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July 24, 2008
16 Questions With: Gillian Anderson
By Liane Bonin

X-Philes, rejoice! A full decade after the first X-Files movie (and 6 years after the series' end), Mulder and Scully return in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. There have been big changes for both of them (we'd tell you what those are, but then we'd have to kill you) - and big changes for star Gillian Anderson (she's one of the new hosts of 'Masterpiece Theater', for crying out loud!). We talked to the star, pregnant with her third child, about why the sequel took so long, why sex ruins everything and what Fox megahit she turned down.

1. Why did it take so long to make the second movie?

It wasn't anybody's intention. There was a desire among all of us that when the series ended we would eventually come back together. Chris [Carter] was interested in writing a script, and David [Duchovny] and I agreed that we'd jump on board were it to come to fruition. There were a couple of times where it looked like we were close, then something happened with the deals. Even a few months before we started shooting, there was a slight chance it might fall apart. So the fact this movie is going to see the light of day is quite something.

2. It's been six years since the show went off the air, and even longer since you and David left. Do people still care?

I hope so. There's a whole new fan base out there because of DVDs. Kids these days love horror films. My 13-year-old watches stuff like 'Saw.' I don't get that at all, but there's this trend right now toward scary stuff, and certainly that's where a lot of our episodes lived. People watched our show because they were scared out of their seats. Now there are parents who watched the series on their first date night, and their kids are getting into it as well.

3. What about kids who haven't seen the show?

Because this is a stand-alone movie, and it's ultimately an old-fashioned thriller that doesn't have a lot to do with the mythology of the series, hopefully that will appeal to people that know nothing about it or care nothing about the series itself.

4. You know hardcore fans are going to miss the mythology, though.

But the series wasn't always about mythology. It wasn't always about the Cigarette Smoking Man or about the aliens or black oil. It was also about good old science fiction and the paranormal. It was about reading minds and telekinesis and being able to move objects across the room with your mind.

5. That sounds like a spoiler! Is it hard to promote a film that has been kept so completely under wraps?

I think it's probably harder for you. All I have to say is, "Sorry, I can't talk about this." It's probably the easiest press I've ever had to do for a film.

6. Why skip the mythology?

I think it was important to Chris and Frank [Spotnitz] to start quietly. There are some pretty profound and controversial ideas that are brought up in this film, and I think it was important for Chris that we start here, and open up the door to other things in the future. He felt like one of the biggest draws for the series was the relationship, anyway.

7. Things have changed a lot for Scully in the six years since we've seen her. How did you feel when you read the script?

I loved that time hadn't stood still. I feel that the weight of time and what they have lived with and through is a huge element, especially at the beginning of the film. You really feel the weight of those years, and there's this heaviness. It's tangible. It was in the script and it got translated onto the screen, and I loved that you can feel where these guys have been in their individual lives and also where they are at this stage in their relationship. That's fun to work with as an actor.

8. But you've said it wasn't easy to get back into Scully mode.

A lot has been written about my initial comment, [but] the bulk of the difficulty was in the logistics. I'd flown in from India to London to Vancouver, and we started shooting the next day in probably one of my most difficult scenes in the film. I'm confronting Billy Connolly's character, and it came down to standing in that room on the set and being at a loss as to how to get into it between the jet lag and the intensity [of] the scene and having not spent any time with the script or even the other characters. It was definitely a big challenge.

9. Considering how long it's been, did you and David do anything to reconnect?

A lot of what we have between us has always been there. It was there from the first day we showed up on set together, it was there, strangely, even in the hallway outside the room we auditioned in. So it's really just the two of us showing up with a knowledge of what the script is calling for and pushing play.

10. Did you two play pranks on one another like you did in the good old days?

This was a heavy experience. There wasn't a whole lot of prank pulling. We had levity in that we were working with Billy Connolly, which added a great deal of lightness to the day. But it's tricky. When you're dealing with a lot of the issues and themes that I ended up participating in, there's not really a whole lot of room for that. As much as part of you is dying to crack up, the other part knows this is some serious stuff, and to respect it, you have to keep your focus.

11. Scully and Mulder still have that spark. Why do you think they were such a great couple?

I never fully understood it when I was working on the show. It wasn't until I saw one of those YouTube clips of the relationship over the years that I got to see it from an entirely different perspective. Obviously, things are spliced together to pull at your heart strings, but it really showed the progression of their caring for each other.

12. But they never hooked up.

I think it worked because they made the brave decision to keep it platonic. They would stop bullets for each other, they saved each other's lives and they would show up under any circumstances. When you get into a relationship, you won't pick someone up at the airport; you say "take a cab." We got to preserve the best of how two people can be together, because they didn't get into the baggage and the drama of what it's like when you start sleeping with somebody. It's kind of the ultimate romance, that best first date over and over again.

13. You've said you'd consider a return to series TV after age 60. But is there any TV series out right now that tempts you to reconsider?

I don't watch television, and I'm living in London too. Once in a while a friend will say, "Oh my God, you have to watch this new show," and I don't. It's possible if I were to do that, part of me would say that would be fun to do. Last year I was asked to do a season on '24,' and I considered it. I didn't know the series, but I thought it might be fun to do something that's highly respected. Logistically it didn't work out, but it was the first time I considered something, and I might again, but not something that's going to take a few years out of my life.

14. You're pregnant with your third child, you have the dark comedies 'Boogie Woogie' and 'How to Lose Friends & Alienate People' coming out, and you're even one of the new hosts on 'Masterpiece Theater.' Are you too busy for another 'X-Files' movie?

I think we're all on board for another one ... it depends on whether people show us that this is something they'd like to see again by showing up to see this film. That's just the business of it. That said, if it's successful I don't think it will be six years until the next one. Probably more like three or four next time around.

15. 'X-Files' artifacts are in the Smithsonian. Does that freak you out?

I [wasn't] aware of much when I was in the show. As a coping mechanism, part of my brain shut down; the hype was a lot for a twentysomething to take on. I've seen and read about the show's influence on television and contemporary culture, [and] I've started to get it. But I was always aware of how blessed I was to sit with this character for such a length of time. I can't imagine what it would be like to do a series for as long when you don't like the character and people can give or take the series. That would be a certain kind of hell.

16. You're turning 40 next month. Looking back, what advice would you give to the 24-year-old you as she signed on for 'The X-Files'?

Back then, it felt like I didn't know what hit me. I didn't know I was going to have to work so hard. I think if somebody had told me early on that I was stepping into almost a decade of really, really hard work, I probably would have said, "You know what, can you choose somebody else?" I think if I'd backed out of it I would have regretted it at some point, but I had no clue. If I gave myself any advice, it would be to relax in the little bit of free time I had here and there. I would tell myself to just cool down and not take myself so seriously.

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