that was actually really helpful to me, to kind of feel the show again. Cuz it was kind of this overview, and it was very romantic and it was very sweet, and it was like, ‘Oh, I could watch that and then that would help me get into work. So maybe I'll do it.’ Whoever put that together, I thank them.
When you were doing the show, you became involved in writing scripts and co-writing scripts with Chris. Is there any input that you've had in the writing of this script?
No, not in the initial conception or the first writing of it, and hardly at all, because we kind of signed off on the script right as the writers' strike happened. So we had discussions about particular scenes and things we might try when we get there, but it's a tightly plotted thriller. In essence, there's very little… if you have a tightly plotted thriller, there's not a lot of rewriting that should be done, hopefully. If it's good, there's not a lot to do; the story drives forward. If you fuck around in the scenes, you're not going to drive the story forward. It's not really a form that tolerates improvisation, and it was well enough put together, when it was presented to me and Gillian, I thought there was really nothing to add in that way.
That said, rumor has it this goes for a more supernatural feel, back in the horror/scary--
What kind of relief was that for you to kind of break outside of the mythology--
Well, I liked the mythology stuff. I always liked it, actually, more when we were doing the show because it usually gave Mulder a kind of emotional stake, either through his sister or… he was personally involved in the episode and that was a relief and more fun for me as an actor to kind of approach. During the yearly grind of the show … so it was like, ‘Oh, I can understand this and I can chew this up a little bit,’ rather than just being a Law and Order procedural, ‘Did you do it? Did you do it? You didn't do it. This is my theory,’ and get out of there. So in a way, I think I had the opposite reaction, ‘Oh, I wish this was more about me.’ But in effect it's more about the show and it's more 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 of it as well. So if there is another one, and I hope there is, I think we would get into a story where more of the mythology (is explored), cuz I think that's the heart of the show. Ultimately.
You've directed a couple of episodes, you directed your own movie, how interested would you be if there was another X-Files movie in taking the helm of that?
Yeah, I'd be interested, but it's not, 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. So 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 be interested in directing an action film, but I don't think it would be wise for me to direct myself in an action film or to screw around with this actual franchise. I don't feel like I need to. I feel like there are other opportunities for me to direct and I have other interests. If it was like my only way into directing, then I might, but I don't think so. I mean, I think it would be fun and great, but I think there are better people for it.
A lot of actors who headline hit series worry about being typecast for the rest of their careers. Coming back into this, you apparently are comfortable enough with this that you're able to--
Well, you know what's interesting, I get asked questions by you guys -- the first question is, ‘Haven't people forgotten?’ And the second question is, ‘Well nobody's forgotten, aren't you typecast?’ So I don't know. I gave up a while ago worrying about the whole phenomenon of typecasting, once I realized that it happens across the board. It doesn't just happen in terms of television shows, so comedy actors get trapped in there and dramatic actors can't do comedy and all this stuff. People, even movie actors that have had long careers, have two or three roles that they get stopped for, unless you're Brando or-- there's only a couple that have done so much that it's hard to even yell something stupid at them on the street. So I don't. I don't worry about that, and I think what overcomes that is my kind of sense of love for the show and belief in its legitimacy as an interesting movie franchise with a lot to offer, the thriller aspect and the horror aspect, but also an intelligence and like I said, this great frame of a man and a woman, the believer and the nonbeliever. So I think all of those things make it a very kind of fertile area to move on in.
Can you speak about your character and why people love the character?
That's, that's more for you to figure out. I just think it was a very classic kind of contentious love relationship between Mulder and Scully, and investigative, if that's a word. And I think why I love Mulder is because first and foremost was always the truth of the case, and yet he wasn't he wasn't so single-minded that it was a drag. He was never a drag, which that kind of a character could have been. So I always liked that he was so narrow-minded in his pursuit. And I think that's attractive. I think people respect that in somebody, and I think that they also yearn for it. They yearn for a quest or a cause. I think he's a guy on a quest, (and) he will always be.
Is there still a sense of discovery and is there still a journey for you guys in productions like this when you're united with Gillian and Chris, or is it just like you guys are back together and everything's really easy and--
No, I think there's a real sense in which, we don't just want to kind of cash in on the past. We all want to do something new. We all want to make it good. We don't want to throw a piece of crap out there and have people go look at it just for nostalgia’s sake. So, I worry, and I wonder, ‘How did this guy change in the last five years?’ There's a certain like, when I started, there was a certain boyishness to the guy, which I don't feel I can play anymore, physically, (as it) looks stupid.
Just because you're older?
Well, yeah. I just think it's like watching a… it was like Mel Gibson's Hamlet. It was like, ‘Yeah, it was a good performance, but he was like 20 years too old.’ So it's like that. It's certain kinds of things energy-wise. Not just looks, but energy-wise. So how does this guy… how has he grow up a little bit? You wonder about that. How do you kind of… remaining the same guy, how do you ease him into a different stage in his life? So that's a creative endeavor. Certainly for Chris, being overwhelmed directing a big movie like this (is) very different from anything he's done.
Has your dialogue changed with Chris?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I have ways that I like to work and he has ways that he likes to work, and they're not always the same. And with respect and privately we deal with it. But that's a matter of getting older too, and being a professional. It happens privately and it's not a big deal. It's just like telling a lover, ‘That finger there. That wasn't great. I know a lot of people like it, but me personally? Not me. Just so you know. Someone else might love that.’ So I know how I like to work now, I know how I like the director's hands on me, (and) so I try to explain.
