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April/May 1998

GAGA Over Gillian
By Wilhelmina Kwan

When asked to describe the past few years of her life, Gillian Anderson replied without hesitation: "Marriage, pregnancy, divorce, the series." And that's just putting it in a nutshell.

A virtual unknown six years ago, the petite actress is a household name today, not just in America, but through-out the world. She's regarded by adoring male fans as "the thinking man's sex symbol", regarded by her female ones as a strong woman role model on TV. Best of all, she has turned from a naive and insecure actress into a highly confident and honoured one, with a stack of Best Actress awards -- Emmy, Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild -- to show on her mantelpiece.

Anderson, of course, is renowned for her role as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully on the phenomenally popular series The X-Files. Her alter ego, a medical scientist, is the skeptic partner to David Duchovny’s Agent Fox "I'm-a-believer" Mulder. Together they investigate the bureau's unsolved cases involving paranormal and unexplained phenomena. The series, which began as a cult hit in 1992, is now one of the most watched programmes in the world, with at least 20 million viewers tuning in every week in America alone. For someone who used to despise the television medium and who would rather do theatre or the occasional movie, Anderson's sensational rise to stardom via a TV show has been nothing short of phenomenal.

When she arrived in Hollywood to audition for the role of Scully, she only had a couple of stage and TV credits to her name. And she almost didn't get the role because the studio suits wanted an actress with the physical attributes of the other TV Anderson (as in Pamela of Baywatch). Creator Chris Carter, however, was adamant that Anderson get the part "I need someone who could play a scientist believably," he explains. "I needed someone who's Mulder's equal. When (Anderson) walked into the room, she had a poise and a gravity if you will."

And he was right. Anderson may lack height (or in this case, big bosoms) but that certain "X-factor" she certainly does have. Her Dana Scully went on to wow viewers the world over, a woman who not only had good looks but brains and compassion to go with it.

After The X-Files took off, Anderson became a bona fide star without even being aware of it. It only struck her when she made her first appearance at an X-Files Convention in Los Angeles in 1995, and saw 3,000 ardent XF fans screaming and shooting her name. But the turning point truly came when she flew to Brisbane, Australia, an X-Files promotion at a shopping mall and found, to her amazement, 10,000 screaming fans turning up just to see her. Dazed and confused, she was overheard muttering to herself backstage that "three years ago, nobody even know who I was." But now they do.

Even on the World Wide Web, you can't strike up a conversation without mentioning the fact that Ms Anderson is the undisputed Web Queen with the most number of fansites devoted to her -- 97 (and counting).

Just as dramatic as her sudden rise to fame are the events in her personal life. During the first season of the series, she fell in love, married then assistant art director Clyde Klotz, and had an unplanned pregnancy which almost jeopardised her career. Things somehow worked out in her favour. She continued working on the series (giving Agent Scully a very maternal look throughout second season), and eventually delivered a healthy baby girl, Piper Maru.

Alas, by the following year, the couple's busy schedules put a strain on the relationship and they amicably agreed to divorce. She's now in a steady relationship with actor Rodney Rowland of Space: Above And Beyond fame, and whom she starred with in the XF episode 'Never Again' in which Scully had her first one-night stand.

What Anderson is looking forward to now is to find the time to star in feature films. Just like Duchovny, she is eager not to be typecast as a TV character, but to be able to take challenging movie roles. So far she has chosen two plum un-Scully-like roles in two independent movies.

In The Mighty, about two misfit boys who became friends in the face of adversity, Anderson plays Loretta, a biker's alcoholic girlfriend who has a major impact on one of the boys. Her small but significant performance generated much buzz and her co-workers have nothing but praise for her. "She was really, really incredible," Producer Simon Fields gushes. "The actress didn't complain once about the tough filming conditions). She was great."

The other movie, Hellcab, about the day in the life of a cab driver has Anderson playing a "South Side Girl" who gets in the cab and has a big fight with her boyfriend. Fans will have to look real hard for her because she's only in it for five minutes, has big hair and wears tight jeans. The producers very sure that none of her fans would recognise her. One film that she sill be instantly recognised in though, is the upcoming X-Files movie in which she reprises her role as Agent Scully. Word has it that the producers offered both and Duchovny a cool US$4m fee each, so that they would not resent not being able to do other films during their TV series hiatus. The fee is indeed a hefty figure for two TV actors have practically no box office track record.

All Anderson would say is that she is more than grateful for that she's getting for this movie. Another thing she's grateful for is that she's finally getting the same pay as her co-star for the TV series as well, which is US$100,000 per episode. Previously getting only US$50,000 per episode, the "equal pay" status is long overdue, considering the actress has long proven that she's no secondary player in the success of the series. Moreover, she's also the better actor of the two leads having garnered four acting awards to Duchovny’s one.

Although Mulder and Scully would die for each other if they have to, Duchovny and Anderson, however, are not known to share their TV characters' closeness. As one XF staffer once said: "Mulder and Scully are friends, David and Gillian are acquaintances."

That point was very evident in their first joint interview last year for US magazine -- the first the two co-stars have ever done together since the series started, as they don't always concur in their views and opinions. Both have, however admitted that they do confide in each other from time to time, but once filming stops they both go their separate ways. Anderson once remarked that it's possibly due to the fact that they have to face each other practically everyday for months, and both their professional and personal commitments are very different.

And, of course, there are factions who just love to build up friction between the two for sensationalism value. For instance, a rumour rose last year that said Anderson was so annoyed with Duchovny's then girl-friend, later wife, Tea Leoni, hovering around the XF set, that she had The Naked Truth star kicked off the set. Anderson reportedly rolled her eyes when asked about the incident, firmly insisting that she hadn't even met his wife at that said time (although she did admit that someone's wife was kicked off the set!)

Still, the Michigan-born, London-raised actress is philosophical about her friendship with Duchovny. "I have a feeling that David and I will be much closer after the series is done and we don't have to be with each other daily."

In the meantime, Anderson is aiming for more new challenges. She has a hit series in her hands, three new movies on her slate and has widened her scope as an artist by presenting other TV shows such as America's Most Wanted and the BBC documentary series Future Fantastic. She has also done voiceovers: she voiced a character- named Data Nully in the computer-animated series Reboot and also narrated the computer game Hellbender II. And she's a recording artiste too.

While making Future Fantastic, she was so impressed with the theme song that she decided to call the composers, a British band called HAL, and offered to do a voiceover for any of their future projects. The result was a techno single entitled 'Extremis', the video of which shows a scantily clad Anderson rolling and writhing on a bed, whispering lines such as 'Automation love/ your caress is pneumatic/ I'm a slave to your touch / response automatic."

She also helped to compile an album of electronica music, Future: A Journey Through The Electronic Underground, for Virgin Records, which won praises from European music critics for her good ear. To the dismay of her musically-inclined fans though, Anderson has insisted that these events are one-off, as are her radio discjockey-ing days in Vancouver while XF is in production.

So as we await the next phase of Gillian Anderson's remarkable career, the woman who claimed that her highest vice is being addicted to Starbucks' decaf grande nonfat foamy mochas, is happy to continue being the world's sexiest FBI Agent. When asked by the Web magazine on where she hopes to be in 10 years time, Anderson replied: "I'd love to do a feature a year. Or two, if they were especially good. And travel. And be with my daughter. Be around friends and Piper and take care of ourselves and work when the time is right." With her star shining as brightly as it is now her hopes may easily become reality.

Transcript appears courtesy of Changi.

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