THE ALIENATION OF DAVID DUCHOVNY
By ALEX STRACHAN
Sun Television Critic
February 17, 1998
If the co-star of The X-Files were searching for a literary analogy to describe the past six months of his life, he might choose Rudyard Kipling -- the line about keeping your head while all about you are losing theirs.
"I don't take it seriously," he says, referring to the glare of public attention, "except with how it interferes with my life."
Last fall, Duchovny sparked a media furore by complaining to a late-night TV talk-show host about Vancouver's incessant rain. He says those remarks were made in jest and taken out of context by some members of the Vancouver media.
It doesn't matter that he's since said repeatedly the reason he would like to see production of the show moved to Los Angeles is to be with his wife of nine months, sitcom star Tea Leoni. Hardly a day goes by that a stranger doesn't walk up to him and offer some snide remark about the weather.
The untold story, Duchovny says, is that he never imagined he'd be in Vancouver for five years when he got involved in The X-Files.
"There is something I've never discussed in public or in the media, which is basically that, in the beginning, I came up here thinking I'd be up here for three weeks shooting a pilot. I was told just the pilot would shoot up here. And then I was told just the first year would shoot up here. And then maybe the first three years would shoot up here. And then the first five years would shoot up here.
"It's gone from being three weeks to five years, and there was never a decision that I made, as an actor living in Los Angeles, to be away from home so long," Duchovny says.
"However lovely this city is, and however wonderful the people have been, and however talented the crew that works here, and however perfect the city is for The X-Files, that hasn't really figured into the personal dislocation that I've felt.
"It's not that I've become a star and am flexing my muscles. It's really a five-year debate I've been having with the powers that be," he says.
"The whole discussion of the show moving has been that it's just this year, and it's just because David's a star, and he's a baby, and he wants to push [series creator and executive producer] Chris Carter around. And it's just not the truth."
The glare of adverse publicity has left him with mixed feelings about Vancouver.
"What I thought was so harmful about the rain debate was that it made these issues personal, as if I had judged Vancouver to be wanting in some way, which was never the case at all. It was just a case of me wanting to be home and wanting to continue my career outside of The X-Files." (Duchovny has had roles in more than half a dozen feature films, including last year's Playing God.)
"What's too bad is that I like Vancouver and I've really enjoyed working here for five years," Duchovny says. "But I have to say I've been coloured by this experience.
"I don't hold the city responsible. But I can't say that when I think of Vancouver, I'm not going to think of that."
In spite of all that, Duchovny has not entirely ruled out working in Vancouver. And after months of rumours that the show would move to L.A., recent reports have said Carter has been working on a plan to keep production north of the border.
There has been speculation that in return for keeping The X-Files here, Duchovny and co-star Gillian Anderson might be asked to do just 14 episodes each, instead of the usual 22 to 24, with supporting characters taking up the slack. Duchovny and Anderson -- who play FBI agents and specialists in the supernatural Fox Mulder and Dana Scully -- would still be paid for the full season.
The supporting cast -- which includes Lea, Mitch Pileggi and Vancouver actors William Davis, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood and Tom Braidwood -- has recently been joined by Chris Owens, a young Vancouver actor who will be introduced as Mulder's half-brother in a two-part episode to air March 1 and 8.
Even though yet another batch of rumours suggests Duchovny is disenchanted with The X-Files, he also hasn't ruled out staying beyond his seven-year commitment, which has two more years to run. (Anderson, who won an Emmy Award last year for her role in the show, also has two years left in her contract.)
"Again, it's about numbers and dates and things like that. It's not really anything I've given much thought to."
Duchovny doesn't know whether his wife's show, The Naked Truth, will be renewed for another season. Decisions on whether to renew a series are usually made in May, when the U.S. networks announce their fall schedules.
Leoni, a talented actress with a gift for physical comedy, has been treading water on The Naked Truth, which has survived three seasons of behind-the-scenes turmoil, mixed reviews and tepid ratings.
In contrast, first-run episodes of The X-Files have consistently placed in the Top 10 in the U.S. Nielsen ratings, and it's the most-watched television program in the Vancouver, Lower Mainland and Victoria area among 18- to 49-year-olds, according to the fall '97 survey by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement.
Duchovny admits disagreements over whether to keep the show in Vancouver have placed a strain on his relationship with Carter, but says it's nothing that can't be solved.
Duchovny has been close friends with Carter since the show's inception in 1993 and has contributed story ideas for four episodes, going as far as to help plan, block and arrange scenes with the producer.
Carter has a reputation as a tough task-master who personally supervises every detail on the screen. But Duchovny dismisses that characterization.
"The show is way too big and people are way too talented for one person to control everything," Duchovny says. "I'm sure, as well, he would want to dispel the notion that he is pulling all the strings."
A rumoured recent on-set shouting match between the two never happened, Duchovny said.
"I read that in the paper and I thought, 'God, where the [expletive] would that have come from?' " Duchovny says. "I was talking to the dolly grip about it and he reminded that I had shot a scene where I had kicked over a garbage can a couple of weeks ago. You'll see it when it comes on [the episode airs Sunday]. You'll see me destroy a garbage can. And let me tell you that only one garbage can was hurt in the filming of this scene."
Asked what other misconception about himself he'd like to clear up, Duchovny pauses.
"I don't know," he says finally. Then: "Probably that I don't like the rain."
THE MAN BEHIND MULDER