From The Orlando Sentinel: I talked with David Duchovny about his new movie, The Joneses, and focused on his relationship to the film’s satiric warning about the dangers of marketing and a consumerist lifestyle for the print version of that story.
But that didn’t leave room for him talking about his zeitgeist-tackling cable series, Californication, or his future plans or what car one should drive to Be Like Dave. So that part of our talk is below.
“I am so (s%^$$&) at the zeitgeist,” Duchovny says. “I didn’t see The X-Files coming. I didn’t Californication catching on.
“I thought a couple of movies I’d done were going to be huge hits and they weren’t. I’m really bad at that. I consider myself a smart guy, and yet I have no clue if something I’m doing is going to catch on.
“I realized, at some point, that there is no repeating of that X-Files thing. It’s luck. It’s Avatar, the planets aligning. I’m not going to try and top that.
“When I got off the show, I was thinking, ‘How am I going to top it?’ Then I realized that wasn’t going to happen.I said ‘No more TV’ Fine. But cable started doing these great niche shows – Sex and the City, The Sopranos – that were giving you more creative freedom than you get on broadcast TV or the movies.
“Californication only takes me 13 weeks to film a whole season. I don’t write them. I direct one of them per season, and the rest of the time, I just act in them. It’s a fantastic schedule which allows plenty of time with family, doing a show that I haven’t gotten tired of. We have this quick spring we do. By the time we get to episode 12, we’re tired, but we’re still sprinting. ‘Wow. It’s over. I hope we get to do another season of it.’
“We’re making this show almost in a vacuum. You can’t do that in a movie any more. They have to satisfy too many quadrants. The reason you get Tara or Nurse Jackie is because talented creative people are getting to do what they do and are not being told by marketers what they should be doing.”
Duchovny’s co-starring in The Joneses, which opens Friday. It’s about the ultimate viral marketing scheme, creating a fake family to infiltrate an affluent community, show off their toys, and convince the neighbors to spend spend spend to have those toys and keep up with The Joneses. I asked the father of two (he’s reconciled with Tea Leoni after a separation of the Tiger Woods variety) how he teaches his kids to be savvy to what advertising and marketing is trying to do to them.
“We don’t watch a lot of television. They love Cake Boss (on TLC). They watch American Idol. But as we watch their favorite shows, sometimes something inappropriate is advertised. An R-rated movie, for instance.It scares the s4356 out of them. How can they advertise that during family friendly shows?
“I say to them, ‘What are they trying to sell you?’ Commercials are more subtle than the old hard-sell. My kids’ll say, ‘They want you to drink their beer’ or ‘drive their car.’ And then we try to laugh it off with the kids. ‘You really think I’m going to want to drink beer based on that commercial?’
“They’re aware that there’s manipulation out there. We’re not Amish. The kids are going to be influenced in ways we’re not going to like. We just have to stay aware of it and try to help them navigate themselves into a nice life, one with values.”
He tries to squeeze in a small film in between seasons of Californication — though that is getting harder to do — not because of the TV schedule, which is only 1/4 of the year.
“Independent film reminds me of that game show where they stuck you in a booth and turned a fan on and the contestant got to grab as much cash as he could hold onto. That’s what financing these little indie features is like these days. You line one up, the money falls through.”
He directs one episode of the TV show a year, and has directed a film. Is he looking for more behind-the-camera gigs?
“In some ways, I feel like I’ve served a long apprenticeship and I’m on my game enough as an actor to be directing more often.”
Is he a screamer on the set?
“No noooo,” he laughs. “It’s good to scream once. I know a director who does it once, on the first day.”
So, if, as he maintains, the viral marketing of The Joneses has been with us ever since there have been sports starts and movie stars that the general public wants to emulate, what sort of car should I be shopping for? You know, to drive what he drives?
“Think hybrid. Think electric. Try to reduce that carbon imprint. Make that decision that makes companies push to be cleaner than their competition. People associate ‘green’ with hardship. But when people out here go green and companies get deeper into this, you’re gong to see it’s cooler and more fun to be green than to be wasteful. It’s getting less expensive to make that altruistic choice.”