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Sci-Fi TV
Feb. 2000

Agent Provocateur
by Ian Spelling

Gillian Anderson never thought it would happen. "No, she says in response to the question, "Did you ever think The X-Files would run seven years?"

"No, no, no." Dramatic pause. "No," she repeats again for good measure. "I thought five years would be the max. At the beginning I thought two years would be the max. Then, I thought five years was going to be the max. And now we're on seven. Never. No."

As incredulous as Anderson may be, The X-Files has indeed lived to see a seventh season. In that time, the actress has become a major star and earned an Emmy Award as best actress for her performance as Dana Scully, the science minded FBI agent who struggles to keep Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), her conspiracy-loving partner, in check. As the show has evolved, so too has Scully. She has witnessed the inexplicable, almost died and, along with Mulder, nearly given in to a long-repressed-and mutually shared-romantic yearning.

Just how changed a character is Scully today from the woman audiences first met in the series pilot? "She's very different," Anderson notes. "In the beginning, she was very much Mulder's sidekick, in a sense. She kind of followed him in the background. And I was actually instructed at the beginning-not many people know this-- to walk a few paces behind David. It sounds like India, doesn't it?"

And Anderson, then essentially an unknown for whom The X-Files represented her big break, was way too green and far too green and far too powerless to argue the situation. "I didn't know what the hell was going on," she admits. "Things have changed considerably."

These days there's no separating Scully and Mulder. They are a team, partners in crime-solving and a romance just waiting to happen. Fans seem to appreciate Anderson as much as they do Duchovny, and Anderson continues to generate real celebrity heat, regularly turning up on magazine covers. Also, like Duchovny, Anderson has landed an array of very un-X-filesesque projects during the show's hiatus. Anderson's off season projects have included The Mighty, Playing by Heart, Princess Mononoke and the upcoming drama The House of Mirth.

But more on those X-tracirricular activities later. First to further X-Files tidbits. "I was very pleased with season six," says Anderson, who figured prominently in "Tithonus," "Arcadia," "Milagro," "Three of a Kind," and the cliff hanger "Biogenesis" among others. "And I think the scripts so far [in the seventh season] are as good as any other year. We're moving along really strongly." Season Seven, of course, kicked off with "The Sixth Extinction" two-parter and also featured a Millennium wrap up episode entitled, appropriately enough, "Millennium."

Much has been made of the likelihood that this year will be the last for The X-Files. Duchovny's contract is up, and given not only his oft-expressed desire to move on, but the recent public dispute over his share of The X-Files' syndication jackpot no one expects him to return for an eighth year. Carter has yet to rule out anything, but he's stated he's writing seventh season episodes with the close of shop in mind, noting that a final go-not-go decision will have to be made by February. As for Anderson, her contract contains an option for another season, but the actress hopes Carter and 20th Century Fox Televison will respect her "private reasons" and not compel her to return for 22 episodes.

So, if the light at the end of the X-Files tunnel is truly in sight, what would Anderson like to see or do as her alter-ego in the show's closing chapters? "I want more fight scenes," she responds laughing. "I want more scenes where Scully gets to throw a few more karate kicks. I want at least one, one more. I had one good one [Bad Blood (Amy thinks it's Kill Switch)], but I really want one more." And how about Scully and Mulder finally getting cozy? "I think it would be nice," she notes. "Whether it's in a last season episode or in one of the movies, it's like 'Enough already.'"

Speaking of X-Files movies, Anderson reports that she's "absolutely" open to reprising her role in future X-Files features, if there are future X-Files features. "I got mixed reactions," she says, referring to the first big screen adventure. "Some people say, 'Oh my God, it was so successful.' And I'm sure that Fox's view is that it wasn't as successful as they would have liked it to have been. I was...pleased."

Right now, the actress is several episodes deep into the last X-Files season. The mood on the set, she reveals, is not one of building toward the end. Not yet anyway. "We're not getting that feeling but I'm sure it's just the energy of people trying to move forward and do the work" she says. "If there was an energy now about it being the end, it might be counter productive. Also, it might be a different story if we were still shooting up in Vancouver. Those guys were with us from the very beginning. It would be much more emotional from the start of the last season than this is. Some of these crew members were with us last season and some weren't. So, the [old-timers] may be having feelings of loss, ending or mourning, but nobody else is."

