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Movieline Magazine
Dec/Jan 1997
The Malibu File
by Stephan Rebello

Gillian Anderson is having a bizarre life. Six years ago, at the age of 23, she came to Hollywood with negligible acting experience and got cast in the smart but iffy TV pilot as an impeccably groomed, unsmiling FBI extraterrestrial buster endowed with prodigious gray matter. That show, the X-Files, took off like a shot to become a full on screen phenomena, and though she remained for a while so unknown she was introduced at a gala party for the Fox TV affiliates as "Gillian Armstrong," Anderson, aka Dana Scully soon came into her own as the thinking man's sex symbol, a Clarice Starling for stay at homes. Before long, the young actress who'd probably figured her best hope was to do theater and land the occasional role in an off-Hollywood independent flick, had become a Golden Globe winning icon, riding higher and fast than she or anyone could reasonably have predicted

The weirdness of Anderson's professional life found a mirror on the personal front. During the first year of the series, she met and married assistant art director Clyde Klotz after a nanosecond's courtship, had an unplanned pregnancy that nearly got her canned for imposing such inconvenience on the fledgling series, and gave birth to a daughter, Piper Maru. While motherhood took, the marriage didn't, nd she and Klotz separated. More weirdness kicked in. The once relatively low profile, circumspect nd one sense, insecure Anderson-now the wet dream of the pocket protector set- abruptly emerged, as if from a chrysalis, a chic beauty ready for her close-up. A Leger-sheather vamp one night, and Armanio clad knockout on another. She stared down cameramen with the ferocity of a seasoned diva.

Anderson's transformation was not the sum total of her Cinderella act. After separation from her husband, a British tabloid reported that she jetted to London to spend New Year's weekend to spend New Year's weekend with actor Adrian hughes, whom she met when he did a bit party on the series/ Shortly thereafter she dumped Hughes upon learning of charges pending against him on the grounds of sexual assault. Several moths later she, she appeared at a Gucci sponsored AIDS project Los Angeles benefit squired, buy Rodney Rowland, another "X-Files" guest acting vet, with whom , magazines reported, she was seen "passionately kissing." Then at the MTV Awards, she and Rowland were all over each other like the high school swim team captain and the head cheerleader(Rowland was once again at Anderson's side as she won her Emmy, but on this occasion decorum reigned.)

All in all, Gillian Anderson today is so far from the Gillian Anderson of five years ago that s he might as well have been abducted by aliens.

More strangeness possible looms ahead if Anderson finds in films a fraction of the success she's had on TV. Until recently, her only celluloid exposure was a tiny role in a way off-Hollywood indie now advertised in the video stores with a photo of her unbuttoning her blouse. But this season, Anderson hits the big screen in The Mighty , an offbeat tale of a special kid who stops growing at age six, which co-starts Sharon Stone and Gina Rowlands, and the darkly funny Hellcab, in which she's along for the rid with John Cusak and Julliane Moore. the big news, of course, the project that has her fans salivating, is the film she's been shooting with David Duchovny, the big budget effects "X-Files" epic, unofficially known as Blackwood.

I've been curios about Anderson since I fist caught her on the show years ago. What fires are banked under that coolly impassive, I dare you not to make me smile surface? Is she smart for real or just really good at acting that way? And how many of the good looking guys she's been photographed with are even semi-significant?

The truth is out there, all right. At the moment, its to be found in the Malibu Colony, the 24 hour security guarded beach front enclave where Anderson is residing under an dalais while she does he big screen Agent Scully. She's set up in a spectaurlary capacious, open oceanfront spread, a place of unearthly, preternatural quiet but for the roar of the surf [pummeling the shoreline. Barefoot and grave, Anderson greets me at he door, a fragile looking, tiny, freckled, ivory skinner 29 year old. "Its a rental"she says wryly ut of the corner of her mouth as she sees me gazing at the interior that looks like the kind of place when a Joan Dideon heroine would be found going over the edge. As she wafts me through the shimmering place, Anderson barely touches anything, skimming past surfaces and objects d'art the way one might do in a very good hotel suite that someone else is paying for. She seems with, with her erect posture and impassive expression, to be disconnected in the manner of someone who isn't quite sure how or why she got here.

