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Arena
March 14, 1997

Gillian Anderson, Cosmic Girl: She's out there to infinity and beyond

The most wanted woman of the nineties is neither blonde nor bland. Even Gillian Anderson canít explain her own appeal. Itís almost spooky.

GILLIAN ANDERSON is baffled. Not about the forensic criminology practiced by her character in The X-Files. Not about the possibility of there being things Out There. No, it s more fundamental than that: Gillian Anderson is still baffled about how she got the part of Dana Scully in the first place. Anderson is amazed they didnít give the part to someone with longer legs. Someone with larger breasts.

For someone of limited stature, Gillian Anderson is huge. Along with her namesake Pamela (who is, of course, huge in other ways) she is part of American televisions most successful assault on the world for the last decade. The success of Baywatch, supposedly the world s most syndicated television show, is easy to figure out: tanned lithe bodies in swimsuits in an exotic location. There s no mystery about that.

Where there is a mystery - and nothing but mystery, such mystery - is in the success of The X-Files and, more intriguingly, in the paranormal ascendancy of Gillian Anderson. Phenomenon is a much used word in X-Files vocabulary and it s probably as applicable to its female star as it is to spontaneous combustion and telekinesis. Gillian has gone cosmic - not only is she one of the world s website wonders (tragically, there is a website named The Church of the Immaculate Gillian) she has been voted the world s sexiest woman by more readers than you can shake a stick at. Now she s releasing a single - a piece of techno pop entitled Extremis . There seems to be no end to her rise.

But the question is why? In the flesh, Anderson is not classically good- looking. She s attractive, but not stunning. She s pretty, but not drop-dead. In a sense she is the anti-Pam. No tit job, no taut tanned flesh, no flirtatious camera angles, simply a relationship with a rather annoying FBI investigator who is always, but always, right.

This is because Anderson is the skeptic to Duchovnyís true believer. An empiricist, someone who requires proof. And they don t sleep together, which aids the enigma - they are intimate without ever stooping to the merely physical.

But you still can t help wondering about these X-Philes; wondering what it is that fascinates them so about a character whose dress sense is marginally more dowdy than a Women s Institute champion marmalade maker, whose make-up affords her a spectral gloom; who, let s face it, never, ever laughs. And maybe this is it. In an era when flesh, as a commodity, dwarfs every mountain, lake and silo of EU surplus, there is nothing more sexy than possibility; a glimpse of cleavage, a sighting of thigh . . . In a world where we are force-fed images of sexuality like so many foie-gras geese, when puppy-dog pretty soap stars are strapped on to towering stilettos and sashay into so much LaPerla at the merest magazine request, the charge of denial, of abstentation, is a charge more powerful than a chorus line of nudity.

We only know Gillian from what we know of Scully (which is very little, there is virtually no revelation of the personal lives of the characters in The X-Files) we know that she sees through the clutter of the world, that she s well versed in the slight-of-hand and trickery those pesky government agencies get up to as soon as our backs are turned. We know that she won t accept the official version, won t just go along with things to toe the line. We know that she trusts no one but herself and that our Netscaped, cosmic ice queen of strawberry blondeness might just find the truth if she looks for it.

And for every sweaty-palmed keyboard strokemaster in studies, bedroom and offices across the globe Gillian s quest is their quest as well, for if Scully can piece it all together, can unlock the twisted patterns of life, then maybe, just maybe, they might come to know themselves as well. So here we are with the millennium fast approaching, with more questions than answers, with a crisis of belief, too many worries about what, who, when and where. And this is why Gillian makes such sense, why Gillian talks our language, why Gillian helps us make sense of what is rapidly becoming a strange and alienating world. Gillian knows all the answers. Gillian is out there.

Vancouver and it s the last X-Files location shot before the crew pack up for their holidays. You can feel a restlessness in the air. The script requires Anderson and David Duchovny to lift an extremely realistic severed head that is dripping into a stainless steel tub. +All right, let s kick it in the ass! shouts the director. But the actors are having a hard time nailing the shot, and the crew has become concerned. I don't know how many more takes that head has left in it, the effects guy whispers. Finally the stars hit their lines, and the relieved production staff exchange farewells and hugs. Duchovny grabs my tape recorded and, proving he s read too many articles about the show, reels off a mock opening sentence for the story: As they say goodbye for their holidays, they all seem to really like one another. I follow Anderson back to her trailer, where she changes into casual clothes - fuzzy V-neck, jeans, glasses, baseball cap. I ask if she has special plans for the holiday break, and she tells me that she s off to spend two days at an ashram. A few minutes later she adds, +I think that we are all connected by a universal rhythmic energy, and I understand that after nearly 100 X- Files episodes, the danger has never been of her turning into Scully; the danger is that sheíll turn into Duchovnyís character, Mulder.