But from every end; a new beginning--most notably for Anderson, Princess Mononoke and The House of Mirth. Released in the United States around Halloween, Princess Mononoke was the English Language version of anime legend Hiyao Miyazaki's hit Japanese adventure. The mythic, pro-environment story involves a cursed young man, Ashitaka (voiced by Billy Crudup), who tries to restore harmony before it's too late--too late for him and for Earth itself. Anderson voices the ominous wolf god Moro, joining a talent list that includes Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett Smith, Futurama's John Di Maggio and Dwight Schultz. Acclaimed comic book writer and novelist Neil Gaiman co-wrote the English language screenplay adaptation with voice director Jack Fletcher.

"I'be always loved animation," Anderson enthuses. "When I was little and we lived in London, my dad was involved a little bit in animation. So it was always around in some way or another. After my daughter [Piper] was born, somebody introduced me to My Neighbor Totoro, which is one of Miyazaki's films. And we both fell in love with that. After I did Mononoke, I was introduced to Kiki's Delivery Service, and we fell in love with that too. Right now, I'm trying to get hold of Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which is supposed to be really good. I just love Miyazaki's work."

Though she wanted desperately to participate in Princess Mononoke, Anderson found the task of acting solely with her voice far tougher than she anticipated. "It's so hard," she says. "If I'm just talking and using my own voice, that's one thing. That's fine. But coming up with a character just through the voice--determining what pitch, what rhythm, what is appropriate for that character-is hard. Initially, when I sat down, they told me that the actor who played the character in the original Japanese version is a very famous Japanese transvestite with a very, very, deep voice. I thought 'They should have cast a guy. How can I get to that place?' The stuff this character has to say is very primitive. It all gets to the point. I initially had doubts as to whether or not I would be able to pull it off. As I started to work on the voice, I still had doubts. It took a long time for me to get to a place, to do a take, where I thought, 'This is where I need to be and this is what's appropriate for this character.' It's so frustrating at the beginning; at least it was for me. I didn't find it easy. Once you're done, it's incredibly fulfilling, but I can't necessarily say I enjoyed the process.

Princess Mononoke involved only a few days work. The House of Mirth, directed by Terence Davies and based on the Edith Warton novel of the same name, proved to be a far more complicated affair. "You have no idea how amazing it is that the film came together in the end," Anderson explains. "It certainly seemed at many different points that it wasn't going to. But it has and I think Terrence has done a phenomenal job with it. I can't wait to see how it comes together. It was wonderfully challenging to work on and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

"Whenever I try to describe it, I go on and on. I haven't found a way to make it sound interesting yet. It's about a woman, Lily Bart, who is caught in a society at the turn of the century, where woman are raised for one thing and that is to marry and, hopefully, to marry wealth. She and everyone around her has been bred for that. She is expected to perform in that way, to use all of her looks and guiles to attract the right wealthy man, so that she can be at the top of her class.

"Ultimately, her morals are too high; she just can't bring herself to commit to men purely for money and not love. These particular morals end up being her downfall. So, it's a film about paying attention to your instincts, about honesty and about being true to yourself. If nothing else, given the way Terrence shoots his movies and that we had Remi Adefarasin, the cinematographer on Elizabeth, on it as well, the film will be visually stunning."

There's no mistaking the fact that The Mighty is as distinct from Playing By Heart as Princess Mononoke is from The House of Mirth. And, obviously, they're all extremely unlike The X-Files. Anderson acknowledges that such diversity results from dual urges: to test and push herself, and also to display her range to audiences. "I like to be shaken," she says. "Especially after doing The X-Files for so long, it's like I'm a race horse at the gate. I'm dying to get loose and do as much as I can and be as challenged in as many ways as I can. I feel there are so many things I have to say. I'm just trying to find those projects that let me express those different things. Also, I really belive in the power of film. I think film has the ability to change people's lives in small and big ways. My goal is to be involved in those kind of films."

Thus, no surprise, the actress has already mapped out in her head the ideal post-X-Files career "It would encompass one or two projects a year, jumping between independent films, great commercial features and theater," Gillian Anderson concludes. "That would be perfect.

Transcript appears courtesy of Sci Fi TV.

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