January 1998 (Issue #18)
By Andrew Smith and Sara Lambert
In a frank and revealing interview, Gillian Anderson talks about the stress of a public life,and the move to the big screen in The X-Files movie.
IT'S BEEN one hell of a year for Gillian Anderson. There have been incredible highs - not least, winning a coveted Emmy for Best actress, but there have been lows too - Gillian has reportedly been caught up in a pay dispute with Fox trying to achieve parity with fellow X-Files star, David Duchovny and media attention has never been more intense. She's never worked harder too. Not only has she starred in the first X-Files movie, but she's also managed to find time to appear in two other films, Chicago Cab and The Mighty alongside Sharon Stone.
Surprisingly, despite the lure of a multi-million fee, Gillian wasn't initially keen to portray Dana Scully on the big screen. "Well, at first I really wanted to be spending that time doing something else and spreading my wings a little bit, but after it seemed like something that was actually going to happen, I resigned myself to the fact, and I actually had a really wonderful experience on the film. I enjoyed the hours, we worked an average of about 12 hours instead of I6, and I fortunately ended up having quite a bit of time off; so it felt like a very easy and casual shoot and there was a lot more time in between the set-ups.
"I got more time to spend with my daughter and the whole thing just felt different, even though we were the same characters. It was an easier transition to make, because of the fact that we didn't have to spend a great deal of time learning who these characters were, since we already knew them; so it ended up being a very easy event situation. It was just a positive one."
Rumors haven't stopped circulating about the film. From killer bees spreading alien viruses, to extraterrestrial lizards attacking teenagers. Some sources have even alleged that the big screen adventures of MuIder and Scully will have them get it together. However, The X-Files production offices have remained tight-lipped about the whole affair, doing everything possible to limit the spread of information, even going to the extent of having the scripts printed on red paper to avoid widespread copying. However, news inevitably leaks out. The NarionaI Enquirer did not enamour itself to Producer Chris Carter when it published what it claimed was a fullsynopsis of the movie. When pressed about the content of the film, Gillian Anderson is understandably less than forthcoming. But couldn't she tell us something about the movie? Even confirm that it's called Blstckwood?
"I don't know," she sighs - she's been asked this before. "Originally that was only actually the working title. I'm not sure whether it's going to stay that or become something else. I really have no idea. But there really isn't a lot that I can tell you without giving it away. I mean, you know, it's like a big version of the series and it answers a lot of things that have been raised over the past couple 6 seasons, and puts to rest some issues, and there's a lot of running and loud things, but that's really all I can say."
It looks as if we''ll have to wait until the film opens in June next year to find out what's true and what's lies. If the film is a hit at the box-office, it's likely that The X-Files will follow in the footsteps of Star Trek, where several movies are made even after the show is off the air. Would Gillian be interested in keeping Scully alive for a movie franchise?
I think that's something that Fox is very interested in doing and certainly it would actually be neat for us, if the series is no longer running, to be able to reunite every three or four years and do another one. Hopefully, not more than three or four. I mean, I anticipate that after the show is over, it's going to be very sad, like a sad experience of mourning the loss of this person who has been in my life for such a long time; so I think it couldn't be anything but a joy to come back and spend some more time with her from time to time."
If the big screen adventures of Mulder and Scully take off, it seems likely that Gillian won't have any problems filling the time in between X-Files movies. She already has two films in the pipeline. She stars alongside Sharon Stone and Gena Rowlands in The Mighty and has a small role in Chicago Cab, alongside her old college friend Kevin Jay O'Connor. But Gillian as spread her talent further afield than film. She made a brief sojourn into television presenting, where she brought a certain Scully-esque skepticism to the BBC paranormal documentary, Future Fantastic. Recently she was involved in the "Extremis" album, which featured a series of techno tracks. Does she feel an affinity with hard core?
"I don't listen to much dance music, but I like ambient music. This year, I've been listening to Cake and The Frames a lot. When I was a punk, it was the Dead Kennedies, Lords of the New Church, Circle Jerks and the Velvet Underground."
Not exactly the stuff that most parents want their daughters to be listening to in their bed rooms at night. Were her and mum and dad worried about her as a teenager?
"I think they were!"
