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The Grand Rapids Press

May 18, 2007

Charity, celebrity blend well, actress says
by Sue Merrell

GRAND RAPIDS -- The long-rumored return of "The X-Files" to the silver screen seems as elusive as some of Special Agent Fox Mulder's alien theories.

The truth is out there, but star Gillian Anderson -- like her facts-first character, Special Agent Dana Scully -- wants to see it in writing.

"I'm waiting for a script to be delivered," Anderson said during a recent visit to Grand Rapids. "It's apparently in the works, but I'm not sure until such time as there is a script. We all want it to happen."

Anderson, a 1986 graduate of City High School, starred with David Duchovny in the Fox television series from 1993 to 2002, as well as the 1998 film, "The X-Files: Fight the Future."

Now living in London, she visited Grand Rapids last weekend to celebrate the 90th birthday of her grandmother, Louise Lane of Rockford, and show off her 6-month-old son, Oscar.

"He's been a bit cranky because he's teething," Anderson said, "but right now he's fairly smiley and content."

During her visit last weekend, Anderson, 38, spoke at a fundraiser for neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerves. Anderson's brother, Aaron, who is working on his Ph.D. at Stanford, has been diagnosed with NF1, a moderate form of the disease.

Her mother, Rosemary Anderson, is vice president of Neurofibromatosis, Inc., a national support group that kicked off a new fundraising effort, Run for NF, at Saturday's Fifth Third Riverbank Run. Anderson's daughter Piper, 12, participated in the 5K walk with Rosemary and Gillian's sister, Zoe.

Doodle drawings by Gillian and Piper, as well as contributions from Donald Trump, Barack Obama and others, are being auctioned off on eBay next week as part of the first U.S. National Doodle Day to raise money for NF. "In England, we raised $150,000 last year for NF," Anderson said, adding she bid on doodles by Judy Dench and Helen Mirren.

Neurofibromatosis is one of many charities Anderson supports, including a variety of causes in Africa, from AIDS to artists to elephants.

"It's an unexpected benefit of celebrity," she said. "I discovered the benefits of someone who is in the public eye pointing attention to something that needs attention."

Anderson and her following of "The X-Files" fans have raised money for a school in Uganda. She speaks excitedly about developments most of us take for granted, such as getting the school on the electric grid or raising enough money for a borehole so the community can have fresh water.

"It's been an extraordinary experience," she said. "Over the years, 'X-Files' fans have donated money and gotten involved in raising money and started to volunteer because they see me volunteer."

Although Grand Rapids has added a new convention center, arena and medical research center since Anderson visited 11 years ago, she said she didn't have much time to look around.

"I remember so little," she said. "Every now and then something comes into the corner of my mind."

Although she didn't get a chance to visit the remodeled Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, where she served as an intern in the mid-1980s, she has fond memories of her first theater production at Actors' Theatre, "And a Nightingale Sang."

"I remember the feeling of being on stage when you feel like the audience is with you. It was the first time I felt that, and there was the 'Aha moment.' 'This is what I want to do.'"

Although Anderson moved to London five years ago, she has remained visible to American audiences, earning an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Lady Dedlock in Masterpiece Theatre's "Bleak House," which aired on PBS in 2006 and repeated in recent weeks.

"That was a great experience, a great project."

She also had a supporting role in last year's Academy Award-winning movie, "The Last King of Scotland."

But several of her British films, such as "The Mighty Celt" and "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story," never made it to Grand Rapids. She suspects that will be the fate of "Straightheads," a horror thriller in which Anderson has a nude scene. It opened April 27 in the UK.

"The director (Dan Reed) was a documentary filmmaker and has done films in war zones," Anderson said. "The film explores what would happen to people if that kind of violence came to your neighborhood."

In recent months Anderson has been enjoying motherhood. She didn't work during her pregnancy and has been able to stay home with Oscar, her son with businessman Mark Griffiths. It has been much calmer than the high stress she felt when Piper was born in the midst of filming episodes of "The X-Files," she said.

"Being home with him has been very different, and I recommend it."

She plans to go back to work soon on a movie version of British journalist Toby Young's memoir, "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People," directed by "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Robert B. Weide.

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