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David Duchovny is back on TV, but it may be a role that shocks fans of his delightful talk show banter. Even his X-Files fans may think Californication is more “out there” than the truth Mulder was seeking. Duchovny plays Hank, a struggling writer in Hollywood who wastes his days drinking, smoking, doing drugs and having meaningless flings with interchangeable women, to fill the void left by his ex-wife. It is a comedy.

“It's lighthearted even though it's about a guy in despair,” Duchovny told Dish during this year’s TCA Press Tour in Los Angeles. “It's still got a light touch to it because at its heart it's a comedy, and I think that's what makes it not a sitcom. Even compared to Sex and the City or something, that's much lighter. This is a seemingly stark world, but it still has this buoyant heart which is what I want this character to be. There's something fun-loving about him.”

Sometimes the actor adds comedy to dark moments himself. In the first episode, he decided to laugh after taking a punch to the face “This guy's response to chaos is laughter because that's actually what he feels all the time. So when it actually turns out the way that he thinks the world is, it's actually pretty funny to him. Rather than get outraged that I've been punched in the nose or horrified, I said to the director, ‘You need to stay on me because I need to laugh at this.’ It became one of the best moments in the pilot and that's something that we're trying to continue. There'll be scenes that we're doing and I'll say, ‘We need to show Hank laughing here, at the worst possible time.’”

As far out as Duchovny is willing to go, he still worries about likeability. Extinguishing a cigarette in holy water may not endear Hank to viewers, but series creator Tom Kapinos has no qualms about pushing audiences further and further away from Hank. “I'm always the one who says, ‘Wait, can we recover this guy?’ It's always that question of whether he can come back next week and will you still like him.”

Hank must be an intense role to play day in and day out for 11 straight episodes, but it has not prevented him from going home and enjoying a happy family life. Duchovny comes right out of the dark place, if not completely out of his own self-criticism.

“I guess that some actors are like that, but it's never really been a concern for me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm no good, but I think that sometimes what happens during the day, it's just like a workplace. I'll be driving home and I'll be like, 'F***, that sucked' but it's not because of the character. It just didn't go the way that I wanted it to go. That's hard to shake because you take your work home with you, but I don't take the character home with me. I certainly take the work home with me because I love it and I'm into it and that's where I'm at.”

In real life, Duchovny is married to actress Tea Leoni. Their two children complete a happy home. With the toddlers, Hollywood is barely on the radar.

“They like craft service,” he tells me, laughing. They think it's fun to come visit the set. Obviously my kids aren't going to see this show for a number of years and even The X-Files they're not going to see before five or six years, even if they want to. I've done one job that my kids have seen basically, Beethoven, which was the movie about the dog. They haven't even seen Jurassic Park 3 with Tea in it yet. So they know that we're actors and they know that sometimes people know who we are and they understand why they know who we are, but I'm sure they wish that I was on like Hannah Montana or something.”

To further solidify their ten years together and counting, Duchovny and Leoni got tattoos on their last anniversary in May. Body art is more permanent than wedding rings anyway, Duchovny explains.

“I hate wearing the metal because I bang it everywhere and I hurt myself and then losing it. So we made a compromise. I said, 'If I get a tattoo can I take that ring off?' She said, 'Sure.' She liked the tattoo and she went ahead and got one for herself. It's a phrase that we say to one another, but I don't actually tell anybody. It's AYSF which stands for ‘something we say.’”

Family life is a happy routine for the Leoni-Duchovnys. Most days end early, unlike Hank’s hard partying ways.

“[After work I] sit down and have a drink with Tea usually. She has a cigarette. I have a drink and around 9:30 we're both like half asleep. An actor’s life is a lot of no routine. So we get a lot of time off and we get no time off and so we just kind of try to make it normal and routine. We try to create a steady life for the kids.”