There was some exhaustion at the end of the series with the fans, that they were sort of depleted with it or whatever. Do you think the movie will bring those fans back into--
I don't know. I don't know. There were nine years of one hours. I can't think of another show that did that with the same cast, even though 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. Law and Order, it's like Menudo, you know? And ER's the same.
They change casts--
Yeah. So the exhaustion is mutual. But I would think that in the good will of trying to tell new stories, you ultimately reach farther and farther in all directions and probably by the 7th, 8th, and 9th years, the writers were forced to reach. And I think there are people, fans, journalists out there who kind of sit on that moment and wait for that sign of exhaustion or that sign of creative bankruptcy, which, has to come (and it comes) naturally. I can't imagine anybody that can do it for much more than eight or nine years, a show like this, that's idea-driven. It's not like, ‘Oh, we've got good jokes; you'll watch.’ It's not like a sitcom that can run for 12, 13 years. So if they were exhausted, I would think if they fell in love with the show for the premise and for the characters and for the execution and the writing, well, that's what we're back to. This is actually more of a story that we would have told in season three or four.
How scary does this movie get?
I think very.
When it gets good it gets scary, it's thrilling.
Right. I think it's scary. It's pretty dark. I mean, there's some nasty stuff going on.
Yeah. That's the funny thing. What was the first movie, PG-13?
Yeah. But there were episodes that bordered on near R some times. You did some fucked up shit.
Yeah, you would think. In a way, you could do more on TV. You could almost do R stuff, like some of those TV shows probably would have been getting close to an R. But I know the mission is to make a PG-13 film here, so I assume we will. But it's more the ideas behind it. What is Saw? Saw's R? Yeah. It should be X.
Would you say this is Saw? Is it Saw-like?
It has some danger in there. There's some twisted, weird… I said danger. No, there's no torture because there's always… to me Saw doesn't have a point. It's like a guy teaching somebody a lesson, right? Torturing them.
I just didn't know if it was a “Home” territory or something more--
Yeah, I think there's some of that. I don't know how much of it you'll see, but it's in the story. You'll come away with a, ‘Oh, so that was what they were doing?’ And ‘home’ is probably the most controversial show we ever made. I think it was pulled out of rotation and yet it's one of maybe four or five shows that, if someone wants to bring up a show with me, they'll bring that show up. So obviously people have enjoyed that part of the show also.
So much of the show was based on conspiracy theories. How about you personally? Is the truth out there? Are there conspiracies that we as the general public are not being kept up to speed on? Is there stuff out there the government is covering up in real life time, not X-Files time?
Yeah, I think that's pretty obvious, isn't it? I mean, there's nothing we don't know. It's obvious there's a lot of covering up going on, but I think it gets aired out pretty quickly. I don't think there's an alien conspiracy being covered up, but--
When the episodes of the old show come on, do you watch them or do you flee like hell.
I don't flee. You know, I don't seek them out. I'm not an appointment television watcher. I guess I'm a child of the 70s television watcher, which is I sit down in front of it and if something happens to be on I watch it. Therefore I leave myself open to sometimes watching an X-File because I'll be flipping around and I don't TiVo or anything… I'm really silly that way. So if something comes on, I won't watch it alone, but if I'm in bed with Tea and we're just going to sleep, maybe watching 10 minutes of TV before we go to sleep and it comes on, she'll say, ‘Oh, I've never seen that one,’ and I'll say, ‘Yes, you have,’ cuz I think she's seen them all. She says, ‘No, no, I've never seen this one,’ and I'll say, ‘You just forgot.’ And she'll say, ‘Oh yeah, I've seen this one.’ And then we'll turn it off.
What was your favorite “X-Files” episode?
I have a few. I probably have my top 10. I think some of Chris's are really terrific, like the black and white episode, and the one with Lily Tomlin. And the one on the boat. Darin Morgan's episodes were always great. ‘Jose Chung’ and like two or three others. Then some of Glen Morgan and Jim Wong's stuff was really scary, they had the best scary (episodes). Vince Gilligan kind of straddled scary and funny better than anybody. Like ‘Bad Blood’ was a great one, (with) Luke Wilson in it. That's a lot, I guess, a lot.
After more than a decade playing this guy, what do you like best about Mulder, doing it, and what's your most challenging thing?
Well, I think it is that kind of single-minded (nature), not taking no for an answer, just never giving up, just being a quest hero. It's not something we get to do in life. And it sometimes makes… it feels larger than life to go into the scene. And then the challenge always is to bring in the humanity, inside that. The one quest is to bring in the humor or to bring in side interests, to make the guy three-dimensional.
How does it feel to be back in Vancouver?
I've been back in Vancouver a few times since, working, so that kind of took away the reunion feel to it. I love Vancouver, so it's always good to come up here. I have a lot of friends up here. We worked up in Whistler for three weeks, and I'd never really been up there and that was just an amazing environment to work in. So aside from not being with my kids and my wife, I love being here.
There's so much secrecy surrounding this film. Is it because the fans are out there clamoring for every bit of information or is it the nature of the X-Files?
I think it's a little bit of both, but I think it's what I said first, which is Chris wants it to be a surprise. I think that the story, it being a thriller, if you go in knowing what the story is it's kind of not as interesting. So, he's hoping to keep that a secret as long as possible.
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