By Melissa J. Perenson
Gillian Anderson made her name playing the skeptical FBI agent Scully. And now it's made her a movie star.
Attired in a sleek black dress with a long-sleeve brown shirt covering her arms, and with her usually bright auburn hair in a newly coifed brown-colored 'do', actress Gillian Anderson looks nothing like her on-screen persona, Special Agent Dana Scully.
But as soon as the Emmy Award-winning actress discusses her role in the imminent X-Files movie, her carefully measured comments and steady intonation reflects the influence her character has had on her - and that she has had on her character.
The X-Files movie raises the stakes for the series. “I think that there was a challenge for Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz to come up with a script that appealed to both the pre-existing audience and an audience that had never seen the series,” Anderson notes. “In a sense, that may have been a risk for them and the studio. But I think in the long run they have absolutely stepped up to the plate and they've succeeded.”
Anderson feels that the movie has the potential to extend beyond the series' established fan base. “What's going to bring anybody to see Independence Day, you know?” she postulates. “I think it's an adventure, it's huge, exciting experience, and it's a wild ride. And I think that anybody who's interested in going to the movies purely for entertainment will enjoy it. They'll also enjoy the relationship between Mulder and Scully, even though they may have never experienced them before. And what I was struck by greatly in the movie was the love story, which is quite rare in action / adventure films.”
Yet asked whether she thinks Mulder and Scully should become involved on the show, Anderson immediately answers, “No. It would ruin the show. When would we kiss? When would we talk about it? Flying around a corner just before you're going to shoot an alien, we're going to smooch? I don't know,” she muses aloud. “I think it's either one or the other.”
Both Duchovny and Anderson are consummate professionals whose on-screen chemistry sizzles, and whose off-screen chemistry changes with the demands and pressures of the series - and life in general. As with Mulder and Scully, “the relationship shifts constantly,” affirms Anderson. “On a daily basis, it shifts. It's complicated and that's gone through the ringer of speculation in the media and tabloids. “I really couldn't care less about what's said in the tabloids. Whether what's out there is truth or fiction, there's nothing that can be done or said about it. There've been some absurd things written about our relationship and there have been some very accurate things written about our relationship,” she states firmly. “And I don't think anybody could really understand it. And if anybody would understand, it would be somebody from the crew in Vancouver.”
When told that Duchovny has mentioned her dedicated persistence to getting a take right, no matter what the hour or circumstances, Anderson demures. “I mean, I don't think I used so many words. I don't think I've ever said, 'Okay, David, let's do this scene.' And if I did, I think he'd probably slap me!” she laughs. “But I think that I have these survivor mechanisms that just kind of poke up and rear their heads.”
Although not necessarily the toughest scene to film - that honour might be reserved for Anderson and Duchovny's sprint through the cornstalks - certainly the most uncomfortable scene for Anderson was the Antarctica sequence featuring her in a pod tank filled with a gelatinous fluid. “It wasn't fun,” recalls the actress. “It was done in a few different stages. I'd rather not do it again. The first time, there was water and some kind of gelatin goopy stuff. And then the second time, to get some shots, I actually had to dunk into a tank that was kind of colored, that had some milk in it, too, to make it that kind of color. It was one of those things I'd rather not think about.”
Duchovny may have more of the rough-and-tumble scenes, but for Anderson, the X-Files feature gives the actress a chance to showcase the multi-dimensional nature of the character of Scully. “I like her integrity and how she will stop at nothing in the pursuit of justice. I think that's very honourable,” muses Anderson. “And that she always wants to do the right thing. She cares about people, about other human beings, and she's kind.”
Unlike her co-star, Anderson generally avoids becoming actively involved in suggesting developments for her character. “I can speak as much as I want. It's a matter of what's heard,” she clarifies. “But I don't generally [bother], because from day one, Chris has had such a strong understanding and knowledge and he created these characters. There's never a time when I say in regards to a script, 'Scully would never do that or Scully wouldn't say that.' It just wouldn't happen. I have dabbled less in the plot scenarios than David has simply because I haven't had time. He's got hours in his trailer between set-ups and I have my daughter. That's usually what I think about first.”
With the start of the series sixth season imminent, Anderson is looking forward to the show being located in Los Angeles for the coming season. However, her voice is filled with emotion when she speaks of how she misses Vancouver, the city in which X-Files was filmed for its first five seasons. “I still have my house up there, so we'll be going back periodically. It's a wonderful place for us to spend the first couple of years, and they were very good to us. I couldn't have wished for a better experience,” she enthuses.