I hear you are always tired of being asked the same questions by interviewers.
I donít know what questions would be more fun to answer. But for the longest time, everybody has asked, Do you believe in UFOs? , Are Mulder and Scully going to get together? Iíve heard my same responses to all those questions so many times that I just canít do it anymore.

Are you angry that david duchovny s salary is reportedly twice as high as yours?
Oh boy. [Laughs] So weíre gonna start with that one? I knew - going into this season - that was the way it was going to be. It was something that I was attempting to handle privately and just make some kind of statement abut the lack of equality not being OK. And somehow it got public. I havenít actually talked about it that much at all.

That seems really unfair.
Actually, I originally got even less than half of Davidís salary. It was okay at the time. He was coming off ten features, and I was coming off nothing. But things have shifted in that weíre now in the fourth seasons of a two- person show. And weíre continuing to do the same amount of work. A lot of people have actually come up to me, just kind of quietly, and said, Iím glad that youíre taking a stand. On the other hand, itís obviously not doing any good!

Does it ever bother you that a lot of people show an unhealthy interest in your life?
Someone is selling an independent movie called The Turning - that was my first on-camera work. The papers are calling it a porn film. Thereís one very innocent scene between me and [the person who plays] my school sweetheart. Heís come back from running away from home, and they have a very intimate scene, making love on the kitchen floor. What they end up showing is nothing. I mean, he takes my shirt off - I donít even know if he actually takes my bra off. And then you see my naked back on the floor. So if people buy it, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

Have you learned anything about yourself from reading the papers?
A pet name which I had completely forgotten about until I saw it in the tabloids. In a relationship I was in while I was in high school, my boyfriend called me Grae.

Would you like Scully if you met her at a party?
I think so, but I m not sure how much we d have to talk about. Sheís not very spontaneous; I am. She can live without close personal relationships; I cannot. She is obscenely intelligent, and I am not. She is at least 5í6 , and I am not.

How much more Scully can you take?
It s hard to keep being skeptic. Iíve had this conversation a couple of times with [The X-Files producer] Chris Carter, where Iíve just said, I have a feeling that the audience is laughing at me because I m saying essentially the same stuff over and over again. And the answer, via Chris, is that she is a scientist; she is a forensic pathologist; she is a medical doctor. And heís right: I mean, thatís the formula that works.

So what are your feelings about drum in bass?
I just recorded a single. I did the narration for a nine-part BBC documentary series called Future Fantastic. And I would hear the track from the series, and I kept saying, My God, what is that music? Thatís fabulous. And I went to the producer about it. I said, ĎThis music is great. You have to put together a CD.í And he said, ĎWell, would you be willing to put some vocals on it?í And I said, ĎI donít sing. But Iíd be willing to do something on it.í So he presented me with some samples of stuff I could say, and it was quite poetic and erotic, and we came up with what I think is a really great dance single. Itís hot. Itís not a new career move by any means, but it made me feel fun and alive while I was working on it. It s coming out in April.

Chris Carter mentioned to me that he might not stick around after next season - that he might follow some new career paths. What do you make of that?
Chris is our life force. I mean, he will settle for nothing less than the best, and because of that, the series is what it is. So my fear is that when he s gone, that life force will be sucked out of the show. Heís an octopus. Without him, weíll become plankton drifting in someone else's sea.

After four years, the stars have worked out some tricky underwater patterns of their own. It's complicated, Anderson says. We can be very in sync. And there are time when we are just in two different worlds and just coming in to do our work.

Duchovny has contributed story ideas: Anderson has not. She feels that - because of her first-season pregnancy, which required a conspiracy malevolent enough ot keep her off-screen for two weeks - she inadvertently turned the show toward its mythology episodes. There are certain people on the show who are aware of that, she says. And there are certain people on the show who donít want to admit that.

Duchovny has yet to speak with Anderson abut her salary dispute, but you can feel the competitiveness on the set. Duchovny is obviously the favored child. He kids around with crew while Anderson gets a massage and seems surprised that Iím here only to talk to Anderson. When he and I speak for a moment, it doesnít get by her. As she collect her things and switcher off her trailerís lights, she asks: What did you just talk about with David? But, somehow, you already feel she knows the answer.


Transcript appears courtesy of Arena.



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