Inside the Actors Studio -- David Duchovny
April 10, 2005 (original air date)
JL: Tonight's guest has received two Emmy nominations, eight Screen Actors Guild nominations, and won the Golden Globe, the Golden Satellite Award, Great Britain's National Television Award, and the TV Guide Award for his portrayal of Special Agent Fox Mulder in "The X-Files." He has appeared in the "Red Shoe Diaries" and "Twin Peaks" on television, and his film appearances include "New Years Day," "The Rapture," "Julia Has Two Lovers," "Beethoven," "Chaplin," "Kalifornia," "Playing God," "Evolution," and "Full Frontal." He has written, directed, and costarred in "House of D." People Magazine has declared him one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world. And he has been GQ's Man of the Year. The Actor's Studio is proud to welcome David Duchovny. (Applause and standing ovation.)
JL: Where were you born?
DD: I was born about a half a mile from here, 11th Street and Second Avenue. I wasn't born there, but that's where I came home to.
JL: What is your father's name?
DD: My father's name was Amram.
JL: What is the origin of the name Duchovny?
DD: I think "Duch" means spirit in Russian and other Slavic languages. My grandmother told me it meant Rabbi.
JL: Where did your father grow up?
DD: He grew up in Brooklyn.
JL: What was his profession when you were a child? (Childhood pictures shown through this part)
DD: I believe he was in what you'd call public relations. I think he was a speechwriter. He worked at the American Jewish Committee, the AJC. But he wrote books like "The Establishment Dictionary," "On With the Wind - Biography of Martha Mitchell," "The Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew." These were like I'd guess you'd call them political satire that he'd do to supplement his income along with playing poker every Wednesday night. (Laughter)
JL: What is your mother's name?
DD: My mother's name is Margaret. Meg.
JL: And her family name?
DD: Meg Miller. Margaret Miller.
JL: Where was she born?
DD: She was born in Scotland.
JL: Do you feel Scottish? (Laughter)
DD: I think that I do. I think that my father being a New York Jew and my mother being a Scottish Lutheran ... I don't know if you know the Lutherans, but they're a fun-loving kind of people. (Laughter). But they have a lot of things in common and they have a kind of survivor mentality, a downtrodden mentality in a way. I think it kind of chimes within me in that way.
JL: Do you have any siblings?
DD: Yes, I have an older brother and a younger sister.
JL: As we have so often in the past 10 and a half years, we've come to the commonest theme in this series. How old were you when your parents divorced?
DD: I think I was 11.
JL: What was its effect on you?
DD: I think I felt like I was alone I think was the problem. I think I felt like mine was the only family that was going through that, when of course obviously more than 50 percent of the other families were.
JL: Absolutely. As I was preparing for tonight, this was the point in the blue cards when I encountered the vanishing and reappearing "H". (DD laughs) You now spell Duchovny with an "H" in the middle ...
JL: But I happen to know that when you were a kid there was no "H."
DD: That's true.
JL: And your father never used the "H."
DD: Never did.
JL: Nor did your brother.
DD: No. Still doesn't. Couldn't afford it. (Laughter)
JL: How do you explain this?
DD: You know. Lipton's a pretty good name for reading off the page.
JL: Yeah, it's easy.
DD: Du-chuv-ny, Du-shove-ney, my father, I think, got tired of being called Duchoveeni, Du-shove-ney, Duke-o-vich, Dutch Oven, whatever. (Laughter) And he took the "H" out but he never did it legally. And then when my parents divorced, my mother as a kind of ... (makes a "stick it" gesture with his arm and hand) .... you know, put it back in. (Laughter)
DD: Yeah. So I put it back in. My brother who was older and kind of siding with my dad left it out, and my sister you know was kind of on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
JL: How did you become a student at Collegiate? (Lots of school pictures shown through this part)
DD: My mother prized education over everything, over anything, and always wanted me to get a college degree. That was her mandate almost. And Collegiate is a wonderful school uptown and she had her heart set on me getting a scholarship there and I did.
JL: How did you do scholastically?
DD: I did well. I mean, I worked my ass off. I was so scared. I just ... I was terrified not to get straight A's.
JL: What subjects interested you?
DD: I think I was always interested in literature, so "English" as we call it in high school.
JL: What about sports?
DD: Basketball and baseball.
JL: Were you good?
DD: Yeah. Yeah, I was good. (Some laughter)
JL: Where did you go from Collegiate?
DD: I was an English major at Princeton.
JL: You've credited your academic experience with teaching you discipline.
