Excerpts from Neon Magazine, September, 1998
Transcribed by alfornos on alt.fan.david-duchovny
Dilemma for Mulder
by Lesley OToole
Photographs by Moshe Brakha
When David Duchovny joined TXF, he was nobody. Six years later, its
the biggest show on television and hes a major star. The movie raises
the stakes. Should he stay and risk typecasting? Or leave and lose it all?
DD has a confession to make. "Im not Mulder," he says flatly. "I
dont speculate about alien forces and dont have much time for
conspiracy theories about life. Im too pragmatic and cynical for that."
This matters. If David Duchovny, or rather the person we think is David Duchovny,
wasnt famous enough already, then "Fight The Future" - to give TXF
movie its extended title - is surely going to make him even bigger. And
its something hes not sure about.
His commitment to the cause has never been unshakeable. He risked alienating
the rest of the cast and crew by insisting the production move from Vancouver
to LA so he could be closer to his wife, Téa Leoni. Leoni needed to
be in LA for her series The Naked Truth, and Duchovny was tired of travelling
back and forth. The irony was that by the time that move was in the works,
Leoni s show had been cancelled. The show duly relocated and the many
people who work on TXF - some of whom had bought houses in Vancouver, settled
their kids in local schools - had all moved to suit one man.
That man is unrepentant. "I dont think wanting to live a more normal
life with my wife makes me a bad guy," Duchovny says in his defence. But
it shows that, at the moment, hes his own first priority, not the show.
So at the point where TXF continues its unlikely rise to being one of the
most recognisable cultural products in the world, Duchovny is wondering whether
he should be a part of it at all.
"I try to maintain a healthy attitude about my work," he says, "but after
five years its extremely difficult to cover the same material or find
new angles to your character or to the plot without diluting the value of
the series. Some time this year Gillian and I will sit down with Chris Carter
and hammer everything out."
While Chris Carter was literally surfing through college, Duchovny was finding
a way to sabotage a promising academic career. He was born in Manhattan in
1960. His mother was a teacher and his father, who worked for the American
Jewish Committee, harboured an unfulfilled desire to be a writer. They separated
when Duchovny was 12, but Duchovny grew up to be the perfect American kid.
He was good at baseball, good at basketball and good enough academically
to set himself up for the most elite college education available: getting
a BA at Princeton, an MA at Yale. He was an excellent student. And he hated
"The atmosphere was incredibly arrogant and stifling," he recalls, "and I
never felt very comfortable sitting next to people whod count up their
stock portfolios and complain, Todd and Kimmy wont be able to
fly down to the Bahamas for Spring Break..." he says. "I always felt
like an alien at places like Princeton and Yale. I just had to get out of
that Wasp-ish environment, and acting was the only thing that gave me creative
During the early 80s, Duchovny couldnt quite work out what he
wanted to do with his life. He worked evenings as a bartender, tried writing
a novel - about a bartender - and began a PhD at Yale before dropping out
to concentrate on acting. It was a long, slow haul: his first film appearance,
as Tesss Birthday Party Friend in 1988s Working Girl,
didnt come until he was 27, and his career didnt exactly take
off from there. After James Spader had dropped out at the last minute, DD
played the transvestite DEA Agent Dennis/Denise Bryson in Twin Peaks, but
this was a brief high spot in a filmography that includes the likes of
Dont Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead (1991), Beethoven (1992) and
of course TVs Red Shoe Diaries series, which he narrated.
A role alongside rising stars Brat Pitt and Juliette Lewis in the pretentious
Badlands-rip-off Kalifornia (1993), shortly after TXF began airing, did little
to catapult DD onto the C-list, never mind the A-list. And it wasnt
even the film that captured his new, laconic persona on celluloid for the
first time - that was achieved by an obscure, barely-released curiosity called
The Rapture (1991), a film directed by Michael Tolkin, the maverick scriptwriter
who penned Robert Altmans The Player. It was Tolkin who spotted
Duchovnys potential and may conceivably have been the first to identify
the qualities that came together to create Fox Mulder. Duchovny, said Tolkin,
had " a flatness that I really liked."
Summer 1998. Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny and Chris Carter are
sitting on a stylish red sofa installed on a platform in an otherwise virtually
empty soundstage on 20th Century Foxs LA film lot. Theyre here
for the biggest on-line chat ever conducted - to be broadcast live in the
US on MSNBC, giant network NBCs 24-hour news channel competitor to
CNN, and of course on the Internet, where their words of wisdom will be
immediately translated into French, Spanish, Chinese... It will feature questions
from XF fanatics the world over whose medium of choice is, of course, the
All three look completely relaxed, sitting knee to knee with CC between his
two stars. They make small talk between themselves directed at the media.
Someone walks on stage proffering small bottles of Evian water. Without
consulting each other, without even breaking the flow of conversation, Anderson,
Duchovny and Carter immediately begin the seemingly unconscious task of peeling
the Evian label from the bottles. By the time the cameras roll, none will
be seen to be promoting the particular brand.