Her adolescence sounds like it was a lot of fun. Her boyfriend was in a band, did she harbor any ambitions to be a musician at that time "There were times when I wanted to be, but I was too afraid of making a fool of myself."
But that's what acting about, isn't it - not caring about making a fool of yourself?
"Yeah, but there's a difference between making a fool of yourself at something you have ability in and something you're useless at!"
Her concern for how she comes over to others is touching, and it can't be easy for someone as sensitive as her to be in the world's spotlight, particularly when she has such little control over how she is portrayed in the media.
Gillian estimates that the only about 10% of what is written about in Britain is true. In America the figure is higher, between 40 and 50%. The truth about Gillian is out there, but so are a lot of lies. Like so many female actors, much of what is written about her is concerned with what she looks like rather than her abilities.
How does it feel to suddenly become one of those people who are always described in terms of 'most' and 'est,' as in 'sexiest woman in the world,' how does she deal with it?
"I don't think I do. It doesn't really register in my brain. It goes in one ear and out the other. I know it's somebody else's Perception of me, not who I am. To get hung up on that in any way would be incredibly detrimental to my state of mind and my ego."
She's seen it happen to freinds of her who are in the spotlight. But it must be hard to resist feeling like a sex symbol? Doesn't she ever walk into a room and think,'I could have anyone here if I wanted!'
"Not in the slightest! There are situations when I'm called upon to act that way. In the video for "Ertremis", for instance, which was supposed to show a sexier side of myself... in that moment I may feel sexy. But in my life, I'm walking around in jeans and boots and leather jackets and baseball cap and nothing could be further from my mind. This morning, for instance, I was thinking about my daughter's pre-school orientation [daughter Piper is three]. And work."
If Gillian isn't preoccupied with sex, the international media certainly is. Stories about her alleged affairs with a whole string of men, including her X-Files co-star David Duchovny, break almost every week. They must have been difficult to read about, whether true or not?
"Er, I haven't actually read those stories. Are they recent?"
You never saw them?
"No, were there pictures? They were probably based on that infamous Rolling Stone cover."
Gillian appears to take the world's obsession with the two Paranormal investigators in her stride. But doesn't she ever feel stifled by ScuIIy?
"No not really, because I know what the truth is. It's the same thing with the manipulation of photos on the internet, putting my head on other people's bodies... these things only really hurt if they're true or if there's a degree of truth in them. The times when it hurts are when it gets spiteful. You know I read in a local paper recently that I had had David's wife banned from the set of the show. That's unfortunate, but I know what the truth is and they do too. But it's not nice to go around with people believing that you're capable of being mean in that way, because that's not who I am..."
But living a public life has taken its toll. With everyone suddenly interested in her, it's suddenly hard to trust people's motives. Entering into new romantic relationships is particularly hard.
"The thing is that I can't do things lightly. I can't be in public with any male person, who is a friend, without it being assumed that we are lovers. If you believed the tabloids, I'd be seeing a different guy every week!"
That isn't true?
"No! Sometimes it's funny, with a different guy being added to the list of people I'm 'seeing' every week - and after a year there are 50 beople on list. I don't think I'd have time for 50 lovers in a year!"
Is it hard to find men who aren't threatened by you?
"That's interesting, because I never even thought about that in my life. But a male friend recently pointed out that he could see men were intimidated, not so much by my celebrity, as by myself as Scully - and the powerful figure that she is. They assume that I'm that way."
It sounds like there's a big difference between Scully and Anderson?
"Yes and no. I have a much lighter aspect to my personality. Also the whole issue of trust. It's so important at this stage of my life - primarily because I have a daughter, but also because I'm a public person who's vulnerable to being petrayed, forced to relly check people out. I have to spend a long time getting to know someone before I feel safe exposing anything of myself."
Part of being famous means that the nice early parts of a relationship where people exchange secrets and confidences, and learn about each other. becomes fraught with dangers.
"Yes, but you learn to be wary really fast."
It sounds like her trust has been betrayed before.
What was the worst instance of that?
"I don't really want to talk about it. It's happened badly twice, people getring close to me and using my trust for their own benefit. It was really strange, because on the one hand you can only laugh, but it hurts you when someone you thought you knew and liked turns out to be not what you thought. If you're not careful, it can affect your view of people as a whole quite badly. You have to try not to let it."