DD: Yeah. Yes, I do credit it for that.
JL: You've said that your entire life has been an attempt to get back to the feelings that you had on the playing field in sports. How so?
DD: Just the kind of unconsciousness that happens when you're playing a game ... any game. Doesn't have to be a sports game. And I think when I'm acting and when I'm feeling good acting it reaches that level of kind of ecstatic lack of self-consciousness. And of course when it's not that it is the converse which is the most hideous self-consciousness in the world. To me, it's like a drug to get to that place where you're just feeling and playing and reacting and not thinking and it's a lovely place to be as I'm sure you know most of the people here know.
JL: What was the title of your senior thesis at Princeton?
DD: It was called ... (smiles) this is so pretentious ... it was called the "Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett's Novels." And you can all leave now if you want. (Laughter)
JL: What made you decide to go to graduate school?
DD: I thought that the life of an academic was suitable to the kind of career I saw for myself as a writer, that I could have the three or four months off a year to pursue my own projects whatever it was. But there's a certain kind of level of play that goes into teaching that I was also very attracted to. And maybe performance as well, as in being up in front of a class.
JL: And what did you study at Yale?
DD: I was in the Ph.D. program for English literature.
JL: Did you begin work on your dissertation?
DD: I did.
JL: What was its subject?
DD: It was called ... (pauses) I'm not acting right now. (Laughter) You have the title there, don't you? (Laughter)
JL: Yeah. (Laughter)
DD: I know, I know it. I know it.
JL: Magic and ...
DD: Yeah, "Magic and Technology in Contemporary American Fiction and Poetry." Sir. (Laughter)
JL: Why magic and technology?
DD: I kind of was going to talk about certain writers ... Pinchon, Mailer, Ishmael Reed, James Merrill, Robertson Davies, a Canadian author. And I was going to talk about technology and magic as similar fields of things where incredible things happen. You know, technology is a magical field. You know, think of the magic of toast you know on a very small scale. I think there are things that you should and should not do with your power of magic. And yet technology is never spoken about in moral ... as a moral field except by these writers. I thought that they were trying to infuse a kind of magical morality in terms of well, just because we can do it doesn't mean it's morally right to do it. And I thought that was an interesting field to pursue.
JL: Are you ABD on your Ph.D.?
DD: Yes I am.
JL: All but the dissertation?
DD: Yes, all but dissertation. But don't you think they should have a much nicer Latin term for that?
JL: Than ABD?
DD: Yeah, ABD, all but dissertation. That's ... that's just not good enough. (Laughter)
JL: How did acting come up as a preferable alternative to teaching and writing? Why acting?
DD: Well, when I was at Yale I started to think, well I'm gonna write plays now, you know, as you do when you're 22. You think (snaps fingers) well I'm gonna do this. So, I'm gonna speak French (snaps fingers) ... I'm gonna write plays. And I thought if I was going to write dramatically, that I should learn something about acting. And that's how I kind of went in through the back door to start acting.
JL: At Yale?
DD: At Yale. Yeah.
JL: During this time, weren't you commuting into New York?
DD: I actually almost got blackmailed by a student at Yale who knew I was studying acting in New York.
JL: In New York. And with whom did you study in New York?
DD: Marsha Haufrecht.
JL: We might as well confess now that in the front row is one of our distinguished teachers in the Actors Studio Drama School, Marsha Haufrecht. Marsha, please stand. (Applause) Tell us about studying with Marsha. What did Marsha teach you?
DD: Well, I know that when I went in to act, I thought that acting was saying words a certain way, very consciously. And I thought well, you know, I've heard actors. They say things a certain way (laughter) and they must figure that out before they go up there. They go, you know, I'm gonna say it like this and then I'm gonna go up there and I'm gonna say it like that, and it's gonna work.
JL: What a mistake.
DD: One of the first things that Marsha teaches us, taught me, was just complete freedom. Because I was green, because we were a beginning class, it was ... don't worry about the text, the text is floating on top of what you're doing. Whatever ... I just remember you know something like if you want to laugh at the funeral you go ahead and laugh because as soon as you don't laugh, then you've stifled your impulse and then you're phony and then you're spiraling into that depth of despair and self-consciousness that we all know so well. So Marsha just taught us whatever we were feeling was right.
JL: Marsha, would you tell us about David the student.MH: I think that David got into finding his truth rather quickly, you know. And rather easily. He was always a lot of fun. The girls all loved him. (Laughter)
JL: When did you make the decision to leave Yale and teaching and writing for what is apparently a wicked life upon the stage?
