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E!Online: Mulder turns to mush in Return to Me and spills all on romance, fatherhood and the fate of The X-Files On getting involved with Return to Me

Mulder turns to mush in Return to Me and spills all on romance, fatherhood and the fate of The X-Files
On getting involved with Return to Me

Will America accept David Duchovny, who’s become a household name playing driven FBI investigator Fox Mulder on The X-Files, as a sad-sack widower who falls goo-goo-eyed in love with the woman who received his dead wife’s heart?

That’s the question for Return to Me, starring Duchovny and Minnie Driver. And it’s an important one: With many expecting this season to be Duchovny’s last on the supernatural series, the slim, sexy and sardonically witty actor has to hope his film career can break out beyond such clunkers as Playing God and Kalifornia.

Of course, with a good amount of X millions, beautiful wife Tea Leoni and a one-year-old daughter, he shouldn’t have too much trouble enjoying life after alien autopsies.

Is it true you were one semester away from your Yale PhD when you quit school to do a beer commercial?

Well, that was my first paying job. I wasn’t like, “I want to do beer commercials! Hello, is this my agent? I want beer commercials!”

I think I started getting interested in acting through trying to be a playwright. So, I thought I should learn a little about acting. I was about 25. There was a time where I was commuting from New Haven to New York, where I was taking acting classes, because I didn’t want my two worlds to know about each other. It was very schizophrenically successful for me to have those two destinations. And after a while, I just stopped going back to New Haven.

Return to Me is a real crying-in-the-aisles type of thing, not what we’d associate with a sly, dry guy like you. Are you secretly a sucker for romantic movies?

No, but I love this movie. It’s not the kind that I would run out and see–wait, I shouldn’t say that–but I feel like I should get the word out that it’s not what it seems to be, that it is actually a very complicated, tricky movie that is both profoundly funny and sad at the same time.

I would be really happy if people came to see it, because if I stumbled into it, I would have been really happy.

You’ve been friends with the director, Bonnie Hunt, since you both acted together in the dog comedy Beethoven, right?

Yeah. I thought the script was this big, romantic, sentimental thing and not really my cup of tea, but when I heard Bonnie was going to direct it, I knew she’d bring a wry, funny perspective into the mix.

Was it important to you to play somebody so different from Fox Mulder?

No. I’m less aware of what people think of my image. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I just do the best work that I can do in the best movies that I can get.

Then you’re not worried about being forever associated with such an iconic TV character?

I’ve been asked this question a lot: “How are you going to break this image?” And I really don’t know how to answer it, because I can’t. I’m lucky enough to have been in a show that is so strong in people’s minds that they want to see me in a certain way.

And then I think about other actors. If you think about a great actor like Robert De Niro, here’s a guy who’s done 45 films, maybe. Do you think he gets angry when all people do is say, “Are you talkin’ to me?” I think he might. At first I thought it was just me and William Shatner. But I think all actors deal with it.

And isn’t there a core of cultists who prefer to associate you with your other great TV series?

You know, still to this day I’ll go to a movie premiere where there’s a big crowd, and everyone is like, “Mulder! Mulder!” Then I’ll hear, “Red shoes!” from the back. “Makin’ any more of them?” We haven’t made them for seven years! “Make more!”

You’ve just directed your second X-Files, in which Mulder discovers they’re making a TV show out of one of his cases. Tea plays Scully, and your friend Garry Shandling plays you. It’s almost like you’re trying to make a personal film on network TV.

I’m glad you said that, because that’s exactly what I feel I’m doing. I mean, I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t personal. This one is obviously about the difference between reality and acting, Hollywood and the rest of the world, truth and fiction–all of which is very personal to me.

How important is The X-Files to you now?

At this point, it’s just about money. Anybody that tells you that creatively there is anything left to do on that show…The only creative thing left to do is the sheer high-wire act of “How can I keep on making this show?”

That’s really all, you can’t really say that there’s more to do. All you can say is, “Wow, I can’t believe you keep on doing it and it’s still good.” And it is. But creatively, that’s kind of a weird response.

Sounds like you’re tired of playing Mulder.

If you were in a running series called Hamlet for seven years, it would be the same thing. I would be tired of getting my mother to admit that she had slept with my uncle, just as I’m tired of shaking the Cigarette Smoking Man and telling him to admit that he’d slept with my mother. Maybe it is Hamlet! Maybe I’m happy to be on the show!

So, with your contract running out, it’s going to take a ton of money to get you to commit to an eighth season. Think they’ll cough up?

Are you kidding? The X-Files makes a hideous amount of money, a huge amount of money. They could spend $50 million an episode and still make fourfold that. The X-Files is obscenely successful. It’s worldwide. I mean, it’s the only American show besides Baywatch, which is a kitschy thing. They don’t watch ER anywhere else, they don’t watch NYPD Blue anywhere else. Those are great shows and they’re very popular here, but The X-Files is popular everywhere.

Even though we’re FBI agents, we’re dealing with issues that are interesting to all people–and whatever else is out there. Of course, when we do colonize other planets, they’ll be like, “That’s so unrealistic!”

But you’ve had to sue them for the rerun millions you believe they owe you…

But that has to do with my lawyers and Fox’s lawyers. That has nothing to do with me and Chris or Gillian or anybody who’s been involved with making the show as good as it is. That doesn’t even come into my consideration about whether to stay for another season.

I don’t even know the people I’m suing, I’ve never met them. They’re the people who made up my contracts and, in my estimation, didn’t fulfill them. That has nothing to do with what I think about the show. I’m just really proud of the show, and it feels like winning the lottery to be part of something like that.

Chris Carter is named in your lawsuit. That has to have affected your relationship.

Yeah, that has definitely been a wedge between Chris and me. But just personally, not professionally. Obviously, I’m writing and directing for him, and he directed a show a couple of weeks ago–so he directed me as an actor.

And what about you and Gillian? For years, there have been rumors that the two of you don’t like each other.

It’s always been fine. We’re just not Mulder and Scully. We’re not going to lay our lives down for each other, yet we do like each other.

Now that the end may be in sight, do you think the characters are finally going to acknowledge their love and act on it? I mean, there was that New Year’s kiss, but not much since then.

I thought that was, like, a cheap ratings gesture. Don’t you? I think everything is up in the air because of the movie-franchise aspect. If we truly knew that it was ending this year, next year or whenever, you could actually write toward an ending. I think you could actually disrupt the nature of Mulder and Scully’s relationship and make it sexual–make it something–and actually deal with it, in that case.

But because everybody involved in the writing and producing end of the show wants to keep it a lucrative enterprise, they want to keep it the way it is. But it’s tough to do–seven years, keeping people in exactly the same spot.

Let’s talk about a major change in your life, then. You’ve been a father for about a year now.

It’s so different, it’s so life-changing, you’re not even aware how you’ve changed. Everything’s changed. I think you realize that you’ve opened yourself up to such heartbreak when you’re responsible for this helpless being, and you could never recover if anything happened.

Think you’re good at being a dad?

Well, Tea’s a great mom, she’s really a natural at it. But for men, I don’t think it’s so natural. You’re like, “What do I do?” You’re in the background. I’m always in awe of Tea. I, like, hold things while she does things.

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One Response to “E!Online: Mulder turns to mush in Return to Me and spills all on romance, fatherhood and the fate of The X-Files On getting involved with Return to Me”

  1. […] During his heated disagreements with Carter in the seventh season, Duchovny claimed that the writers’ reluctance to develop the relationship was simply plate-spi…: […]