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‘X’ marks the spot for TV’s odd couple

Leaving past controversies behind them, 'X Files' stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson unveil some new weird science

by George Hadley-Garcia

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As for having another child at a relatively late age, she feels: “Generally speaking, a mature mother is a mother more sure of herself. And possibly a mother better able to appreciate her child. I always had a . . . an uneasy feeling when I would hear about women, or girls, in their teens having children. How much of a competent, able and confident mother can a person of 16 or even 18 be?

“But I do love motherhood. It beats marriage, any day. Fathers come and go, if I may point out the somewhat obvious. But a baby remains. You get a child for at least 18 years. There is no such guarantee with a husband. Not that I’m anti men. But I don’t think men are the be-all and end-all, and modern reproductive science is proving that out.”

I was warned by an executive assistant on the film not to ask Anderson to verify whether she is a natural blonde, which she reportedly is; nor to ask about her parents or siblings, even though she has spoken out to raise funding for and awareness of neurofibromatosis, from which her younger brother suffers (she also has a younger sister). The disease often involves skin abnormalities, possible tumors or bone deformities.

In discussing the new “X Files” film in general terms, Anderson doesn’t sound as emphatically enthusiastic as Duchovny, and when told that her costar is strenuously boosting the movie, she laughs and says: “He’s really something. He can be very serious, and he usually plays these serious types. Yet he can be so gung-ho on something that it reduces him to a sort of little boy for a while, and that’s when I like him best: When he’s not being pompous.”

Duchovny, also born in August, is eight years Anderson’s senior. He was born and reared in New York, where his father Amram was a publicist for the American Jewish Committee (he died in 2003, and Duchovny is proud and willing to talk about him and the organization). Duchovny’s mother Margaret is of Scottish origin, and he has a sister, brother and stepbrother, but doesn’t discuss them, preferring “to guard their privacy.”

“You know, some sci-fi aficionados want to know everything about the actor embodying the character, including all about his family, but I think that’s going too far,” he says. “It’s one thing to be nosy about me; it’s another to drag my siblings and the rest of my family into it. Even if these weren’t difficult and troubling times, that simply wouldn’t be fair to them.”

Duchovny is in the gossip columns more often than Anderson, simply because he’s married to a fellow celebrity, actress Tea Leoni (since 1997). She has made public comments about the fun of doing love scenes with other actors, and how a bit of jealousy can spice up a marriage. Perhaps it was a little too spicy — Duchovny’s lawyer revealed in August that the actor had checked in to a rehabilitation facility to treat his sex addiction, and on Oct. 15 it was announced that the couple separated some months ago.

Duchovny and Leoni have a son and a daughter, and try hard to keep them out of the limelight and what Duchovny calls “a shallow showbiz upbringing.”

“We try to get our children to be more into reading than television, and we do restrict their TV viewing,” he says.

David comes from an intellectual background, and earned a master’s degree in English before aiming for a Ph.D. that failed to eventuate when he chose to give in to acting.

“I think acting is a wonderful way of expressing and extending yourself,” he says. “It allows you to dive in and explore. Most people, in their professions, don’t get to explore themselves very much. Or explore other people — the people they work with, or the characters they choose to enact. This aspect of acting always appealed to me. Doing it can be very exhilarating. Not to mention the fact that it can be, on certain levels, extremely well paid.”

For two seasons, beginning in August 2007, he has been starring in the U.S. TV series “Californication.” He’s also directed a feature (“House of D,” 2004) and episodes of “Californication,” “Bones” and “The X Files,” and spends his time “reading scripts and writing, and entertaining ideas and offers.” He is known to take on smaller roles or even unbilled cameo roles “if the context appeals to me. I’m willing to do most anything once, just out of curiosity. I think curiosity and change are incredibly important in life, because when you stop changing, you stop. Period. Death is the end of change.”

How did he like returning with Gillian Anderson in the new movie? Was he apprehensive? And had her previous statements about him cooled his attitude toward her?

“Well, one thing we all have to keep in mind in this business is that statements can be attributed to people that they never, in point of fact, even made,” he says. “I know Gillian had some concerns; at times she even had some valid complaints. It isn’t easy to deny that an actress has a tougher time of it in this business than an actor has.

“But you know, I’ve had my own rough times. I was in a movie I’m not going to name (“Connie and Carla,” 2004) that was supposed to be The Next Big Thing. The star had just come off a huge hit (Nia Vardalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), and although the movie starred two women (the costar was Aussie actress Toni Collette), I was the leading man. Everyone thought this was going to be a big hit, the smash comedy of the year. I got fooled into thinking it too — I’m not sure why.

“To cut to the chase, it was a huge flop. Very sad, especially as a vehicle for (Vardalos). But it did taint my career, even though the movie revolved around these two women. I could tell that some people in Hollywood — powers that be, bigwigs, you know — were avoiding me because of the smell of failure that emanated from that movie and which, for some time, clung to me. That really stressed me for a while, and was a big lesson.

“But yes, it was good to get back together with Gillian. It was like fitting back in a groove. Only this time, without the pressure of a TV-series schedule, and with the luxury of a big-time motion picture and of a project you have cause to be excited about. I’m just very pleased with how things have turned out, and that is not something I’m in the habit of saying after I complete a given film.”

It’s been hinted in movie-trade periodicals such as “Variety” and “The Hollywood Reporter” that if this movie does as well as expected, there’s the possibility of a continuing “X Files” film series, in the manner of “Star Trek.”

What does Anderson think about that? She snorts softly, then declares: “I think it’s much too early to speculate about that. Regardless of how well this picture does. Remember that with the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, they kept adding in new characters and . . . or was that the new (TV) series (“Star Trek: Voyager”) they did? I’m not really familiar with all the ‘Star Trek’ projects, either on TV or at the movies. But I know that today’s ‘Star Trek’ is not yesterday’s, and now they’re making or have made another (film), and it’s a new bunch of actors almost entirely, or so I gather.” (The movie, due out in the U.S. in May ’09, has the working title “Star Trek Zero,” and stars Chris Pine, Simon Pegg and Winona Ryder.)

Duchovny is a bit more enthusiastic about the possibility of another “X Files” movie. “What got this going, and flying, as a series, and then the two movies — and particularly this movie,” he notes firmly, “was and is Chris Carter. No Chris Carter, no ‘X Files.’

“The stars also do have a lot to do with it. You don’t often have a series that is so centered on two individuals, and we’ve managed to carry it off, and very well. But, again, Chris is the driving force, and his is the vision. If anyone can deliver new ‘X Files’ material that keeps the fans out there coming back, and clamoring for more, it’s Chris. He just has to be involved in the project. That’s needless to say. And he has to do his very, utmost best — which, with this feature movie, he has certainly done. The last movie — I’m just being frank here — was good. I was not ashamed. But this . . . this is much better. I think anyone can and will objectively say so after seeing it.”

Obviously, X Philes will flock to this picture. Presumably, many or most will enshrine it among their sci-fi favorites. As for the rest of us, a good movie is a good movie, and according to all the hype, it should be — and better be — very good. But as Anderson says, time will tell.

“The X Files: I Want to Believe” is released on Nov. 7. Season three of “The X Files” TV show is currently showing on the Sci Fi Channel, available on SkyPerfecTV!, J:COM, Mediatti and BBTV, Mon.-Fri. at 11 p.m. Season four begins Nov. 3.