Then at work he gets to play at dysfunction. "It's a show about an adult trying to function in an adult world. He has certain vices, certain abuses that he's following. Therefore, you see him smoking. You see him drinking. You see him drugging. You see him having sex. These are important things for the guy's state of mind and for the show. It's not done in a gratuitous fashion. It's part of the character."

Californication airs Mondays at 10:30 pm et/pt on Showtime

TV Close-Up: David Duchovny

Aug 24,2007
by Eirik Knutzen

"Californication" - as the title strongly suggests - provides a whole new definition of the term "boob tube." It's particularly evident to viewers tuning in the half-hour comedy on Showtime (dealing with blocked writer Hank Moody drowning his anxieties in sex, sex, sex and alcohol) for the first time. Just in the pilot segment of "Californication," Moody is spotted in bed with at least three topless or nude women, all married or minors. The hapless writer even dreams about off-screen carnal relations with a nun ... A one-hit wonder as a novelist, he authored the highly praised "God Hates Us All," which was turned into a mediocre film starring Tom and Katie titled "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love."

Moody's self-destructive behavior seems fueled by the desire to reconnect with his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, Karen (Natascha McElhone), and their precocious preteen daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin). Duchovny, who garnered huge attention as FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder on "The X-Files" (1993-02), wasn't looking for another TV series project when "Californication" presented itself.

"What got my attention in the pilot script by (creator) Tom Kapinos was the chance to play a romantic antihero in a project reminiscent of the sophisticated sex comedies of the '70s, like 'Shampoo,'" said Duchovny, 47. "And shooting only 11 episodes this season, all in L.A., meant more time with my family."

Duchovny admits to being "only 60 percent in love" with the show's title, but couldn't think of a better one either.

"Although it's a pun, it's not about fornication per se," he explained. "but it does take place in California.

"Just like 'Sex in the City' had sex in it. And I get to play Hank Moody as an unapologetic, intelligent, slightly unhinged, nihilistic romantic. That's a rare television character."

Shooting the initial episodes of "Californication" at a light industrial park in Venice, Calif., not far from his Malibu home, made it easy to communicate in person with his actress-producer wife,Tea Leoni , on a daily basis. One can only assume that they checked Duchovny's production schedule carefully for bedroom scenes with teenagers before bringing the kids - Madeleine, 8, and Kyd, 5 - to the set.

"The set is a really nice place for the kids because there are lots of people there to pay attention to them," says Duchovny, laughing. "My daughter can get her hair and nails done in the makeup trailer while my son gets things like fake tattoos applied to his body. Many, many people keep an eye on them.

"They're young enough where we can take them away for a month or two every year to work in other states, but we're still improvising to keep them as stable as we can."

So far, neither of his children has begged him for walk-ons and bit parts, although it could be a nice way for them to work their way through college by the age of 10, according to a joking Duchovny. He would much rather spend "lazy Sundays" doing nothing with his wife and kids at this point.

"The highest point of being a father is to watch my kids grow increasingly independent and developing personalities that have nothing to do with me - it's shocking and wonderful," he explained. "There are no real lows to parenthood, though your life is never your own again and you worry about them constantly."

The slender, 6-foot, stubble-chinned hyphenate (actor-writer-director-producer-key grip) also stars in the upcoming melodrama/tear-jerker "Things We Lost in the Fire" opposite Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. He is also awaiting the fate of "The Secret," an independent film kept under wraps for the past couple of years, the remake of a psychological thriller based on a Japanese novel and film.

Concurrently, his wife of 10 years is promoting her new motion picture, "You Kill Me," and they're working together on a half-dozen film and TV projects as producers.

"We hope to shoot our first television series, 'Yoga Man,' for Showtime sometime this fall," he explained, "and we have three or four movie projects very close to rolling."

And if the cinema gods cooperate, he will star as spooky Agent Mulder in another film sequel for "The X-Files" next year.

