The Gazette (Montreal)

D for Duchovny, debut

The onetime prince of paranormal on X-Files steps out as a film writer/director with the new House of D, hitting local cinemas on Friday

The Gazette

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

David Duchovny seems to have a French thing going on. First, there's House of D, the former X-Files star's feature-film debut as a writer-director. The film, which opens in Montreal Friday, is the story of Tom Warshaw, played by Duchovny, a former New Yorker who's married to a French woman and has lived in Paris for years. Warshaw even has a bit of French dialogue in the film, which also stars Duchovny's wife, Tea Leoni, Robin Williams and Erykah Badu.

Now, Duchovny is in Montreal acting in a French production, The Secret, directed by noted Swiss-born actor-turned-filmmaker Vincent Perez, who has starred in some of France's most famous flicks of the past couple of decades, include Cyrano de Bergerac. The $10-million supernatural thriller is produced by French uber-producer/director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita), but is being shot in English. It also stars Lili Taylor from Six Feet Under.

In an interview late last week at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Duchovny cautioned against reading too much into the French flavour of his recent projects. He likes Montreal, a city he'd never visited before this project, "because it's like a European city. I like to hear French spoken."

But he plays down the recent Gallic twist to his career.

"It's just a coincidence," said Duchovny, who, in person, showcases the same deadpan style he made famous as paranormal-obsessed FBI agent Fox Mulder. "It's just chance that House of D worked out that way. It's because I needed to have a place to have the kid run away to and I had enough French to write a funny classroom scene in French. Originally, I had wanted it to be Italian because I wanted to go shoot in Rome. But I didn't know enough Italian. So it became French."

House of D starts with Duchovny's expatriate American artist living in contemporary Paris, but it quickly shifts back to 1973 Greenwich Village to chronicle the events that led Warshaw to flee America for France.

The 13-year-old Warshaw (Anton Yelchin) has it rough at home, with a mother (Leoni) still grieving the loss of his father, and his life at school becomes complicated when his best friend, the school's mentally challenged janitor Pappass (Williams), gets in trouble with the authorities. The title is a reference to Greenwich Village's House of Detention, a prison for women where one inmate (Badu) provides some street-savvy advice for the troubled teen.

"I didn't set out to make an autobiographical film or some kind of vanity project," Duchovny said. "I really wanted to make a universal coming-of-age film."

Duchovny has starred in a number of Hollywood flicks, including Connie and Carla, Return to Me, Evolution and Playing God, but the New York-born actor remains most famous for his nine-year run as Mulder on The X-Files. He doesn't sound particularly worried about The X-Files baggage. He drily notes that, prior to that mega-hit sci-fi detective series, he was best-known for a cheesy late-night erotic TV series "and I obviously proved that I could move on from the Red Shoe Diaries."Duchovny says X-Files was his acting school. He was a late-bloomer as a thespian, beginning to study acting in New York only while doing graduate studies at Yale University, and he learned his craft while playing Mulder.

"I don't think of it as a burden, I think of it as an opportunity to have taught myself to act," Duchovny said. "Looking back, I'm sure there was no better way to learn my craft."

He isn't surprised that long after it ended, people are still talking about this original drama about a pair of investigators hot on the trail of criminals, UFOs and extraterrestrials.

"It just happens to be maybe the best show that's ever been on television, in terms of an action-drama. It was a show that bent in every direction. It was a comedy, drama, thriller, horror, it was a medical drama, a procedural drama. It was flexible.

"I can't think of another show that was like that," Duchovny said, "and I don't think there will ever be another show like that because they don't spend that kind of money anymore. Reality shows have ruined producers' taste because they're cheap to produce and they get good ratings."

House of D opens in Montreal on Friday.