DD: I think that you know when that dissertation was bearing down on me and I thought well this is really ... and you know, I had kind of fallen in love with acting at that point. And I just thought whatever career I was going to choose demanded complete focus, so I chose one.
JL: How did "New Year's Day" happen for you?
DD: I was introduced to Henry Jaglom who is you know a career independent filmmaker ...
JL: Extraordinary man.
DD: A truly independent filmmaker through an ex-girlfriend, honestly. And I had just started, I had started to try to pursue work as an actor, and you know he said yeah, come on, do a scene. I mean it was just luck, timing.
JL: That wasn't released, was it, for two years, I think after it was shot.
DD: Um, maybe. He doesn't often have a story, a narrative story, so it takes him a long time to edit.
JL: What took you to Los Angeles?
DD: I felt like I was starting late. I was 26 or 27. And I felt like, I felt like I had to earn my keep, you know? And there was just more work out there that I could make my rent with.
JL: The theme music of Inside the Actor's Studio is written by Angelo Badalamenti who is David Lynch's composer, and who composed I think one of the greatest scores ever heard on television, the score for "Twin Peaks." Tell me how you got involved in that series?
DD: Apparently, James Spader the actor had suggested a part of a transvestite drug enforcement agent to his friend Mark Frost who was one of the producers of the show. I just went it to audition and they told me I was going to be playing a transvestite and I didn't have the clothes for it. So I just kind of came in with an emery board I think and just kind of did this and very effeminate in the audition. And I got the part. And I went on set and they Nair-ed my legs completely and they put me in a big old dress and they put me in a wig and this Kabuki makeup on me, and I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought don't work so hard, you know. The mask is there. And I loved that feeling of you know realizing what the mask is saying you know and realizing how to speak through the mask. And I think from then on I kind of realized that whatever you're doing you've got some kind of mask on so that's what you have to ... that's one of the things you have to figure out is how to speak through whatever the mask of your character is at that moment.
JL: What about the clothes that you wore?
DD: They were tight. (DD laughs)
JL: Were they?
DD: Yeah, yeah. I grew to respect the travails of women wearing pantyhose cause they made me feel fat. (laughter)
JL: "The Rapture" was a movie with serious intentions, some very good roles in it.
DD: Yeah, what was interesting about "The Rapture" was I think it's the only movie that I can think of that actually comes down on the side of there is a God and yet Mimi Rogers' character decides not to throw in with Him. It was basically if there is a God and He has done what He has done to me and to the world ...
JL: I'm not interested.
DD: I don't want to have anything to do with Him. And I thought -- wow, that's ballsy. That's a ballsy movie.
JL: Did you have any problem with the nudity in it?
DD: Only my own.
JL: Was it a problem.
DD: We were swingers, me and Mimi were swingers. We were having sex in a furniture store, so you know you gotta be nude in a furniture store. But it was it was very ... it's tough. You know, it's just another thing that you have to deal with ... you just have to get out of your own head. You know, you just happen to be naked there, but you still gotta be the actor, you still have to do your work.
JL: What drew you to "Kalifornia," the film "Kalifornia" with a K?
DD: Yeah, what drew me was an interesting script and a chance to work. I mean I feel, you know, very fortunate in many ways to have been able to educate myself on camera, to continue my education from where I started with Marsha as an actor. I was able to make mistakes, and to be less than I could be, to be lousy at times, and to still keep coming back and working and to get to a point where I could actually achieve some kind of competence. And from that base level of competence really get freedom. And then I feel like I'm just starting in that way, that I achieved that base level of competence, and now it's all just exciting, cause now you get a chance to see what you can really do.
(First commercial break)
JL: Tell me how "The X-Files" came into your life. (Applause)
DD: That was like 1993. So I'd been out in L.A. for about three years. And I just ... you know my manager, I had a manager, Melanie Green, still is, and she sent me the script and said I know we said we weren't going to try to do television because I thought I'd go from movie to movie, that's how I envisioned my career. So she sent me this "X-Files" and she was convinced that it was very, very good and I thought it was good so I went up for it. And it's just one of those weird things where one day you're going to an audition for "The X-Files" and then you know ten years later you're still working on the show.
JL: When the part was offered to you, did you think this series was going to succeed?
DD: I didn't know. I thought here's an opportunity to try something, here's an opportunity to do a job and to learn and to grow and to try a character and if it goes a year, that's great, and if it goes one show, that's great. I certainly never saw it becoming what it was.
JL: Were you a devotee of science fiction before you became involved ...