Born in New York City to Scottish-born school teacher mother, Margaret, and Amram Duchovny (of Russian-Jewish extraction), a public relations man-turned-playwright ("The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" was mounted on Broadway in 1967), he took his prep-school brain and talents as a baseball and basketball player at Princeton long enough to earn a bachelor's in English literature.

He moved on to Yale for doctorate studies in English literature, but dropped out in 1987 just a dissertation short of graduating. Duchovny had already taken a few acting classes as a diversion from his studies, but soon grew uneasy with the realization that he was 26 years old and growing bored with academia.

After a few acting lessons, Duchovny was cast in a beer commercial and the feature film "New Year's Day" (1989). His lengthy credits now include "Chaplin" (1992), "Kalifornia" (1993) and 'Zoolander" (2001), plus the TV series "Twin Peaks" and "Red Shoes Diaries."

"I have no regrets leaving Yale, honestly," he chuckled.

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Sex marks the spot

There is life after The X Files for David Duchovny, TV's newest antihero.
Joe Rhodes reports

THE scene, being filmed on a stuffy and intermittently noisy soundstage, involves lots of talking and lots of groping, as many of them do on the new, racy US series Californication.

David Duchovny, as the occasionally unpleasant antihero of the show, a creatively blocked novelist named Hank Moody, is fully committed to the moment. He and Amy Price-Francis, playing one of the many wrong-for-him sexual diversions who populate the story lines, are going at it in a full-on lip-locking kitchen-sink clinch.

"I love women," Duchovny's congenitally flippant character says after being accused of just using female partners to distract himself from his continuing writer's block. "I have all their albums."

"Cut," says the director, Bart Freundlich, one of Duchovny's closest friends, instructing the couple to disengage and start over. "There was a shadow on her head."
Duchovny has been engaging in a lot of this lately, choreographed fake sex with an assortment of actresses in varying states of undress, because Californication, as the title suggests, is chock full of sex.

"It reminded me of movies that I love from the '70s like Shampoo or Blume in Love, where they are adult sex comedies," he says in his trailer between scenes.

"I hate to say that because I'm already going to combat that kind of very easy tag people will have for the show. I'm sure there's going to be people calling it Sex Files and Triple X Files and all that.

"But when I say 'adult'," he continues, "I mean more like a grown-up view of life, family and the kind of stuff that I haven't seen, not in movies and definitely not on network television for a long, long time."

There are plenty of naked bodies (five, including Duchovny's, in the pilot episode alone) and dirty words in Californication but almost all of them lead to punch lines. Sex may be the early selling point but Duchovny says it's not what the show is about.

"In this world of trying to get a foothold with the audience in 10 seconds I think it's a calling card, a way to establish how this show is different," he says of the early emphasis on graphic language and undulating torsos.

"But to me it was never necessary, it was never part of what I felt was funny."

Instead, Duchovny sees Californication as a portrait - sad and funny - of a man wrestling with the realisation that he messed up his best relationships - with his former girlfriend (Natascha McElhone) and their 12-year old daughter (Madeleine Martin) - and in the process sabotaged his ability to write.

Hank's one successful novel God Hates Us All has been pappified into a sappy and successful movie renamed Crazy Little Thing Called Love and starring "Tom and Katie".

He hates the movie, hates himself and seems well on the way to having everyone he cares about hate him too. But, no, really, it's a comedy.

"I had this discussion with my wife," says Duchovny, who has been married to actress Tea Leoni for 10 years, "and she said: 'I don't know. I don't like this guy.' And I said: 'I have a feeling that I know how to play this. I can make this guy somebody that you're going to pull for.'

"Because I think you can like anybody if you understand why they're doing what they're doing, even if what they're doing is reprehensible. And that's what was interesting to me about Hank. Besides being a guy who appears not to care so much about women, the heart of the show is that he really wants to get his family back. And this guy, who appears to be amoral, will end up being the most moral person in the particular universe. To me that was intriguing.