Out on a sun-dappled rear deck that faces the Pacific and is littered with playthings, Anderson sits us at a long table where cool tumblers and an icy pitcher await, and she momentarily eyes a pack of designer cigarettes and a lighter so accusatorily she seems to be wondering whose they could possibly be. "It's been very monumentous for re to be by the water and in the sun," she declare wrapping herself, Marilynesque, in a thick cotton robe and tucking her legs in a semi-lotus position while staring off at the whitecaps. "It's opened up huge areas for me. i've realized for the first time how much I like to feel the sun on my skin. I've always been living in dar k places. i've always been forcing myself into dark places. This, being here, has been very cathartic for me."

And, no doubt, an antidote to the mold and mildew of Vancouver, where "The X-Files" has been shot for mine months of each of the last four years. Then again, perhaps her newfound love of sand and sea has something to do with the aforementioned Rodney Rowland, who's a surfer as well as an actor. But more later about such things.

"You've become an icon in a genre that inspires rabid devotees," I observe to Anderson, noting that in the Internet there's the Genuine Admirers of Gillian Anderson page, from which one can download bytes of dialogue from various interviews, as well and the horny-guy-oriented Web site known as the Gillian Anderson Testosterone Brigade, not to mention the Gillian Anderson Estrogen Brigade for gals who find her "attractive, talented, witty and altogether wonderful." What is her take on the massive public response she creates?

"I have an odd perspective about it all", she observes, managing to sound quite formal and quite young. " I think its some type of survival mechanism for me, but my honest response is , "Who isn't' that weird? And that's the end of it. there is only so much my brain can comprehend on that stuff before it shuts down. So what if people are fanatical?The only way it can get to be an obstacle is if I base my actions on their opinions. If that's the way these people wan to spend their time, its none of my business. hey, if it keeps kids off the streets, you know?"

Speaking of kids, did Anderson happened to read her co-stars David Duchovny's crack in Movieline about how glad he wa that he wouldn't have to pay the psychotherapy for Anderson's three year old daughter? Duchovny was, of course, joking- in response to the way Piper-Maru, a constant fixture on the X-Files set was fearless inspecting an oozing , bloody, goats head that was serving as a prop. " I don't think that its necessarily appropriate for him to originate that statement, " Anderson assets evenly in the measure tone and mildly arch diction she employs when venturing into touchy territory. "But I didn't have a strong reaction to it, because I recall having made a comment similar to that in jest at one point myself. I feel that right now n her life, Piper has a healthy sense of fear that is no more or less natural or a child her age. What's fascinating is that she can play with a doll for five minutes, then carry around a rubber version of an emaciated sheep's head as if it were a baby.

She can look at someone with physical challenges and in her curiosity, still feel love for another human being. I think its good that my daughter can look at a man who's got blood running out of his eyeballs and be compassionate, not terrified.

Resolving to veer away from the subject of Anderson's daughter, about whom I 'm certain she could talk passionately and endlessly, I ask, "How satisfied are you with the way your career' going?"

Anderson smiles and lolls her head to soak up the waning sunlight. "Its interesting how after I did a cover story for r magazine last year, my manager [Connie Freiberg] got a call from someone saying things like, "What an amazing career this girl's had!" Connie laughed hysterically and said "What career are you rattling about? She hasn't done anything but "The X-Files."" Here for the first time Anderson laughs airily and not a bit defensive. She knows how far she's gone on precious little experience.

