Actors Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny spent almost nine years exploring the paranormal and seeking the truth behind alien abductions as FBI Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder on the TV series The X-Files.
But returning to play after more than six years those iconic roles in the feature film The X-Files: I Want to Believe, to be released July 25th, turned out to be harder than either actor expected.
Duchovny says things didn’t start to fall into place for him until his first scenes with Anderson, which came after two weeks of shooting action scenes in the snow with other actors. “As soon as Gillian and I started working, and it was Mulder and Scully,” he says. “Then I kind of remembered what it was all about and that relationship kind of anchored my performance, just as I think it anchors this film.”
Anderson’s return to the role of Scully also was unexpectedly bumpy. Her first scenes featured an emotional confrontation with Father Joe, a disgraced priest turned possible psychic played by Billy Connolly. “I had a hard time finding her character and her voice,” she says. It wasn’t until her first scenes with Duchovny were shot that she felt like she was truly back in the role. “It was on day three, working in an environment with the relationship (with Mulder), that I began to remember.”
Both actors say they were eager to return to The X-Files and at no point did either think about opting out of the film. “By the time I read the script, it was kind of a given that this was something that we were going to do,” says Anderson.
Duchovny says he had complete trust in series creator Chris Carter, who directed and co-wrote the film with Frank Spotnitz, and was pleased that the script told a stand-alone story that didn’t require previous knowledge of the series. “Other than that, I had no hopes or plans for what this would be,” he says. “I just knew the world that we made — and the world that Chris and Frank would remake — was going to be satisfying to me.”
Having played these characters for so long means the actors have developed a history and relationship with each other that makes working together easier. But it also has become difficult for them to look back and understand why they clicked so well in the first place.
“We have a lot between us, so you don’t really have to make it up,” says Duchovny. “Just as people, now 15 years later, we’ve just shared so much, regardless of how much we speak to one another. I expect to see Gillian even if I haven’t seen her for a year.”
The actors have a friendly banter with other, revealing some humorous takes on the show and its success. Duchovny, for example, credits the advent of the cell phone with allowing the series to run for as long as it did.
“We didn’t have to be in the same room to have a conversation so — I’m being totally serious — so that I could have some time off, Gillian could have some time off and we’d just talk on the phone to one another rather than being in every scene together,” Duchovny says. “So if not for the cell phone, no second half of the X-Files.”
While much has been made of Duchovny’s decision to pull away from the show and appear in only a limited fashion during its final two seasons, the actor says that he never had anything but love for the show and the people associated with it. “I did eight years and Gillian did nine – that’s a lifetime. And there are no other dramas that keep the same characters that run that long,” says Duchovny, citing Law & Order and ER as examples. “It’s natural to burn out. There was always love for the show, love for the character – there was never any hate for that.”
Much of the film takes place in snowy West Virginia, with the series old home of Vancouver standing in for the shooting. Shooting in harsh weather was at times trying but it’s always worth it when you see the final result.
“When you’re in that kind of weather and the wind is slightly blowing and your lips actually they do freeze,” says Anderson. “My mouth wouldn’t work. I had all this stuff to say and it came out all gobbledygook.”
“It’s worth it. You have to know that when you’re putting up with it, that if you’re experiencing this discomfort then it’s probably going to look pretty good on film,” says Duchovny.
Humor has always been part of the X-Files world, though Duchovny says he frequently pushed for more and was reined in by Carter. “Chris and I have always kind of battled over that,” says Duchovny, adding that they always had different ideas as to what’s funny.” One sequence poking fun at politics was scripted and shot several different ways, but the version that appears in the film is the original, Anderson says.
Anderson says she next plans to appear in a play in London after the birth of her third child, while Duchovny is returning as Hank Moody this fall in the Showtime series “Californication.”Related Stories: