June 24, 2008
By David Grove
Gillian Anderson: Reopening The X-Files
Gillian Anderson is best known for playing Dana Scully in the long running sci-fi series The X-Files. Anderson has now returned to the role in Chris Carter's new movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
What made you want to return to The X-Files franchise after being away for several years?
I told Chris that I was always available and ready to return for another movie when he was ready, and I knew that David felt the same way. We talked about this back in 2002 or 2003 when Chris and Frank Spotnitz already had a story in mind, and we talked about the story and felt it would make for a good film. I wasn't going to hold up the series in any way. When Chris was ready to make another film, I was going to be there.
Was it hard to get back into the Dana Scully character after so many years?
Yes, there was a lot of rust that I had to shake off. The physical part surprised me the most when we started shooting this film because it was a lot tougher than I expected. I was 24 when I started the television series and now I'm 40, and I feel really old now for some reason. David's in a lot better shape than I am, and that's why he gets more stunts in the film.
I think the hardest part of getting back into the character is the fact that I've spent the past few years kind of running away from her, trying to show people that I was capable of playing other characters, doing other things. The first couple of days I was horrible! My brain was telling me "No!" so I had to work through that. I'd also forgot some of the mythology of the show. I forgot Dana had a baby, believe it or not. The first scene we shot was a confrontation scene where Dana is upset about something, very dramatic, and that was very difficult. Now I feel I'm back in Dana mode.
How has Dana Scully changed over the past six years?
She's matured quite a bit, and aged a bit, obviously. When we first see her in the film, we explain what's happened to her in the past six years, and the choices she's made since the series ended. I think the biggest change in Scully is that she's much more relaxed than she was when we last saw her. She's really mellowed out a lot, which isn't to say that she's lost any of her passion for her work.
Why was this the right time to do another X-Files movie?
I think everyone needed a break, even the fans, and I think we've all had some time away from the characters and now everyone's excited to go on another adventure.
What is it about Scully that you like most?
I've always seen Scully as being this great underdog who overcame the odds, because that's how I got the role in the first place. I was this redhead who had no experience except for some theatre stuff. Fox didn't want to hire me and Chris was the only one who believed in me, so that process kind of affected the way I approached the character as well.
I just think she's a feisty, intelligent, fiery character, much different than any other female character on television at that time. You see how many television series since The X-Files have tried to copy the Scully character over the years so I think the character made quite an impact.
How would you describe your relationship with David Duchovny?
We're like siblings, and even though we've had our up and downs, and arguments over the years, we've always had a strong connection. We've always loved each other, and because we've been through so much together, working on the show, sometimes there's a bit of hate that gets through. So it's kind of a love-hate relationship we've had over the years.
Working on this film has made us both appreciate, more than we did when we were doing the series, how special these characters are, and that it would be great if we could build upon the characters and continue this thing on.
What's the hardest part for you, as an actress, in being so identified with the Scully character?
A lot of times when I meet with producers for other roles, they act like they're surprised that I can even act, much less play another character. Sometimes I'll be offered a part and I have to figure out if they're interested in me as an actress, or they want the publicity that I bring because of The X-Files.
I've been lucky. I've been able to do a lot of interesting work outside of The X-Files, like The Last King of Scotland, although none of it's been as popular as The X-Files. The X-Files has given me a lot of opportunities and I'll always be grateful for the show and the fans.
How would you describe the tone of this film?
It's a real thriller, a real scary movie. It has a strong supernatural element, which I like, and we're combining that with a horror element. It's the kind of film that's going to scare the audience, make them jump out of their seats, which I think is what the best episodes of The X-Files did to the audience. The film goes back to the roots of the television series, which is to have a strong supernatural-horror feeling, really scary.
How would you compare I Want to Believe to the last movie?
The biggest difference is that when we did the first film, the television series was still on so Chris was somewhat constrained by that and so we couldn't really advance the plot that much because of the mythology of the television series. Now that the series is over, we have the freedom to tell a whole new story, to expand on the mythology. That's what excited me about doing this film. The fact that the first film turned out so well, given that we couldn't do much with the story, gave me confidence that this film could be even better.
Do you think the film will appeal to a new audience as well as fans of the show?
It appeals to both. When you make a film it has to appeal to everyone, or you're doing something wrong. We're introducing these characters to a new audience while at the same time showing the old fans what's happened to these characters over the past six years, and how they’ve changed from the end of the television series to now.
Would you like to do more films?
Yes, I think we all feel that way. We made this film thinking that it could lead to more films. It depends on if the film finds a big audience and does well. The X-Files has always thrived as a serial, so this film doesn't feel like a sequel but a continuation of these interesting characters and their story. The relationship between Mulder and Scully is so interesting, and still so full of possibilities, that I think it could go on for a long time.
Why do you think people love these characters so much?
I think the relationship between Mulder and Scully is a classic, archetypal relationship between two strong-willed people who start out with a very different view of the world and evolve over time, along with a romantic undercurrent to the relationship that was handled in a very interesting way. It was a magical feeling for me to be back working with David again on these characters and I hope the audience feels the same thing when they see the film.