Yet such ins the breakneck nature of Hollywood on the job training and freakish fame that Anderson, who many in town predict will become a movie star, bow wilds the clout and self-possession to utter such pronouncements as "I want to work with Ralph Finnei, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Pattrictai Arquette, Isableel Adjani-- poeple whom I respect, obviously, but also with whom I want to share an energy. I wont necessarily be in these movie I develop. Bur if I feel a project is something that needs to be made, a story that needs to be told, then that's where I want to be at."

Social importance does not seem to rank as the ultimate reason d'Ítre for the movies she has just done, but Anderson is full of serious earnestness when I ask her why she wanted to do them. "First and foremost, The Mighty-I'm going to call it by its original title, Freak the Mighty, because I like that better- was a project directed by Peter Chelsom, who directed Hear My Song and Funny Bones. After I saw Funny Bones at the Vancouver Film Festival, I literally could not talk for two or three hours. It had that huge an impact on me. When I heard he was doing another project, I asked to see the script and completely loved it."

Rumor had it that Sharon Stone was not a happy camper while making The Mighty. Was that indeed a problem? "Sharon Stone's not the leading lady of The Mighty," declares Anderson, adding that by the time she reported for her own small role as Meat Loaf's screwed up girlfriend, Stone had left. "The movie's being sold on her, but I believe she only worked for 10 days, like I did. Everybody remembers those 10 day. You never know what the truth is, but everybody was cautious as to anybody new coming on the set, like 'How are they going to be?' By the tim e I got there, it was just about the work, about interpreting the script and creating, as a unit-which is what it should be about."

The actress's goal in doing both The Mighty and Hellcab was to show off colors other than Dana Scully's grays and taupes. Playing in The Mighty"an eccentric alcoholic basically stuck in he life, in her concept of who she is as opposed to who she used to be," clearly jazzed Anderson. She sounds both exhilarated and slightly terrified as she admits, "I was flying by the seat of my pants. i'm only going to know if I pulled it off when I see the final cut." Perhaps she needn't worry; the director of The Mighty has already declared that he's determined to hunt down a follow up project for her to star in. Although Anderson is equally unsure of how she comes off in Hellcab, playing "a not very bright South Side Chicago chick in big purple pants and big hair,?" she describes her experience making it as "cathartic, in terms of joy of spontaneous creativity.

"You see, being the lead does not interest me," Anderson asserts, just in case we hadn't figured this out. "It"s about the quality of the material and who's involved in it. I want to be part of the process and if the title "star" comes as a result of that, then it does. But that's not a goal.

Having heard Anderson's name mentioned earlier for paranormal friendly movies, I wonder how intensely she feels the danger of getting pigeonholed. "Anything having remotely to do with Scully, unless it's something absolutely phenomenal, goes by the wayside, " she asserts, setting her jaw resolutely. " I was considered for Volcano, but the action genre is something that I wouldn't wan to indulge in until, you know, five, ten years from now. Contact did, actually, come up, though I don't know whether it was something where I was actually being seriously considered. Jodie Foster and I are very similar in many ways." Interestingly, the one role Anderson sounds genuinely sorry about having missed out on is the woman in a-a -a parallel- universe gig that Gwetnith Paltrow eventually got in the forthcoming Sliding Doors. Anderson calls it a wonderful, very metaphysical oriented concept that just sends chills down my spine."

Her own aspirations aside, of course, Anderson knows full well that it i s the yet to be titled "X-Files" movie she is shooting right now that people wan to see her in. It's also this project which stands the best chance of doing for her on the big screen what the series did on TV. But you can see from the expression n Anderson's face at the very mention of the production, that The X-Files movie is a mixed blessing as far as she's concerned. "And here we'd gotten so far with you only barely mentioning The X-Files," she laughs with only partially mock disappointment. She admits to me that, for starters, she's "not a big science fiction fan." And when I casually remind her that before she gets to making socially influential movies with the Fienneses and Streeps of the world, she still owes Fox two more years of slogging through city sewers in search of alien sludge, she gives me a silent but unmistakable look that says, "Don't bet on it."