Californication began as an independent screenplay, written by Dawson's Creek writer Tom Kapinos, partly to purge himself of the demons left over from writing for four years on that prime-time teenage soap opera, a period Kapinos calls "both miserable and lucrative".

"I'd spent four years on a show where the characters bore no resemblance to anybody I knew," Kapinos says.

"No one seemed real. And I came off that and just wanted to create a guy that felt more like a romantic '70s antihero. To me, it's a cautionary tale that there are people out there who get it right the first time but somewhere along the way mess it up."

The script, after several revisions to make it a pilot for a dramatic series of one-hour shows, found its way to Showtime, where Robert Greenblatt, the network's president for entertainment, suggested it might be better as a half-hour comedy.

"Flawed main characters is one of our hallmarks and this seems like another great flawed character that hopefully isn't so flawed as to be hopeless," Greenblatt says. It has been five years since Duchovny's last television series, The X Files, with a large and loyal sci-fi-based audience, ended its nine-season run.

That series, in which he played Fox Mulder, an FBI agent investigating paranormal activities, made him a household name, led to a big-budget X Files feature film in 1998, the sequel to which is in pre-production.

But in the years between, Duchovny, who turned 47 this month, has sometimes appeared to be struggling with his career, not quite sure how to follow the enormous success of The X Files.

Californication, he says, is a way to return to television without tarnishing his X Files legacy and, as opposed to the grind of a series, allows him to make 12 episodes a season, leaving plenty of time for other projects.

"I wasn't looking to do another television show necessarily," he says. "This just happened to come my way. I came out of The X Files with a certain pride where I felt, rightly or wrongly, like we'd done a terrific show for a large number of years, maybe one of the handful of best hour-shows that's ever been on TV.

"And the thought of doing another television show that would be in the same realm - not necessarily science fiction but a drama or a crime show - it just seemed empty to me. It just felt like if I was going to do television it would have to be completely different from what I'd done before."

He has written scripts and wants to direct. "I've become more suited to being a director," he says.

"At some point waking up at 6 in the morning and sitting in a make-up chair for a half-hour getting your hair done doesn't suit my temperament."


David films Californication in Beverly Hills

David Duchovny films Californication in Beverly Hills on August 16, 2007

David shooting Californication in Beverly Hills

David shooting Californication right next to traffic in Beverly Hills on August 16, 2007

Duchovny gets physical -- and sexual -- in show

CULVER CITY, California (AP) -- David Duchovny seems calm and easy on the set of his hard-edged new Showtime series with the suggestive title.

But there's a glimpse of a disheveled bed inside Duchovny's spacious trailer, his off-camera refuge on the studio lot. It's a testament to his long hours as principal star of "Californication" and one of its executive producers.

Beds, in fact, are an essential prop on "Californication," a comedy-drama set in Los Angeles and rated MA for explicit language and nudity.

But "it's not a thinly veiled show that's supposed to titillate you," said Duchovny, best known for his role as dour, alien-obsessed FBI Agent Fox Mulder on the classic cult series "The X-Files."

On "Californication," which premiered Monday and repeats Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET, the lanky actor plays dysfunctional writer Hank Moody, who drowns his angst over writer's block and his split with his gorgeous girlfriend, Karen (Natascha McElhone), in bouts of drinking and casual sex.

"It was a character I thought would be challenging to play because he wasn't necessarily likable on the page," Duchovny said of Hank.

When Duchovny first read series creator Tom Kapinos' script for the show's pilot, "it wasn't really about a guy who indiscriminately gets into fights, boozes, who has sex with multiple women," he said. "It was actually about a guy who's doing that because he really wants to be with his family."

Hank and Karen's precocious 12-year-old daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin), also sparks conflict.

The show's title is a play on the term Oregonians once coined for the unwelcome migration of Californians to their state, Kapinos said. (It's also the title of a Red Hot Chili Peppers work.) He shares executive producer duties with Duchovny and Scott Winant.