After having had her share of the limelight these past five years, Anderson is quick to concur that fame is highly overrated. Being recognized everywhere she goes is still something she's getting used to. “I had a long weekend and went to Sedona [Arizona] and rented a vehicle. At the rental counter the guy was being incredibly nice to me. I was wearing my disguise, a baseball hat and glasses - it never works.” The car rental agent was ready to go miles out of his way to lead Anderson to a place to eat, leaving Anderson perplexed at first. But then her manager paged her, and upon mentioning the incident to her, she recalls, her manager replied, “You know you're in UFO land,” “I was in a whole 'nother land,” laughs Anderson. “I wasn't in Kansas anymore, so to speak.”
Even her social life has been impacted by the fame engendered by playing Scully. Anderson says she finds it more difficult going out with people now, “because you go out to dinner with a very good friend and it's assumed that you guys are seeing each other. Then attention is brought to that person and stuff is dug up on their personal life and it sucks,” she says bluntly. “Or even if you go on a date with somebody and you're not quite sure whether it's going to work out, or whether you want it to, in a sense the press on it forces it one way or another.”
Dating someone who's also an actor makes it easier, Anderson adds. “Generally, celebrities are in social situations around other celebrities and that's how they end up in relationships with other celebrities. I think sometimes it's easier to be involved with somebody who understands that dilemma of celebrity-dom, and it's easier in a relationship to have that common experience or that common understanding.”
A common understanding isn't all the actress finds herself contending with, though. “A lot of men that I've experienced are threatened by a woman making more money than they do over the long haul,” Anderson says. “And so that's something that has to be discussed and considered when you're thinking about being in a relationship with somebody.”
Anderson maintains her focus in part by not allowing herself to be distracted by the outside influences. For example, she avoids using the Internet herself, although she does have a pile of educational CD-ROMS for children that she play on her laptop with her three-and-a-half year old daughter, Piper Maru. “I'm terrified of losing consciousness or delving into some other reality that I'm not able to come out of, and where I'll forget I'm a mother and have responsibilities in my life,” she explains.
Nor is the actress bothered by the intimidating number of fan sites on the Web dedicated to her. “I don't log in to any of the Web sites about me or the show or Scully's dog or whatever is out there,” she says. “And as far as I'm concerned, most of the Web sites are safe realms for people to communicate about something that they have a mutual enjoyment of. And it's not harming anybody. It's certainly not harming me. I really feel that whatever makes you happy...”
For now, when not working Anderson devotes her time to her daughter. And although the timing's not right at the moment, she hopes to eventually have another child, too. In the future, she hopes to focus her career on film. “I guess the objective is to do projects of my choice,” she offers. “To really pick and choose and choose something to say and something that means something to me.”
Getting to the point where she knows what she wants out of life wasn't an easy path for Anderson, who was born in Chicago and spent part of her youth in London. After a rebellious period during which she embraced punk, got a nose ring, and did her hair in a mohawk, Anderson turned to acting in high school. She went on to spend four years at DePaul University's Goodman Theatre School, studying her craft from 1986 to 1990. “I can't remember the moment when I decided this was what I wanted to do or how I first ended up in my first audition or what drove me there,” she says. “I really have no memory of that at all.” With five years of the X-Files under her belt, Anderson now has a solid sense of what sorts of projects make sense to take on concurrent with X-Files.
In addition to a cameo in Chicago Cab, later this year Anderson can be seen in The Mighty, an adaptation of a children's book directed by Peter Chelsom. Determined to get the role, Anderson had to convince the director - who was in London at the time - that she was the right actress for the part, and that she could do more than just play the staid Scully. Taking the initiative, Anderson made a tape of herself in her living room and sent it off to Chelsom. Based on the tape, she got the role of Loretta, a continually drunk woman with an appalling fashion sense - and a good-hearted conscience. At first, she had one vision of how to play the character, but Chelsom had other ideas after seeing her on the cover of Rolling Stone looking like the heroine of a B-grade monster movie. “He said, 'just make her really wacky.' So that's what you see,” Anderson says of her brief but memorable performance in the film.
During the hiatus between X-Files' Seasons Five and Six, Anderson was busy yet again, this time filming Dancing About Architecture. The drama's ensemble cast includes Sean Connery, Dylan McDermott, Dennis Quaid, Madeleine Stowe, and Gena Rowlands. As much as she wants to branch out and do different things, it's Anderson's hope that the X-Files movie will be the first of many. “Hopefully, we're not going to be doing the series for the next 10 years, and doing the movies on the hiatus.” She pauses before continuing. “Hopefully, the film will be so successful that the series will trail off, and we'll just be doing the movies once in a while.”
Transcript typed by Alfred Tow and appears courtesy of Cult Times.