The fan and Internet circuit has buzzed for some time about Anderson's being vocal with Fox about the financial inequalities between her series salary and that of David Duchony,with whom she's never sounded enamored, at least publicly anyway. "There is no truth to the rumor," she says, politely dismissive, when the money issue is brought up. Sources close to Anderson suggest that The X-Files film marks a salary coup for the actress who, since she didn't contractually owe Fox the movie that they could not make without her, is rumored to be earning around $4 million to star in it. She won't confirm or deny any figure, but she doesn't frown when she says "I couldn't be more grateful for what I'm being paid to do this movie." (Her manager told me laughing, "I warned Gillian she shouldn't get spoiled by this kind of money because its probably not going to happen again anytime soon.")

As befits "The X-Files" rabid fan base, rumors run wild on the subject of the film. The plot is being kept under heavy wraps, but there are no total secrets in Hollywood, and if you talk to certain people you'll hear an outline that makes the film sound like Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Outbreak meets Alien. One source I spoke with likened the movie to a "very, very good episode of the series done with big visual fireworks." Scuttlebutt has it that the ensemble cast of characters (played by such unexpected types as Gene Headly, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Blythe Danner) get embroiled in Agent Scully's and Mulder's battles to save the human race from a vicious attack by lizard like space creatures. Along the way are such gruesome delights as black blood that has a life of its own, virus-carrying bees, lots of explosions, a kiss between Scully and Mulder, and a naked butt shot for fans of Duchovny's southern exposure. Oh and yes, there is a government conspiracy to shield the aliens. One way or another, expect the TV season's "The X-Files" shoreline to lead directly into the events of the movie.

"There's a lot of hype being created," she says of the "X-Files" film, shrugging matter-of-factly at questions about the plot. "It's bigger in scope. It's more serious, more mature. The stakes are higher for the characters. It's about the whole universe, the cosmos. At the beginning of production, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it bigger and better, which was the wrong thing to do. The writing and all are very similar to the show. What's marvelous is that it's all wide-screen in the movie version. The depth, the seriousness, the size of the image, it seems more momentous."

Is there truth in the rumors that the script by the series creator and executive producer Chris Carter has had to be substancially reworked? "A huge task that Chris Carter had to do, which he accomplished, was having that movie play to people who have never seen the series, while at the same time not treating the people who watch the show like they're stupid," she explains. "This is difficult. I mean, for somebody who is so involved in it as I am, any kind of exposition or backtracking and you want to jump under a train."

Apropos of jumping under a train, let's talk about David Duchovny the costar she failed to thank in her acceptance speeches for both her Golden Globe and her Emmy. "What if you and David someday turn out like the old vaudeville team The Sunshine Boys-you've worked together forever an you love/hate each other, but people keep shoving you together in projects."

I have a feeling David and I will be much closer after the series is done and we don't have to be with each other daily," Anderson observes. "We can come back together for a second feature four or so years from now. As much as I will feel a huge weight off my shoulders when the series is done, it's gonna be bittersweet. I'm sure all those wonderful moments that David and I have shared together will come to mind and I'll be reminiscing about it for years."

"In all of these The Way We Were-ish memories," I ask, will there be one of a time you witnessed Duchovny totally naked?" Anderson laughs. "Do you mean naked emotionally, physically? Oh never mind, I know you mean physically? Well, I'm sure I've walked into his trailer while he's changing, thinking it was my trailer, of course, shocked him stark naked. I think what his fans truly want to here is that...umm...he's apparently, and I believe this is true, well hung. In terms of his body, he's got, you know..." Anderson is all but squirming by now. "I can't believe you put me on the spot here. He's in good shape. Good shape."

"Would you," I ask next, "match-make him with a particularly favorite girlfriend of yours?" At this Anderson fires me a Don't do this to me glance, but answers gamely, "I've suggested match-making to him with people that I don't know personally."