"Californication" marks Duchovny's return to television as a leading man after roles in feature films including "House of D," which he wrote and directed, and "Trust the Man." He also played oddball cameo roles in the Ben Stiller movie "Zoolander" and on TV series including "The Larry Sanders Show," "Sex and the City" and "Life With Bonnie."

"Californication" also reunites Duchovny with Showtime, where he previously played Jake Winters on the cable network's sex-fantasy series, "Red Shoe Diaries."

Even for an actor who specializes in quirky characters, Duchovny has picked a doozy with wayward Hank Moody.

"Sex is part of the problem with this guy," Duchovny said. "But we don't preach that it's a problem. It's not like he wants to kill himself every time he has sex with someone. He's actually enjoying it, while at the same time realizing that his time could probably be spent better elsewhere."

Doing Hank's sex scenes doesn't trouble Duchovny, he said. "I've done enough of those scenes to know what they are, and to know what to expect. I'm just taking my shirt off, big deal. I can just act it."

But Duchovny does feel for the actresses who play Hank's sex partners. "For me, as an executive producer, I would go into those scenes wondering how to best service those scenes comedically, and how to make sure that the woman is comfortable. As chivalric as it might sound, and as tooting-my-own-horn as it might sound, a woman coming onto a set for one day and having to take her clothes off and simulate coitus with me or anybody is a difficult situation. And care should be taken."

Duchovny finds much to relate to in Hank.

"He doesn't have a conventionally moral way of looking at the universe, and yet ultimately we will find that he actually is a very moral person, that he's one of these guys who tell the truth always, to his own detriment. To me, that's a moral way of living," he said.

Hank's trenchant truth-telling gives Duchovny a chance to indulge his own deadpan brand of humor. There's also occasion for physical shtick.

On this particular day on the set, Duchovny plays a scene in which kitchen-klutzy Hank grabs a burning-hot cheese casserole barehanded. As the oven smokes, Duchovny flaps his palms in pain.

"I like physical humor," Duchovny said. "As I've gotten more comfortable as a performer, I'm able to access whatever my particular sense of humor is, more freely. I feel that much more relaxed."

Although Duchovny directed episodes of "The X-Files," he will not direct any of "Californication's" scheduled 12 episodes, he said. "All the directors that we've had so far are very comfortable with me," he added. "I just say what's on my mind. And everyone's pretty cool with that."

Duchovny's new "X-Files" movie should start shooting later this year, he said, directed by "X-Files" creator Chris Carter.

"I've had no compunction about being tied to that character," Duchovny said of his Agent Mulder alter ego. "I doubt I'll ever again play a part as popular as he was."

In His Big TV Comeback, David Duchovny is Bitter and Funny and Generally Without Pants

My phone rings, and I pick it up. The man on the other end says, "Hi. This is David Duchovny." And it really is, which is odd, because usually when you interview a celebrity, a publicist calls first to connect. When I point this out, he quips: "I can dial my own phone. I learned it just the other day." Show-off.

Of course, it's not his tech savvy so much as his deadpan sense of humor that's on display here. You know the one. In the late '90s, he was more prominent than Y2K scares, thanks to The X-Files, the campy alienfest that entranced us for nine years due in great part to its star's sarcastic persona and brooding good looks. He even inspired a minor hit song titled—yep—"David Duchovny."

And then...nothing. Well, nothing of that magnitude—a few not-so-memorable films and a voice-over gig as a puppy in some Pedigree commercials.

But now, at 47, he returns to the tube with a genius new Showtime series, Californication. He stars as a literary novelist named Hank Moody whose magnum opus, God Hates Us All, is adapted into the popcorn-nosher Crazy Little Thing Called Love, launching him into midlife-crisis battles with the shiny, happy people of California. It's the freshest, funniest thing to hit cable in a while. And we're not too disappointed that the lead spends roughly 19 of the show's 30 minutes shirtless and/or pantless.

