October 22nd, 2007
The Q&A: Secret Agent Man
David Duchovny hasn’t exactly been in seclusion since The X-Files ended its decade-long run in 2002, but it also wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that he’s been selective in picking his follow-up projects sparingly. Between 2003 and 2006, he only appeared in three feature films (House of D—which he also directed—Connie and Carla and Trust the Man) and provided voiceovers for a handful of video games. This year though, the once and future Fox Mulder returned to the spotlight in a major way, starring in two films—the just arrived-on-DVD Hollywood satire The T.V. Set and Things We Lost in the Fire, which debuted in theaters last week—and headlining the cult Showtime series Californication, which was recently renewed for a second season. The Scanner spoke with Duchovny about his sudden burst of activity and gets a solid answer to those pesky questions about the long-rumored new X-Files movie.
The Scanner: I’m very much looking forward to Things We Lost in the Fire because it was directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, who directed one of my favorite films so far this year, After the Wedding. Did you enjoy working with her on her American debut?
David Duchovny: Yes. She’s a very talented person, very strong and knew exactly what that movie was. I think she did a great job.
The Scanner: Hopefully it won’t slip through the cracks like your other 2007 film The T.V. Set, which just arrived on DVD after a too-brief theatrical run.
Duchovny: Unfortunately, these smaller independent films really suffer in the amount of money they have to advertise. I’ve been involved in two or three films like this, where people say they’re really looking forward to seeing the movie, but it’s already come and gone because they don’t have the money to advertise on TV and that’s where the make or break thing in this business is unfortunately. Unless a movie just freakishly catches fire like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and that’s hardly the rule.
The Scanner: Your own directorial effort, House of D, suffered from the same problem.
Duchovny: Yeah, it was very similar in that I thought I had a movie that could appeal to a broad audience, but there was no way to make that clear to the audience that might enjoy it. We’d do exit polling and have these great numbers, so the people that went in there loved the movie. The problem is, we couldn’t get anyone to go in there! It’s hard to do. It’s hard to make a small movie look big, even though it is big and by big I mean it appeals to a broad audience.
The Scanner: The T.V. Set presents a very convincing depiction of the process a show has to go through to get on the air. Did it bring back any memories from the early days of The X-Files?
Duchovny: Not so much. As an actor you come in the middle of the process, so the show has already come a long way. And people treat actors like babies. They aren’t involved in the fights or decision-making. They kind of are sequestered in their little trailers and fed and attended to by hair and makeup. As an actor, at least in the beginning of my career, I was blissfully ignorant of the kind of stuff that happens behind-the-scenes. Now I know enough to be very afraid at all points in a production. I used to think everything is going smoothly the parents are taking care of it. Now I know the parents are actually children.
The Scanner: The final scene of the film takes place at the upfronts, when the networks preview their new shows for advertisers. What was your own upfront experience like?
Duchovny: The X-Files wasn’t the network’s favorite show. The show they really thought was going to break out was The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. with Bruce Campbell as a sci-fi cowboy. So at the upfronts, they had poor old Bruce come out in his leather chaps and hat. And then for us it was like, “Here’s the stars of The X-Files” and we waved and left. I remember thinking, “Nobody seems to really care about us. They just want to talk to the cowboy.”
The Scanner: Now you’re on cable with Showtime’s Californication, which is a whole different universe.
Duchovny: First and foremost the schedule is really great for me. I was trying to get away from the schedule of network TV, which I did for nine years. Now, I do 12 episodes, we do one episode a week, so I do a whole year in 12 weeks, which is fantastic. And that’s why it has been feasible for me to do another TV-show, which I never thought I’d do. And in terms of the subject matter, I think in this point, more chances are being taken on cable TV than either network or film. There’s great work and great creative work to be done on the premium cable channels, especially on Showtime. I always say that they’re trying to make the network HBOver.
The Scanner: Californication definitely stole some of the thunder from HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me in terms of its fairly explicit sexual content.
Duchovny: To me, Tell Me You Love Me is just too serious. We’re human beings, we know sex is funny. It’s funny looking! You don’t want to say it’s not rocket science, but it sometimes feels like they’re doing the lord’s work over there. It’s really just two animals.
The Scanner: Is that why you’ve willingly bared your ass so much on the show, for the comic effect?
Duchovny: I’m not out there trying to be sexy, it’s silly and fun and if there’s going to be women naked then it’s fair play. It would look silly if I were clothed all the time. It would be unfair.
The Scanner: Would you do a full-frontal scene if they asked?
Duchovny: Oh God no. I wouldn’t do full frontal. [Laughs]
The Scanner: What’s next for you?
Duchovny: The X-Files 2 should be shooting in December and finish just in time do the second season of Californication. The show went exactly the way I wanted it to this year. I knew it was going to take a lot of heat at first, but I always knew it was a show with heart and that it was really about these characters, not T&A. And I know as the shows progressed, people saw that it’s really about something and it’s really funny. My fear was always that the noise about the tits was going to drown out everything else and it didn’t.
Thanks to http://www.giantmag.com!