"If you hadn't," I persist, "been saddled together on the series that will not die, could there ever have been or could there still be sexual spark between you?"

"Oh, sure," she replies, matter-of-factly. "I mean, sure. I could see it. I know this sounds insane, but certain men's hand can make me uncomfortable. Hands are very important to me in a man. He needs to work on the hands. But there's no doubt he is an incredibly attractive man, mostly because of his sense of self and his charisma. He has a certain arrogance that's very appealing to women. I could see us at some point going on a date. But I don't know how long it would last. I don't see myself as his type."

Trafficking as she and her costar do in the paranormal and the demonic on the show- and, especially, one hears, in the movie-Anderson must have given some thought to the nature of cosmic forces. Does she think she's ever come face to face with pure Evil? "There have been a couple of people," she says, "that I have...met or spent time with...people who, for one reason or another, embodied that. There was a moment in Hellcab in Chicago when I was waiting for a friend at the restaurant where she worked and I was sitting at the bar. The bartender's best friend had just run away with his girlfriend, his TV, his stereo equipment. Out of the corner of my ear, I heard him describe in detail with so much rage and hate how he wanted to punish the guy, the exact action he wanted to take. I had to go to the bathroom and throw up, to physically purge myself of that energy. I have a really hard time talking about this--" Anderson waves away the subject, looking flushed and upset.

"Well, if anything can drive someone to extremes, it's probably love," I say, bringing the conversation around to her love life. Anderson admits that she is at the moment "definitely seeing someone," but declines to elaborate beyond the fact that it's Rodney Rowland. During her Michigan adolescence, Anderson sported a nose ring and Mohawk, was voted by her classmates Most Bizarre Girl, and gravitated to bad boys like her 21-year-old punk musician she dated when she was 14. In her adult life, and, specifically, the last couple of years, that tendency has to some degree persisted, aside from her relationship with her ex-husband, whom she unwaveringly describes as "a good person." There was, after all, the fleeting involvement with Adrian Hughes which ended with the news of criminal investigation. "I tend to have quick, accurate perceptions of people," Anderson says. "If I pay attention to the first instinct, I am usually very accurate about somebody and know when to walk away. I mean, in the past-I think it's more with men than with women-I've been just dumb. I trusted too much in areas where I shouldn't. I know it, but I go there anyway." Generally speaking, what would Anderson say is the appeal of the bad guys? "I think, honestly, it usually stems from some kind of miscommunication between the girl and her father," she theorizes. "If there was a lack of affection, a situation where she either has to prove herself for his love or that was never 'enough' in some way, she will have a tendency to mirror that dynamic in future relationships. With a young man, that translates as someone rebellious, who really couldn't care one way or another whether she was in his life, who ignores her. For the girl, she's constantly in that struggle of 'Does he love me or doesn't he love me?' And that's more attractive than someone who says right out, 'I love you.'

"I know from experience what it is I need in a relationship," Anderson says of her own life, insisting that, should she ever wed again, it won't be before she's known the man a long time. "I'm starting to have a clear idea of what it is I can give in a relationship. Because now it's me and Piper, or, I should say, Piper and me. I'm very particular and incredibly determined that I will not introduce anybody new to her for a long period of time. There is someone in my life, as I said, and we have a relationship. And I have my relationship with Piper. That works. It's appropriate. No serial dads."

Anderson needs to prepare herself for tonight's shooting-"more running and jumping," she says. I ask, in parting, "Are you having fun?" She answers, "Yes I am," then amends that to say, "At times, I am. Sometimes, there are still long stretches when I don't have any. Part of my catharsis while being here, though, has involved spending time in the ocean, being in the water, enjoying the feel of the sun on my skin. I've been bodysurfing and regular surfing. I'm learning how to have fun for the first time." She breaks out in such an unexpected peel of laughter that it surprises us both, then adds, "And you know? I'm all for it."


Transcript provided by Karen and appears courtesy of Movieline Magazine.



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