April 3, 1999
by Jeanne Wolf
The single file: From Scully to Sean Connery, Gillian Anderson has no regrets, she tells Jeanne Wolf
I feel as though I'm in a scene from the X Files. Repeated knocks on the door of Gillian Anderson's home in a trendy Los Angeles beach-side suburb get no response. In fact, the house looks suspiciously unlived-in. Have alien forces abducted Agent Dana Scully? My investigation reveals a note directing all deliveries to a nearby address.
I try again at another house along the beach and Anderson promptly answers the door looking positively girlish, her gloriously red hair held back by a simple band and not a trace of make-up on her flawless skin. She explains that, while her own home is being renovated, she has temporarily relocated to this rented house, which has a stunning view of the ocean.
The Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning star settles on a couch and gives her large dog, Cleo, and absent-minded pat, clearly enjoying a rare chance to relax from the contact pressure of career and single motherhood.
The complex woman Anderson plays on the X Files, now in its sixth season, has made her famous and opened the door to films ranging from the big screen version of the TV series to her current co-starring role in Playing By Heart, a bittersweet exploration of love and relationships whose ensemble cast includes Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Ellen Burstyn and rising star Angelina Jolie.
"Ironically, my character in Playing By Heart was a lot like Agent Scully," she says. "I play Meredith, a woman who gets a lot of satisfaction from her job as a theatre director, but has a love-life that's virtually non-existent after being hurt by a long list of men. Meredith thinks she's staunchly committed to staying single."
Romance intrudes when Meredith meets a man who could be Mr Right, played by comedian Jon Stewart; but she is sure that he's too good to be true. For Anderson, the idea that her date-weary character tries to put up walls against love made perfect sense. "It's easy to tell yourself you'd rather be alone," she admits, "especially after you've been burned a few times. Opening up your heart is not an easy thing to so."
Anderson doesn't deny that she felt a little vulnerable on the set, surrounded by some legendary co-stars. "I felt completely out of my league next to Ellen Burstyn, "she admits, "and Sean Connery was amazing. There's something he projects on screen that is radiant - sexual and intriguing.
"One of the things that attracted me to Playing By Heart was that it deals with honesty in relationships," she continues. "I try to live my life being totally honest with the people who are closest to me, and to see a script that reflected that intrigued me. This movie is very much about having the courage to tell the truth and to discover that you can commit to someone."
Anderson's own marriage to X Files assistant art director Clyde Klotz began with an impulsive wedding ceremony conducted by a Buddhist priest on the 17th hole of a golf course in Hawaii and ended in divorce. Their four-year-old daughter, Piper, lives with Anderson. Now she's single and 30, but not closing herself off from the possibility of romance. "I have time for the right relationship," she insists. "I don't have time for flings. I don't have time for somebody who's not on my wavelength - which is about work, family and honesty. If I could find that kind of relationship, I'd open my life up without hesitation."
How will she know if she's found Mr Right? Anderson smiles. "Come on. It's pretty easy to tell. You can have a couple of dinners with someone and sense what their real intentions are and how compatible you are. But that's not a priority for me right now. I've never gone to singles bars. I've never really dated. That's not the way you meet somebody. I'm not looking. I believe that, if a relationship is meant to be, a person will come into my life. It's not going to happen because I'm searching."
Anderson shrugs at the thought that the X Files is any way limiting her personal choices. "There are times when I get tired or frustrated," she says, "but I have a lot of gratitude for having Scully in my life for so long. Also, we have a lot of fun shooting the series. We might not crack a smile on camera, but we laugh between takes."
When reminded that a lot of male fans of the X Files find Agent Scully sexy, Anderson laughs. "I know. At first I thought it was bizzare. I just didn't get it. Now I think I do. A lot of men who watch TV have been used to seeing blonde, chesty, leggy women in skimpy clothes. Scully is a change of pace. There's something about that mixture of her intelligence and that male fantasy of - 'What does she really look like underneath those tailored suits?' That's my take on why Scully turns them on."
As for whether Scully is turned on by Mulder, played by David Duchovny, she observes: "We've kissed once, but from day one of the series we agreed that a romance just wouldn't work." She is referring to an episode recently seen by Sky viewers and due to be shown on the BBC in the autumn.
"My real-life relationship with David is very much like Mulder and Scully's," she continues. "They mostly deal with each other in regard to business. They very rarely get into each other's personal lives. That's sort of how David and I are. We basically do our work and go our separate ways. We don't hang out on weekends."
When she isn't on camera, Anderson can be found hanging out with Piper, a familiar to the cast and crew of the X Files and accompanied her mother to the set of Playing by Heart. "Piper and Sean Connery struck up quite a friendship," Anderson says with a grin. "Men, women and children are all attracted to him. My daughter went right for Sean when she saw him.
"Piper is so inquisitive," she continues. "She asks the most amazing questions. She wants to know everything - why the waves don't stop, what's inside trees, how we see. She wants answers to those questions. I answer the ones that I can and the others I say: 'You know what, sweetie, I really don't know, but maybe we can find out together."
Anderson considers what she learned about being a mother from her own childhood. "I had a sense of what was missing in the way that I was brought up," she says finally. "That's nothing against my parents because they did their very best. But there were certain areas where I could have used more help and more understanding. And those are the things that I focus on with Piper.
"I could have heard more that I was OK just the way that I was, that I was enough," she adds. "I didn't know that because I didn't hear that. But my daughter knows that she's OK just the way she is. I let her make mistakes. You get to learn a lot as a mom."
In fact, being a single mother - even with the struggles and sacrifices - seems to have brought Anderson a sense of self that has freed her to explore acting opportunities like Meredith in Playing By Heart. Looking back on her own rise to the top in Hollywood, she has her own no-nonsense perspective on where's she been and where she's going.
"I've always kind of run to the beat of a different drum. And I have felt what it feels like not to be myself. But from my experience and what I've observed, the level of pain and hardship is equal to the good. That's the only way we can be grateful and move forward through the dark times. I have no regrets, you know. I'm as grateful for the pain as I am the times of bliss."
(Playing By Heart opens on May 7; series six of the X Files is currently being shown on Sky One on Sundays and will be on the BBC in the autumn).
Transcript provided by Caroline and appears courtesy of Express.