Carter isnt affected by criticisms that the film delivers little of
what was promised. "It answers a lot about the project and what the Syndicate
is up to," he insists. The problem, he thinks, is that the "serious fans
had such high expectations but the film could only answer some of the questions."
But of course, the main rumour sweeping X-philes was the unthinkable: Mulder
and Scully would finally get it together...
"No," says DD. "There was never going to be a sex scene between them in the
film. Because that would have betrayed everything the series said about them.
They find refuge in their shared obsessions, the fact that theyre alone
against the rest of the world and they have to rely on each other to keep
their knowledge alive. That type of secretive association is what people
find sexy about the relationship. The sexual energy comes from what is not
spoken between them. They only have each other to trust, and their work comes
"Mulder doesnt get off on Scully sexually - thats not what attracts
him to her He doesnt want to fuck her; he wants her understanding.
He listens to her and needs her scepticism to keep his head screwed on straight
- at least as straight as possible. And as the series has evolved, shes
become more the believer, while hes grown more dubious about the aliens."
At the Internet conference, he and Anderson are bombarded with e-mails begging
to know whats going on.
Question: Is there sexual chemistry between Mulder and Scully?
GA (Giggling): Yes, theres definitely sexual tension between
the two of them.
DD: Its chemistry of a kind.
GA (Indignant): Id say thats chemistry!
DD: We like to keep the sexual tension underplayed, especially between
The Smoking Man and me!
Question: Why do Mulder and Scully never refer to each other by their
DD: We use them as a dramatic device.
GA: Because it ends up getting pretty intimate when we do. Using the
name Fox sounds naughty. (DD laughs)
GA: It seems like a step towards intimacy.
DD: Next shell call me Fo, then Fff...
Rumors of a sex scene were so rife, it was even suggested that the film involved
nudity. Specifically, Mulders behind.
"People always ask me when we are going to see his butt," says Carter. "If
I had known that putting his butt in the movie would have gotten that much
attention, we might have put it in. But I do what I want. Im not putting
his butt in just because people tell me to, and I wont have them kiss
if people tell me to."
Carter plays down allegations of tension between his stars. Everyone involved
is well aware of the rumours that they dont speak, and many have remarked
on the number of scenes in the series which show the two communicating by
phone and rarely in the same shot.
"That is not true," Carter says. "Imagine the relationships in the last five
years of your life that are not contractual. They are always difficult; there
are always ups and downs. The same things happen with every serious relationship
as happen with people who work together every day. You are happy to live
your life and do your work and go home. Just because they dont socialise
outside the workplace doesnt mean they dont like each other.
Theres really no drama here."
"If there is, I havent seen it," says William B. Davis. "But then I
havent seen them together that often. I dont see a whole lot
of Gillian, period, but when Ive seen them together they seem fine.
They come back to work on Monday and say, Where did you go on the
weekend? Normal stuff."
Duchovny strays a bit further from the party line. "We get along as much
as we have to get along - professionally. But were two very different
kinds of people, and thats as true today as it was at the beginning
of the series. We dont spend time together away from the set because
we work very long hours together and we need to get far, far away from each
other. Im too glib and sarcastic, and I know that rubs Gillian the
If there have been rumours about Duchovny and Anderson, thats partly
because there have been rumours about Duchovny and a lot of people. Stories
that Duchovny is addicted to sex, stories that hes addicted to porn.
He denies being addicted to anything, but being INTERESTED is a different
matter. He wont deny that until his recent marriage, he had more
girlfriends than the average man. As he sees it, it was part of his search
for something missing. Being Jewish, educated and from New York, hes
been in therapy.
"Therapy has helped me try to figure out who I am and gain some greater
self-awareness," he admits. "I dont suffer from extreme highs and lows
but I have a natural tendency to feel down and depressed even though I try
to pretend that everythings OK. Thats not a very satisfying way
to live, and I dont want to bring other people down to my grim level.
But somewhere along the way in life I lost my capacity to experience pure
joy. Its not the worst thing in the world, but it doesnt make
you the life of the party either."
When asked if he had always envisaged the show as a movie, Carter is entirely
convincing in his deadpan response: "Oh yes." In fact, nothing was further
from his mind in the beginning. "You just cant imagine this kind of
success because TV shows dont have this kind of run. Normally in the
business, shows just come and go. And to be honest, so much of what has happened
is unprecedented so its best not to dare imagine anything."
Duchovny and Anderson both say they envisioned a film version early on. "We
always thought the show was like a movie though," Duchovny insists, "and
I really wanted to do this film from the first or second year."
Anderson disagrees. "It might have been a better experience to do the film
when the audience no longer had the show to watch any more," she suggests.
OToole, Lesley. September, 1998. "Dilemma for Mulder."