"I have a healthy appreciation of Ryan Gosling"
Glamour Magazine, UK
Just one reason Gillian Anderson is our kind of woman. She talks to Celia Walden about feminism, the F-word and 20 years of iconic roles
Where The Phoenix, 23 Smith Street, Chelsea, London
Gillian ate Asparagus and egg salad
Celia ate Poached artichoke with vinaigrette
Few are immune to the Gillian Anderson factor. Lads' mag readers, sci-fi nerds, discerning theatregoers, animal, mineral or vegetable: all have knelt at her altar. And, of course, as fans of the BBC drama The Fall can testify, the woman rocks a silk blouse like nobody else. Over a gourmet pub lunch and iced lattes, the 45-year-old Golden Globe-winning actress tells me about her affinities with Kristen Stewart and her feminist principles.
CW I've got a confession to make: I've felt more nervous about interviewing you than I have anyone in a long time.
GA [Baffled] Why?
CW I suppose I thought you'd be 'glacial', but you don't seem to be.
GA [Curled up on the pub banquette, looking as far from glacial as is humanly possible] Because I'm not! But somehow I'm often portrayed that way.
CW Your character The Fall - detective Stella Gibson - is pretty steely, isn't she? It must be liberating playing a woman who absolutely knows what she wants.
GA Oh, it is. Just because of who she is and how she carries herself...
CW ... and how she rocks a silk blouse. Do you know how many column inches those silk blouses racked up?
GA [Laughing] It was mad. What's weird is that when I wear a silk blouse it looks nothing like when Stella does. It must be down to the way she carries herself, because even made-up with my hair done I can't replicate it.
CW Then there was the other attention hogger: your co-star Jamie Dornan.
GA How can you not notice Jamie?
Our photographer Can you smile for the camera, Gillian?
GA I don't smile.
Our photographer Can you look impish?
GA I can do impish.
CW You do impish but you don't smile?
GA [Laughing] Yes. Do you know what's funny? Sometimes I'll see photographs of myself in the early days of The X-Files, and I think that my attitude towards the whole thing was very similar to Kristen Stewart's. There's a very similar look in my eye: slightly defiant, slightly bored. All I ever got was: "Smile! Smile!" when I didn't want to smile. And I really wish that somebody at that time had told me: "You know that it's OK to be who you really are."
CW Hard to do in those '90s-tastic suits...
GA [Shuddering] The odd thing is that even when I was put in those horrible pastel Lycra suits, there wasn't a single part of me that considered saying: 'Whoa! Wait one second!" Likewise with the hair. I was made to have red hair, styled in a particular way, but you'd have thought that I might have done something with it off screen... still I didn't bother, because I was so exhausted. So for nine years I went to work and was somebody else, without devoting any time or attention to the way I looked. Now, when I look back at images of myself in those horrible fashion decisions with my weight fluctuating all the time, I can't believe it.
CW Last year was 20 years since The X-Files first aired - how weird does that feel?
GA I'm just very pleased it happened. It was an extraordinary opportunity and it was the beginning of the golden age of television. To be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and be immortalised in The Simpsons was incredible.
CW You've never been vain about the women you play. Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson may be a sex bomb, but you were happy to play Miss Havisham in Great Expectations at 43, and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcare Named Desire - your new role - is a woman falling apart at the seams.
GA [Pensive] I think Blanche's problem is that she comes from another era and has trouble reconciling herself with the life she's living.
CW Do you think life is more or less complicated for women nowadays?
GA I think the really complicated thing about life now is that men haven't caught up with us.
CW What do you get riled about in a feminist context?
GA [Sighing] A lot. I have feminist bones and when I hear things or see people react to women in certain ways I have very little tolerance.
CW But don't you ever feel sorry for modern men? Not knowing whether they should help us with our bags and open doors for us or whether we'll see it as an affront?
GA No. I don't feel sorry for men. I do appreciate gentlemen, though. I have a frozen shoulder at the moment and I've been on a plane twice a week since February, struggling to put my bag into the overhead compartment. Because I always do things for myself I don't ask for help, but it's amazing how people don't even offer. Only three times in two months has any man offered to help. It's sad.
CW What are these men's mothers teaching them?
GA Who knows? Having spent some time in developing countries, I also have a problem with women not being included in conversation.
CW What about men swearing? Actually maybe that wouldn't bother you: I read somewhere that you were fond of a well-placed swear word yourself...
GA [Laughing apologetically] I swore about five minutes before I got here... but I do mind it around my kids. There was a period where I became aware of the fact that I was using the F-word around my developing teenager and I was fine about that, but I was very appreciative that she didn't follow my lead. And I remember thinking: 'Perhaps she would appreciate it if I swore less.'
CW If you could pick one leading man to have a love scene with, who would it be?
GA [With a sidelong look] I do have a healthy appreciation for Ryan Gosling.
CW [Chuckling] You do?
GA [Shaking her head] I don't know what it is. I haven't met him, but I read something recently that said that from the moment he walked into a room, nobody could concentrate on anything else. I think some men do have that effect. Bradley Cooper has it, and Tom Hardy, who I think is one of the most extraordinary actors of our time.
CW Is it hard for an actress to be confronted by her own image day after day?
GA I remember in 2009 doing A Doll's House at the Donmar and sitting in front of the mirror on the first day of rehearsals, telling the actress beside me: "Something's happened to my face! I've had an allergic reaction. I've swollen up." It was this sudden realisation that I was getting old.
CW And yet you're one of those lucky women who looks even better now than you did at 20.
GA Well, since that day I've started using face creams. Until then I had two decades worth of creams unopened in my bathroom. [She pauses] I did have a very pathetic/existential moment a few years ago, too. I'd been filming something where I was a couple of decades older than everybody else and I remember spending a day mourning my youth - literally weeping. Afterwards I talked to women about it and found out that it's not uncommon and potentially a healthy thing to do. Because as long as you can get to a point where you're able to embrace what the next stage is, and you're not constantly obsessing over trying to get back to looking a certain way, then it's fine.
CW Does it affect your enjoyment of TV or films when someone has obviously had work done?
GA Oh, completely. I find it very hard to watch those people. And it's not just the women. There are two or three very high-profile men who have clearly had things done recently, and it's noticeable. I'm fascinated by what the spouses feel about all this. I mean, imagine waking up one day next to your true love and not recognising them? Also, children get their cues from their parents' faces - they look to them for safety or comfort. So does that mean that we're breeding a generation of children who can't do that any more? And how much less safe are those children feeling when they look at their mothers and they can't tell whether they're happy or sad?
CW Do your children find it hard watching your TV, film or stage work?
GA [Smiling] Until recently, my five and seven year olds didn't even know what my job was. But I did feel bad the other day when my 19-year-old daughter first watched The Fall. I hadn't had the coversation with her in time about "those scenes" so out of the blue I got this phone call. "Mum!" she said. "I was watching that with my friends!" I felt awful for her [she chuckles]. Then again, it's what I do...