It must be hard to know why someone wants to get close. Everyone wants to be a friend.
"Yep. Well I've become incredibly hypersensitive. I can usually gauge what people's motives are. It's taken awhile to learn that."
Gillian's marriage to X-Files art di-rector Clyde Klotz lasted only two years, before she quietly announced their separation, offering no explanation at the time. Later, she admitted to TV Guide that she was hard to be married to. Was the scrutiny of the media a factor in the end of the relationship?
"Was celebrity a factor? There were so many factors. Relationships are so complicated and fragile. I'd be lying if I said that it didn't have some influence on it. I can only imagine what it's like, but I think it would be incredibly difficult living and having an intimate relationship with someone whose career suddenly skyrockets. The time that that takes away from a relationship makes things hard. Everything becomes secondary to this third party - the career."
You can sec why actors form relationships on set. It's the one place you're safe.
"Yeah, it's so inviting. You're deal ing with the whole hype and romance of being on a film set in the first place. Then you have the additional aspect of having scenes within the film in which you're supposed to be sexually attracted to each other. I mean, how can you not be seduced by that? I have enormous respect for the families that make it work. We're only human."
It is as if Scully is an intruder who comes between Anderson and her life. Does she ever feel like dumping Dana! There have been so many rumors that Gillian wants out of The X-Files.
"At this stage, I'm not going to comment on that."
Stories abound that the show is a terrible strain on her, leaving her having trouble learning her lines and being dreadfully nsecure about her appearance. If she is unwilling to talk about her private life, Gillian is surprisingly frank about her experience on set.
"In the beginning it was absolutely dreadful. Sometimes I get into stressful situations with all the stuff I have going on clouding my mind, but I think the first three weeks of shooting that pilot were the most difficult of my Iife. That and starting shooting straight after having a baby. Every now and again I think about it and just shudder."
Caught up on the treadmill of a long running series inevitably means that she misses other opportunities. Does The X-Files ever seem like a trap?
"I miss the theater. It takes 10 months out of every year. But in the long run, it's good for me, frustrating though it can be. It's such a good experience on so many levels that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages at the moment!
"The X-Files was expected to be a flop. The beginning was shaky. The pilot was four years ago. If they'd aired it four years before that, I think it would've bombed. I think something had escalated in our society in those four years that has helped the show turn into what it is. You hear so many X-Files type stories in the news for a start, like Halle-bopp and the mass suicide in California."
"I think that we're hoping that we're going to find the answers to some of our problems from outside, that someone or something's going to arrive and hand us the solutions. In fact, I think we're going to learn that they're inside us. No one can do it for us."
Is Gillian more Mulder than Scully in her beliefs then?
"Yes. In the sense that I believe in the power of the mind. I've always been fascinated with the kind of energy we have inside ourselves that we're not always aware of. The idea of getting in touch with that interests me."
Is this helpful?
"At this point in my life, I am constantly in the process of looking inside myself. It's necessary for my survival to try to be in control of myself at all times. There's a constant process of introspection, constantly trying to sit down and clear my mind and find ways that I can become more at ease with the things that are going on around me. If in some way that radiates to other people or radiates on film, then that's what it is."
It's not only Gillian who spends time trying to find out about herself. Few television stars have had their lives investigated in such depth. It recently came to light that she was voted the 'most bizarre girl' at school.
"I thought it was silly because that was such a mild and safe, wimpy take on who I was at the time. I can understand why they came up with that, but..."
More a rebel than an oddball, then. Was she rebelling to get attention?
"No, I think it was me trying to find what my own boundaries were, trying to push myself to the edge of all those. To find out who I was and what I wanted. There was a lot of aggression."
It's hard to imagine Gillian Anderson ever getting really angry. She's so calm and demure. What really gets her goat?
"There's a couple of things people have said that hurt, but that's because there was a grain of truth in them, so I'm not going to tell you what they were!"
Finally what's the one question an interviewer should avoid asking a Gillian Anderson?
She pauses for a moment before answering. "Well,let's just say that if anyone asks me one more time whether Mulder and Scully are going to get together, I'll brain them!"
Transcript appears courtesy of XPose.