June 28, 1996
Cyber Pinup with X Appeal
by Sue Williams
Three years ago, a little-known actor signed up for a modest TV show about the supernatural that she hoped might win a small cult following and keep her in work for a few months.
Today Gillian Anderson sits curled on a sofa in a massive conference room in one of Australia's grandest hotels, with a host of journalists waiting to speak to her, publications from around the world calling to beg for interviews and a packed schedule of engagements stretching in front of her.
The X-Files, in which she plays FBI agent Dana Scully, has become one of the world's most popular TV shows and Anderson has won the sort of zealous following many film stars can only dream of.
Even the Internet is crowded with Wed sites devoted to her. The Gillian Anderson Worship Site exalts her abilities as an actor, as a mother. The Genuine Admirers of Gillian Anderson Association, an on-line organisation, urges its members to send letters or email messages to newspapers and magazines demanding she be interviewed and to complain to publications and TV programs that criticise her.
There's the Gillian Anderson Testosterone Brigade, whose motto is "Gillian Anderson is intellectually drop-dead gorgeous". The Gillian Anderson Neuro-Transmitters Association, formed by fans who felt the other organisations motto was "a tad randy for us," prefer to rally around the cry. "Gillian Anderson is gorgeously drop-dead intellectual". Call up the Gillian Anderson FBI Personnel File and you can click on any part of her body for more information. "Hair,” for instance, debates the natural colour of her locks, reveals what dye she uses and points out that at the age of 13 she had a punk hairstyle.
There are dozens of other sites, including the Gillian Anderson British Admires Association, the Gillian Anderson Fan Club and the plain old Gillian Anderson home Page, which contains everything anyone would want to know about her - and much more. It's all a bit much really - especially for Anderson. "I think we're all surprised by what's happened," she says, a diminutive figure sitting demurely in a Sydney hotel, halfway through her Australian tour to promote the show. "It's gone beyond our wildest dreams. I do get sick of it all sometimes, especially when I'm at a dinner party or something and all anyone wants to do is talk to me about The X-Files."
So far, 27-year-old Anderson has escaped some of the oddball mail you might expect from devotees of anything supernatural. Since her character is the show's skeptic, she is spared the outlandish requests and claims that find their way to co-star David Duchovny.
She is asked, though, for her thoughts on ghost, UFOs, alien kidnappers and the likelihood of meeting a killer who leaves everything locked from the inside - a reference to a particularly popular X Files episode. "I think the show just came along at the right time, when everybody seemed to be interested in the subject of the supernatural," says Anderson. "People were talking about their experiences and becoming fascinated by questions of whether there's more out there that we know.
"We've also been very lucky in getting together all the right people, like producers, writers, directors and cinematographers, who have worked to create such incredibly entertaining show."
Indeed, the program looks like a mini feature film almost every week, with high production values and complex plots. For its two stars, the success of The X Files means working 16-hour days to complete an episode each week. But it also means international stardom and a chance to break into the movies. Anderson has been offered several movie roles, but has not had the time to take them up. She steers clear of any science-fiction scripts, so keen is she to avoid stereotyping. "The X Files has been wonderful for me, but I'm not really into sci-fi," she says quietly, knowing the admission will disappoint thousands of fans. "There are certain things I believe in and certain things I don't."
"I do believe that as human beings we have many more capabilities that we are aware of. For Example, that we can generate enough energy inside of ourselves to move objects. But there are other things, like monsters living sewers who eat people - which we did one episode - on which I tune out." And UFOs? She similes. "It's highly possible that there's other life in this universe since it's so cast and expansive," she says, "It makes sense that ours is not the only ecosystem."
Anderson is determined not to be overwhelmed by the personality of the character she plays. She insists she is far more open-minded that the rational Scully, who is determined to prove that very strange phenomena has a logical explanation.
Yet the two seem to coincide at more points than they diverge. Anderson, for instance doesn't enjoy the limelight, preferring to leave it to extrovert Duchovny to provide the colour. In the show, Scully also usually plays second fiddle to his special agent Fox Mulder.
"I'm not crazy about being the centre of attention," says Anderson, glancing ruefully in the direction of the roomful of journalists waiting to pounce. "I don't like talking about myself. It's simply not something I enjoy doing. I prefer to just spend my time quietly with my daughter or by myself."
Anderson is rarely separated from 18-month-old Piper, her daughter by husband Clyde Klotz, the show's art director, with whom she lives quietly in Vancouver.
Piper was born during an X Files filming schedule - so the writers arranged for strange forces, possibly aliens, to abduct Scully so that Anderson had 10 days off to have the baby. She recovered from the Cesarean section lying in a hospital bed on the set, supposedly in a coma after her adventure.
Since then, mother and daughter have been together all the time, even on set. as a result, it seems, nothing fazes the little girl; the only thing that has scared her was the arrival of Santa Claus on location just before Christmas.
"That's the wonderful thing about this job," says Anderson, "being able to be with her so much of the time. I couldn't work in a normal job and spend eight hours way from her. Mind you, I don't think I'd ever do another TV series after this one. Six or seven years with one is enough for anyone." Even, it seems, if your departure will break thousands of hearts right across the globe.
Transcript appears courtesy of The Australian Newspaper.