David Duchovny may have thought he had left the world of aliens behind with his exit from X-Files, but the former Mulder is back fighting those ETs again, but this time for laughs in Ivan Reitman’s Evolution. Talking to Paul Fischer, Duchovny talks comedy, acting, academia and that burning of all questions: Will we see Duchovny back as Mulder any day soon?
There’s more than a touch of irony in the fact that David Duchovny is back fighting aliens in his latest film, Evolution. So what is with the former X-Filer and aliens? “I really don’t know”, he says smilingly. What he DOES know, is that he wanted “to do a broad comedy” and circumstances allowed him to get involved. “I was able to take a year off from X-Files, pretty much to do a big comedy with Ivan Reitman”.
There are key moments in the film in which one gets the distinct impression that the actor gets to poke fun at himself. “I guess that’s true but I wasn’t really thinking about that”, he insists. The subject matter of the film was secondary. “To me, I wanted to know: What kind of a film is it? What of acting am I going to be doing? This is totally different for ME. So the fact that there are aliens in this is irrelevant; it’s still very different from what I’ve done before”.
Though Evolution is a broad sci-fi comedy, Duchovny went out of his way to keep his performance real and not overplay the film’s comic elements. “I think this movie’s deceptively simple, because the science-fiction has to be real, and the reality undercuts the comedy and the comedy undercuts the reality, so you have to constantly keep the reality and comedy in check”.
Evolution is Hollywood moviemaking on a grand scale, full of elaborate special effects. Duchovny says working on such a project was “nerve wracking because you really do have to deliver yourself into the hands of the director who’s going to keep the tone right. There’s a lot of trust involved with the director. In a drama, you pretty much know how to keep it real, interesting and be true to my character. It’s a drama, so people are either going to believe it or not. But in a comedy, if there are no laughs it doesn’t work and if they don’t laugh because you didn’t do your job correctly, then you’d feel like an idiot, so it was terrifying. Every day you’d come on set going: How do I make this funnier? You don’t want to undercut yourself but at the same time miss the comedy. Doing comedy, I decided, is SO exhausting, because you just never know how something is going to turn out”.
It was the little-known TV series The X-Files that put Duchovny on a whole other level. Eight years have passed since Mulder first graced the small screen, and after 8 years, Duchovny confirms it’s all over for the character- despite a longing kiss he shared with Scully in the final episode of the last season. “I’m as curious as any fan of the show how they’re going to get me out of there, because I’m not there”. Not even in a cameo, he insists. “I’d be surprised if I was on The X-Files AT ALL next season”. But he might consider “being open to the idea of being in a movie, but obviously I’d have to look at a script first. And if and when that time comes, I might have missed the whole thing and will want to play Mulder again if they wait long enough”.
Duchovny was still a relative unknown prior to X-Files. He remains as surprised at anyone this singular television show not only became such a cult phenomenon, but changed this actor’s life. “It’s crazy when I think about it”, he muses. “It’s a defining event in my life, but one that I think I take for granted, like a car accident”.
Like the ‘car accident’ that became X-Files, Duchovny never “made a conscious decision to be an actor”. He recalls just having backed into it. “I’ve always been interested in creating fiction and telling stories, and acting was just a natural extension of that curiosity. I started to achieve success and just kept going in that direction. I just became involved in trying to be the best actor I can be, which takes time”. Duchovny could well have become a teacher had he finished his PhD in Contemporary American Literature. “I would have loved to have done it, but it’s two or three years out of your life, but the acting thing took over. I mean I would have loved to have stopped time and devoted that time writing this thesis, but I felt I didn’t have it”.
Another aspect of Duchovny’s life that has changed is marriage and fatherhood, but he is not allowing either of these momentous events change the way he chooses a project, he admits, “but I’d really love to voice a cartoon”. Though very much a family man, when it comes to travelling the world promoting Evolution, the family will not be joining him, “because it’s going to be so quick and my daughter’s only two, it’s not like she would gain anything out of it except severe jet lag for two weeks. But if she were five or six and would appreciate going to other countries, I’d definitely take her”.
This promotional tour will take him to Japan and Australia, neither of which he has visited and is looking forward to seeing them “as long as I can escape the inside of a hotel room to check them out”. Fatherhood has of course, changed his life. “You’re constantly overwhelmed by it. It feels like heartbreak in a way. It’s very intense, and it’s localized in your chest. You know, when your baby does something that’s recognizably human, you just think, Oh, my God. There’s a little person in there trying to get out. It’s locked in this uncoordinated, preverbal world. But there’s somebody in there who’s trying to communicate, who’s just starting to play the game”.
As for ex-agent Mulder, his game of creating fiction continues to evolve.