Gillian Anderson is a surprise and she knows it. She is small neat and pretty when people expect bigger, flashier and more glamorous. But there is a catch - underestimate her at your peril. Anderson 31, is currently one of the world's most recognisable women. She is watched by a billion people on television in 70 countries, with The X-Files currently reigning as the most popular series on Earth. She earns around $100,000 an episode. She was reportedly paid a further $4m for The X-Files film, in which her analytical character, Dana Scully, continues to try to bring scientific sense to excitable FBI partner Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) while they investigate alien sightings or the paranormal. And she's frequently been voted The World's Sexiest Woman by readers of leading men's magazines.
The is little outward sign of any such fame or sex appeal as she sits in her suite London's Dorchester Hotel. Her 5ft 3in figure is dressed in black jacket, with long black skirt; the only jewelry she wears is a thin chain around her neck and an expensive-looking watch in gold and silver.
Anderson is so good at reinventing herself, she is like something metamorphosing from The X Files itself. On one day, in a particular set of photographs she can look sensational. On another scrubbed of make-up and with auburn hair pulled back, she can pass unrecognised on the street.
As a teenager, she had a pierced nose, Mohican haircut and a punk rocker boyfriend, though she doesn't like to be reminded of any of them. Now, with her four-year-old daughter Piper, plus nanny, she seems the epitome of motherhood and good sense.
Her spectacular reinvention began six years ago in a film studio on the outskirts of Vancouver, Canada, When The X-Files creator, Chris Carter, was under pressure from financial backers of the new show to cast a Hollywood star, preferably big-breasted and blonde. Instead, he wanted an unknown who could appear sophisticated and intelligent.
Enter Anderson, a struggling actress. Once a rebellious student at DePaul University's Goodman Theatre School, she was able to project herself as one of the brightest, sanest, most accomplished women he'd ever met.
Since then, Anderson's life, Dana Scully and the series itself have been inextricably linked and she has proved that Carter's judgment was spot on. "I don't need a science degree to act,' she says. But I don't know how much Scully and I would have to talk about if we ever met.
'I am spontaneous and she's not. She can live without close personal relationships, where I find that difficult. She is obscenely intelligent. I am not. And she always looks around 5ft 6in tall'. Underneath Anderson's soft, self-deprecating exterior is a determination and toughness that has helped her survive. She met and married the show's art director, Clyde Klotz, with whom she had her daughter, after a whirlwind romance. Their parting and subsequent divorce led him to leave the series.
Then there was the rumoured relationship with the British actor Adrian Hughes, who played a bit part in The X-Files. Next came Rod Rowland, another actor on the show. After more than a year together, he was allegedly dumped last summer while on a holiday in Bali.
'It has been difficult to find a man who can live with a woman's fame,' she says. 'Men feel a certain responsibility to be the breadwinner and protector; men find it difficult to be in a situation where they are not earning the most. They feel less powerful. My experience in recent times is that it makes for an uncomfortable imbalance. I would love to find a man who was completely relaxed with my celebrity and financial situation. 'But when I am working I am not in contact with men in a romantic way. The show is the only way I am going to meet them and become involved and that has happened a few times. It films for nine months a year and takes over my life for virtually every waking moment.
'So, apart from looking after Piper, I have very little energy to pursue a relationship. This is why Hollywood has a celebrity dating system, where one manager can call another manager to arrange for their clients to meet. have I done it? Not yet.'
She has also tackled another problem with men-the wide discrepancy between the salary of acting partner, David Duchovny, and her own. Duchovny, 39, with ten movies to his name before the launch of The X-Files, was on more than twice her fee. They are now paid almost equally and she is unapologetic: 'It was fair, to begin with, that there was a difference - but no longer,' she says. 'And the film would not have been made at all, as far as I'm concerned, if we had not been paid absolutely equally.'
There is also a pragmatic view on the relationship with her co-star. 'We work well together and then go our separate ways,' she says. 'We do not socialise, any more than two people at work socialise. Sometimes we have a lot of fun together in front of the cameras; at other times, it is a matter of just surviving. I hardly have enough time for my family and real friends, without spending much time in his company. He did not tell me of his marriage in 1997, for example, (to American actress Téa Leoni) and that's just the way things are. He wanted to do it privately and I understand that.'
Anderson completed the sixth series of The X-Files in May - it switched base from Vancouver to Los Angeles for the first time - before traveling to Britain. She has been in Scotland, filming The House of Mirth, and adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel about upper-class New York society in the early 1900s. It co-stars Dan Aykroyd and Laura Linney, who played Jim Carrey's wife in The Truman Show. Gillian plays a successful socialite torn between her heart and her head.
'At last, it gives me a chance to be in a movie without having to play Scully,' she says. 'But I can't say a word against the woman. She has transformed my life.' And no fan of The X-Files will be disappointed in her polished performance in The X-Files movie. For the legion of followers, key questions are finally answered - including whether aliens are visitors to Earth, or whether they have been here for millions of years.
Scully and Mulder, contrary to speculation from hordes of fans do not consummate their restrained working relationship - the closest we see is a potential kiss, which dissolves into a pressing of cheeks and a close hug. Gillian Anderson, reformed rebel, movie star and sophisticated new woman, reflects on her life: 'It is only in moments like now, when I have a chance to step back, that I think: I've had the show, a marriage, pregnancy, baby, divorce, fame and films - all in six years. I wonder: "What does the future hold?"
Transcript appears courtesy of UK Cable Guide.