Agent of Fortune
by Virginia Campbell
Gillian Anderson's hit TV show The X-files is more entertaining than most movies, and many people think she's a better actress than you see in most movies, too.
Gillian Anderson probably had less on-screen experience than anyone but the Olsen twins when she was hired to star opposite David Duchovny in TV's creepiest, rainiest, most addictive series, The X-files. But X-files creator Chris Carter's instincts were on the mark with Anderson, because she lends FBI agent Dana Scully a slow-burn blend of gravity and humanity to spark with the off-the-wall quality of her partner Fox Mulder (Duchovny) and to anchor the show's witty, dour weirdness. The ability to project gravity and humanity being in such sort supply among young screen actresses, perhaps Hollywood will find a role that calls for a younger, softer-edged Jodie Foster and put Anderson to work on the big screen while she's on hiatus from The X-files.
VIRGINIA: You haven't paid too many dues to get where you are, have you?
GILLIAN: I feel I've paid a lot of dues, not necessarily in the amount of time I've pounded the pavement, but in my life.
VIRGINIA: Within one year, you went from being unemployed to having a hit series, to falling in love, to getting married, to getting pregnant. Isn't that a breathtaking pace of events?
GILLIAN: From my perspective, I'm doing what comes up in front of me. I didn't plan for everything to happen in one year. In the moment, these things didn't seem like they were too much. Eventually it hit me that it -was- too much. Not that I shouldn't have made the decisions, but that I was going to pay for it.
VIRGINIA: When did you realize you wanted to be an actress?
GILLIAN: In high school my grades were bad - I was daydreaming, pulling pranks. I got into a heavy punk scene. I had a nose ring and my hair was purple and black and blue. I dressed in black. I was very confused, and a loner. I was in a relationship with a man 10 years older than me when I was 14. He was in a punk band, and I used to give him cans of food from our house and buy him Big Gulps and cigarettes. I was terrible. In 11th grade I decided to audition for a community theater play and I got the part, and then I felt extremely happy, like I had found my place. My grades went up and I was voted most improved student.
VIRGINIA:What happened to the older guy?
GILLIAN: I heard a while ago he was studying to become an entertainment lawyer, which scares the hell out of me because he was a pathological liar [laughs].
VIRGINIA: When you did off-Broadway, did you ever have stage fright?
GILLIAN: Oh man. I've suffered life fright too, which I don't want to get into. Stage fright is very similar. I felt like somebody had shot crystal Methedrine into my arm. It was physical - I was shaking, and I just wanted to get off the stage. I realized I had lines, but I was just going blank. Then autopilot took over.
VIRGINIA: So how did you get cast in "The X-files"?
GILLIAN: I came out to L.A. to visit a man I'd met in a play in New Haven. I was going to stay for two weeks and I got here and sold my return ticket. William Morris was already my agency, and I went out on three or four film auditions a day for a year and didn't get anything. I didn't have any money and I was relying on my boyfriend to help me out financially. The day I got the pilot episode my last unemployment check arrived.
VIRGINIA: If your X-Files character, Scully, didn't work with Mulder, would she fall for him?
GILLIAN: I don't think so. Mulder's hip. It's their work that makes them attracted to each other.
VIRGINIA: What do you want to do with your time when you're on hiatus?
GILLIAN: I don't want to do a Movie of the Week. I want a small role in a feature film - that's my fantasy. The script would be what's important. I like movies that have something to say, or say nothing extremely well, like Pulp Fiction.
VIRGINIA: Did you meet Quentin Tarantino at the Golden Globes?
GILLIAN: I was assuming becuase of the genres he likes that he would know The X-Files, so I walked up and said, "I just wanted to introduce myself..." And he was polite, but he had no idea who I was, and, as he put it very eloquently onstage, he was "hammered."
VIRGINIA: Whose screen work do you admire?
GILLIAN: Isabelle Adjani's - Camille Claudel has a huge impact on me. I love Emma Thompson. Patricia Arquette - she's amazing in True Romance. And Gary Oldman can do no wrong.
VIRGINIA: Oh yeah? What about Romeo Is Bleeding? Then again, he's quit drinking.
GILLIAN: I'm very interested to see his work now that he's sane. One fear of many actors is that if they give up the crutch of an addiction, they'll lose the edge. But it's not true. There's more honesty in an actor who's had that experience and came out of it. It takes more guts to remain in this business as an awake and concious person.
VIRGINIA: How famous are you? Not famous enough for Quentin Tarantino to know you, but you are famous.
GILLIAN: I haven't formed an opinion on the fame thing yet. I don't get it. I'm grateful I'm shielded by being in Vancouver [where X-Files is shot].
VIRGINIA: I asked a male fan of The X-Files to explain your attractiveness. He said: "Unlike some actresses, who reveal, no matter what they're playing, that they know they're beautiful, Gillian Anderson is beautiful, but gives you the impression she doesn't know it." Is that true?
GILLIAN: An extra on one of our shows did this fortune telling by drawing a triangle, a square and a dot and asking you to draw around them. I drew a petal and some leaves around the dot and she said, "You drew leaves, which are green and represent growth, but you drew only one petal, and this is how you percieve yourself, as not a full flower." I used to not like myself. I spent time overweight, underweight, wearing black, hiding. In the past couple of years, I've started to open up. What's scary is I'm doing it in front of millions of people. Does that answer the question?
Transcript appears courtesy of Movieline.