"I had a discussion with Tom Kapinos, the writer, and I said, 'I think I'm gonna get in a little better shape for this.' And he said, 'No, you're a writer. You've gotta be kind of fat and dissipated.' And I thought, Yeah, you say that, but when you see it, you won't like it."

Duchovny played a similarly disenchanted writer in last spring's indie film The TV Set. Do his choices reveal that this Princeton grad—who spends a lot of his time writing screenplays—is fed up with his own work? He laughs. "No. No, I'm not frustrated in my writing at all." He pauses. "I mean, of course I am—every writer is frustrated—but not to the level that I would seek out parts to vent that."

So that's what he's been up to: writing, avoiding X-Files obsessors, and raising two kids with his wife and fellow comedian, Téa Leoni. "At home, I actually will say to her, 'Now that made me laugh,'" he says drolly. "I point it out because I'm not an easy laugh."

So what misconceptions do people still have of him? "That I'm aloof. But you know, I'm not, because I don't care," he says. "Isn't that funny? That was supposed to be funny."

David filming Californication

David Duchovny filming his tv series Californication in L.A.

In Style: David Duchovny's Guilty Pleasures

Here's proof that a sense of humor isn't alien to the former X-Files star, who returns to TV in the comedy Californication

by James Patrick Herman

Hair helper? "I use this waxy stuff called Sharps. It has an astronaut on the lid. He's wearing a helmet and a big smile, and he looks just like Bill Paxton."

Reality TV? "I watched American Idol with my daughter - I hope this ruined her interest in the business. She would make up a list of singers to vote for, and I told her I would call in and vote once she was asleep. But I lied."

"My wife [Tea Leoni] gave me a beautiful Rolex that I never wore. Then she gave me another hideously expensive watch. The good thing is that it finally freed me up to wear the Rolex and not feel so guilty."

Sport? "Being a New Yorker, I like to go bowling. My dad was a pinboy before there were automated pinsetters. And like my father, I became a bowler. I'm pretty good too - I control the floor. See you in the alleys!"

Online addiction? "I spend a lot of time on You Tube. My recent favorite video is of a pack of lions attacking a young water buffalo. Then this crocodile grabs his tail, and it's a tug of war between the lions and the crocodile."

IPod indulgence? "I have a few Barry Manilow songs on it. He's unembarrassed to go for the schmaltz. I love 'Brandy.' No, wait, it's 'Mandy.' But I also have that 'Brandy' song by Looking Glass."

R-rated movie? "On one of our first dates, Tea and I watched Caddyshack. Not that it was out in theaters back then - we watched it on video. I love Bill Murray's character. And the gopher is cute. Boy, they got the animatronics down pat."

- August 2007, InStyle Magazine.

Playboy: Still Strange but Not Alien

David Duchovny Discourses On His Once And Current Characters

You know this guy: special Agent Fox Mulder -- conspiracy theorist, loner and tortured paranormal investigator on The X-Files, one of the most successful dramas of the 1990s. Of course he’s really David Duchovny, who has been all but invisible since playing the creepy buy sympathetic Mulder so indelibly. This month Duchovny makes a high-profile return on the Showtime series Californication as Hank Moody, a divorced, hard-drinking writer and dad whose sex life is as phenomenal as everything ese in his life is shambolic. To keep things clear, we asked Duchovny to compare his past and present alter egos.

Mulder’s is Abbey Road, by the Beatles. Hank’s is The Wind, by Warren Zevon.

Mulder watches Californication and wishes he could be Hank. Hank tries to watch The X-Files in syndication but always falls asleep halfway through.

Mulder majored in psychology with an astronomy minor. Hank majored in English with a minor in Latin (women).

Mulder will eat cereal at every meal. Hank drinks his dinner.

Mulder enjoys vintage porn. Hank enjoys making porn.

Mulder never gets laid. Hank always does.

Both of them are optimists at heart. Neither has any basis for his optimism.

Mulder believes in gods, plural. Hank believes God doesn’t believe in him.

