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Australia In Style
August 2008

Agent Provocateur
By Kelly Beswick

Feisty, fabulous and (nearly) forty, Gillian Anderson talks about reliving Scully and Loving motherhood.

In an opulent hotel suite in Kensington, West London, Gillian Anderson jumps up from an over-stuffed sofa, enthusiastically offering her hand in greeting, and the first impression is that she's just so tiny and slim, a mere 160cm tall. As special agent Dana Scully in The X-Files - a role she is soon to reprise in a second film outing for the hit '90s series [The X-Files: I Want to Believe, in cinemas from July 24], her ever-questioning presence filled the screen, but in the flesh she is diminutive, and also far more beautiful. Her alabaster skin belies her 39 years and those piercing blue eyes have an almost hypnotic quality. She wears her hair glossy, long and in its natural shade of strawberry blonde. Anderson looks absolutely radiant, and as she nestles back into the sofa to chat, it soon becomes apparent why.

"I definitely feel the happiest and most settled I've ever felt," confides London-based Anderson, a huge, Cheshire-cat grin spreading across her delicate face. Clearly her relationship with British businessman Mark Griffiths is going swimmingly, after several tumultuous years that saw her marry for a second time to documentary maker Julian Ozanne, only to separate some 16 months later. (Her first marriage was to X-Files art designer Clyde Klotz, by whom she has a 13-year-old daughter, Piper.) A tabloid newspaper frenzy followed when Anderson immediately embarked on a romance with Griffiths, falling pregnant just a few months into the relationship.

"It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride," Anderson says of that time, but now, with her second child, son Oscar, aged 18 months, and another baby on the way, she seems to have finally found the peace and contentment that eluded her for so long.

So how is Anderson finding motherhood second time around? "I'm absolutely loving it," she enthuses. "When Piper was this age, I was working pretty ridiculous hours and relied very heavily on my nanny, so I didn't have a lot of time to spend with her. With Oscar I'm in a completely different situation - we have so much more time together. I can now pick how long the projects are that I take on and whether they are here or somewhere else. I take that pretty seriously."

Anderson admits to having been incredibly driven in the past, with a restless spirit largely borne from a nomadic childhood that saw her hippy parents flit between countries, and indeed continents, moving from Chicago to Puerto Rico, before settling for a while in the UK. Anderson spent nine formative years living in north London, before being uprooted yet again at the age of 11, when her family returned to the US.

Finding herself a fish out of water in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she was mercilessly teased for her English accent (something that she's retained to this day - a testament to her unyielding character), Anderson became your typically rebellious teenager, complete with nose ring and mad, dyed hair. "It's funny because now Piper is showing those exact same rebellious qualities," laughs Anderson, accepting the irony. "She's becoming a bit of a Goth, heavy on the kohl eyeshadow and funky clothes, I'm just praying her rebelliousness doesn't hit me as hard as mine hit my poor parents," she adds, rolling her eyes. "Actually, she has such a really cool sense of style. I'm so impressed in how that's manifesting itself."

It was through acting in high school that Anderson finally found her footing. By her early 20s she was honing her craft on the New York stage, before succumbing to the lure of Los Angeles and landing the role of Agent Scully in the TV sci-fi series The X-Files, aged just 24. Anderson spent the next nine years with her beautiful aquiline nose firmly to the grindstone, working 16-hour days, creating one of the most popular characters in television history and garnering herself a string of awards along the way. Yet when the series ended in 2002, there was the impression that Anderson was more than happy to walk away. "It had become such an all-consuming part of my life," says the actress. "I was ready to try something different." That she upped sticks and moved to the UK was a clear sign that Anderson was never going to follow the typical Hollywood career path, although what followed was a string of highly acclaimed performances in such films as The House of Mirth and The Last King of Scotland, and more recently the BBC TV adaptation of Bleak House. In October she appears in the film How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, alongside Kirsten Dunst.

But now in The X-files: I Want to Believe, Anderson returns to the role that first made her famous, a decision that initially made her "nervous and excited in equal measure". Describing Scully some six years since she last graced out screens, Anderson says: "She's made some very important decisions in her life in terms of what she wants and what she's doing and she's quite outspoken about standing behind those choices." After pausing for a beat, Anderson then adds: "Scully has definitely matured, and I suppose in a similar way, so have I."

With a milestone birthday this August, Anderson has already planned a week of celebrations with friends and family all staying together in a rented house somewhere in the country. "I'm really looking forward to the birthday itself, although the fact that I'm turning 40 does still occasionally catch me off guard," she laughs, shaking her head at the very thought of it.

Despite laughing often and with gusto, Anderson's face is remarkably smooth and unlined - if anything, she looks younger now than her early X-Files days. "I think I just feel more relaxed in my own skin. In fact, that's one of the things I'm really enjoying about getting older, the caring less and less about how you look," she says. "For example, I used to be obsessed with my thighs and wouldn't wear so many things because of the tiniest little evidence of a crinkle or something, and I don't think I ever bother looking at them. That's so nice, to think that one can be 60 and be happy to be whatever one is - I'm looking forward to that!"

Not that Anderson is a slacker in the sartorial stakes. Today, dressed in dark denim pants, a dark, high-necked blouse with a cream wool jacket worn casually on top, she looks the epitome of a yummy mummy. But she claims she's not a natural clothes-horse, and proving her line of argument constantly and obliviously, picks at a loose thread on her jacket all afternoon, eventually pulling it out, leaving a scrappy catch on the cuff.

"Most of the time I'm in combats and T-shirts," Anderson reveals when asked about her style away from the spotlight. "I am by nature a very casual dresser. But that's not to say I don't appreciate the beauty of clothing. If I see something that's well designed or beautifully cut, I will definitely admire it, but it's not something I'll necessarily search out. That said, I've got this huge shoe collection," she adds. "But I probably only wear five pairs, and most of the time you'll find me in flip-flops."

She does enjoy putting on a great dress once in a while, but preferably for a dinner date with Griffiths rather than a stroll down the red carpet. "Those red-carpet times I find way too stressful," she reveals. "I end up slapping this fake grin on my face and all the hype and false smiles just drive me nuts."

These days Anderson's perfect night consists of being curled up on the sofa, watching a rented DVD and tucking into Thai takeaway. "It doesn't get much better than that," she says, smiling at the thought. Indeed home definitely appears to be where Anderson's heart now lies, having just recently moved her family to a large Georgian house on the outskirts of London. After years of never staying long in one house, simply renovating her purchases and selling them on, Anderson clearly considers this property to be less of an investment and more a home.

"It's the first time I've created a house where I've actually asked myself, 'What do I want? What do I want in the kitchen, what do I want in the hallway, etc?' Before, I've taken ideas from things and been much more influenced by the interior architecture. But here I've actually asked myself what is the most comfortable room I could possibly think of and I've then created it. And do you know what? It's actually worked!"

Anderson then offers up an anecdote that seems to sum up perfectly her new sense of satisfaction. "Just the other week someone mentioned to me that a similar house to mine was up for sale down the road and that it was in a bit of a state and perfect for doing up. My immediate thought was: 'I've got to go and see that,' but then I checked myself. I'm at a stage in my life when I need to stay put... well, at least for a while."

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