May 12th, 2005

House of D

Sincere apologies

Melora Koepke

David Duchovny's House of D is all about feelings, but critics aren't feeling him. Why?

Last Friday, David Duchovny's big-screen debut as a writer/director was released in Montreal, as it had been previously in New York and some other places. Critics here and everywhere else, with few exceptions, have torn House of D to bits with a carnivorous relish reserved for only one thing: a Hollywood star who fails to pull off their own project.

House of D is, admittedly, a risky prospect. It's a coming-of-age story about 13-year-old Tom Warshaw growing up in 1970s Greenwich Village, which is textured with Duchovny's own memories of growing up in '70s NYC. Tom has a best friend, Pappass, a mentally challenged janitor played by Robin Williams, and a crush on an Upper West Side private-school girl. Téa Leoni, Duchovny's wife, plays Tom's troubled mother, and Duchovny himself plays the narrator, a grown-up Tom who lives in Paris with his overgrown soul patch and a problematic marriage. The title House of D does not stand for Duchovny, but for the women's detention centre that once stood on West 10th Street in the Village. In the film, young Tom goes to get advice and life wisdom from an incarcerated woman played by Erykah Badu.

In Montreal filming French movie star Vincent Perez's The Secret with Lili Taylor, Duchovny took time out at the Ritz last week to fight the good fight.

Hour So, um, House of D seems to inspire a virulent reaction in people.

David Duchovny Yeah! I never would have thought so about this film, I thought I would make a film that everybody would love. I was surprised by it at first, but now I think I understand.

Hour And?

Duchovny Critics go to movies to think, audiences go to the movies to feel. [Critics] think, 'House of D, House of Duchovny.' They react to it as a vanity project.

Hour And now it's coming out the same week as House of Wax...

Duchovny I can only hope that people think they're seeing House of Wax, so they'll wander in.

Hour Seems like you're maybe just an easy mark. Everyone thinks they know who you are, and you're not giving them what they expect.

Duchovny It seems to me that critics should love movies, and it seems like they really don't.

Hour [Laughing] That's the worst cliché... I love movies.

Duchovny Well you might be the exception. It seems like the critics just want it to be something else... I think [House of D] is kind of an intelligent movie, a lot of laughs. I wanted to make a movie that had everything, stuff in all of life, everything I knew, that's my big ambition. I find it a matter of pride when someone gets offended by feeling. Can you imagine anything more absurd?

Hour Well, one of the, um, glaring targets you're dealing with is the Robin Williams-as-a-retarded-janitor thing. You had to know that people would take aim at that.

Duchovny I had no idea! What I thought was, 'Robin wants to make my movie? Now it's going to get made!' Here's a guy who is loved by millions of people, but for some reason... critics don't love him. If A.O. Scott [The New York Times critic who openly ridiculed House of D] was on a jury, he'd have to be excused. If you hate Robin Williams, you have no business reviewing a Robin Williams movie.

Hour You honestly think it's just the critics? We're people too, you know.

Duchovny I think people don't know what to make of him... he's limitlessly talented. Kind of a freak in that way. Perhaps people who have less life in them are offended by Robin.

Hour So you're saying those of us who dislike Williams are suffering from a dearth of imagination? Okay, maybe. I find it so weird that L.A. is so insular; people within the industry don't really have any idea who is and who isn't well regarded. It's sort of innocent, in a weird way. Or deeply cynical. I can't figure out which.

Duchovny Maybe we just have no idea. [Pauses]. How am I doing? Am I hated, and I just don't know it?

Hour No... you are universally loved for one thing, but, um, haven't done enough stuff lately. To be judged. Now everyone will think this movie is an autobiography, and judge you on that!

Duchovny I know! They say it's freaky and Freudian that I cast Téa as my mother... but she's not my mother. It's not me, it's not my story... if it was a movie about a guy who was a kid and then grew up to star in a science fiction series, then it would maybe be my story.

Hour That would make an extremely interesting movie, actually. Or maybe a novel. With all the interior pathos of what it is like to be adored by millions for being someone they are not.

Duchovny I could call it House of X. Then I could really get the House of Wax people involved.