They both know evil exists. Mulder’s evil is the government and possibly aliens. Hank’s evil is within himself.

Both of them are essentially good people who are completely misunderstood as crackpots. Well, not completely.

David Duchovny: My Defining Moment

Father and son reunion: I thought achieving peace with my dad was beyond my grasp, until a simple game of catch gave us back what we'd lost.
By David Keeps, Best Life

When I was young, my dad floated around as a white-collar public relations guy, writing speeches and supplementing his income as a pretty good low-stakes gambler. He left the family when I was 11, and I remember being kind of relieved, in part because I owed him over two million dollars at cards and pool.

For a long time, my father and I had an incomplete relationship. What is there to say about divorce that hasn't been said? I remember thinking, Let's move on; let's go to school and keep doing what we do. I was 13 when my father moved from New York, where we lived, to Boston; it was an unimaginable, insurmountable distance. Physically and emotionally, my father and I had fully separated from each other, and when that happens, you are disappointed and angry, mourning that loss.

By the time I was in graduate school, my father had retired and moved to Paris. I think he was shocked and curious when I dropped out to pursue acting. Becoming successful probably only made me feel less ashamed to be around him.

It reminds me of that scene in the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster when Lars, the drummer, is playing the new album to his dad, a very humorless, intimidating-looking avant-garde musician. Here's a guy from the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world, and he just wants his daddy to like it. Daddy strokes his beard afterward and says, "Well, of course I am not the one to make these decisions, but if it were up to me, I would press 'Delete.'"

My dad was supportive, but there was a lack of depth to our relationship. It was all superficial pleasantries: "How are you, David? How are the kids?" "Fine, Dad, how's the writing going?" (He was always a writer, even though he didn't publish his first novel, Coney, until he was 72—which I find inspiring.)

Every time we'd see each other, it felt like a siege. There was always the sense of hoping I could get out of there without any sh** going down.

A few years ago, he sent me a letter accusing me of certain things -- nothing outrageous or Oprah-worthy; just the kind of things parents and children argue about. I joined the battle, defending myself and accusing him of things. We each wrote five or six letters and everything was being dredged up and it was getting more and more heated and vitriolic. Finally, I woke up at four in the morning and just shot out of bed thinking, This is bullsh**. This has to stop.

Up to that point, I had been looking for closure. But maybe that just doesn't happen. So I wrote my dad a letter and said, "I don't want resolution. I just want you to come visit me. I can't change the past; I would just like to have you present."

He came to L.A. and, sure enough, we didn't speak of anything; we just kind of hung out. And the realization I had was that we go through our whole lives thinking we want answers. Really all we want is company, the presence of people we love in our lives. And that overrode all my own anxieties about my dad and informed my own parenting.

It's great to be able to teach your kids to read and play ball and fish, but the most important thing is just to be there. This is going to sound like I learned it from a book, but when I am frustrated and pissed at my kids, I always tell them, "I am angry at what you're doing, but I love you."

On the last day of my dad's visit, as we were waiting for the car to take him to the airport, he said, "Do you have a couple of gloves? Let's have a catch."

For 20 minutes, that's we did, this wordless back-and-forth, tossing and catching. I realized that it's not about what you say; it's about showing up and whether or not that guy is going to throw the ball back to you.

That was the last time I saw my father. He went back to Paris and died 6 or 7 months later. If you saw that in a movie, you'd throw tomatoes at the screen, but I couldn't have asked for anything more satisfying. And it meant so much to me that it was his idea. I know that he too wanted to feel again the way he felt when we were playing catch.

Whether or not he had said it, he had had the same realization that I had. We were celebrating the fact that we actually still wanted to be around each other and there was still something of substance to be had just by sitting in the same room. In that simple game of catch, my father had given me the gift of his presence one final time.

As told to David Keeps. David Duchovny's next film is Things We Lost In The Fire, opening in September.

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