DD: Not at all. And still am not in a weird way. (Laughter)
JL: I understand.
DD: I very much appreciate the kind of drama of the X-Files, you know, the production values, and hopefully the acting and the writing. And I don't think of it as science fiction, really, I just think of it as a drama.
JL: How fully formed was Special Agent Fox Mulder when you got that script?
DD: I think there was a lot in it that was fully formed in Mulder because I think there was certain like levels of insubordination and humor that I always wanted to bring out more within the tension of the filming. One of the things that I loved from the Pilot and from the early scripts was that Mulder is a complete failure. You know, he's never solved a case. Ever. And when he walks in the room, everybody laughs and looks away or snickers. I love that and I think I'll always love that about Mulder is that he's horrible at his job. (Laughter) He should have been fired long ago.
JL: Where does the name Mulder come from?
DD: That's Chris Carter's mother's maiden name.
JL: And who is Chris Carter?
DD: Chris Carter is the creator of "The X-Files."
JL: If "The X-Files" had been shot in Los Angeles, do you think you could have done what you did in Vancouver?
DD: No. Vancouver offers logistically just too many different environments. The XF is a peripatetic show. You know, it's gotta go to the mountains, to the seas, it's gotta have rain, it's gotta have sun. It's gotta stand in for all of America.
JL: Tell me about your costar.
DD: Yeah, well, she was ... whereas I wanted to jump in immediately on everything, she was more coming from more of a theater background where she wanted to know more before she jumped in. So she had a real steep learning curve in the beginning, and then she just flew after that.
JL: You and she walked a tightrope for years before you finally fell off it. (DD laughs) You've described it as a chaste love affair and compared it to Cary Grant movies in which verbal sparring was a code for sexual sparring.
DD: The intelligence of Chris Carter in keeping it a chaste love affair was you constantly wanted to come back, since it was never consummated, the pressure was never let out of our balloon. You know, we were constantly ... you know, the smallest touch was rife. And that was fun.
JL: In terms of breaking down scripts and story arcs ... this is you talking ... and things like that, my education helped, but not in terms of the heart.
JL: How so?
DD: I think your brain can get you only so far. Your brain can get you to a smart performance. One that there's nothing wrong with, but not one that, you know, sings.
JL: How much of David wound up in Agent Mulder?
DD: At first there's that guard, that strong delineation between me and the character. You know, I'm gonna play this guy, I'm gonna figure out who he is. And then you take however ... maybe the first year you take figuring out who that guy is, and then as the years go by, you become less vigilant sometimes if the character is not light years away from you as Mulder physically and vocally was not from me. So, yeah, I sneak in. And I wanna sneak me in. To me, that becomes exciting.
JL: In any part?
DD: Oh yeah. But ... yes. I find that the most organic, the most fun, the most thrilling thing for me is to sneak the parts of my personality that make sense in there and expand that guy.
JL: You've expressed particular affection for several episodes. The "Duane Barry" episode -- you can see this one coming up Sixth Avenue -- contains the Speedo scene. Why did it create such a stir?
DD: Mulder was a guy that you'd never expect to see out of a suit. So the fact that he appeared in a bathing suit ...
JL: In *that* bathing suit.
DD: ... was shocking!
JL: The red Speedo.
DD: The red Speedo. Yeah, It was shocking.
JL: It became famous.
DD: Well, yeah.
JL: Sure it did.
DD: Well, yeah.
JL: The fans of that show went nuts, and you know that's true.
DD: Well, they were like the first internet based fan folks, so they went crazy.
JL: They saw that Speedo. (Laughter)
JL: One of your favorites is one of my favorites, "Small Potatoes."
DD: Oh yeah.
JL: It was called by TV Guide one of the greatest episodes in TV history. Did you enjoy playing the dual role?
DD: Oh yeah. Anytime you get to just stretch out a little bit and play being possessed, being inhabited by another spirit but still looking like Mulder, that's a gift to be able to do that.
JL: Somebody gets inside Mulder.
DD: Yeah, Darrin's character does.
JL: I think the scene in which Eddie as Mulder, always you of course, blunders around Mulder's office with which he's unfamiliar is one of the best of the series. The remarkable thing is that it is absolutely Eddie's soul in your body every single moment.
DD: Thank you. Yeah. (A clip from "Small Potatoes," where Eddie is in front of the mirror in Mulder's apartment)
JL: And in this one you got to cheat because Eddie as Mulder can try to seduce ...
JL: That had to be a lot of fun for the two of you. Release a lot of pent up feelings.
DD: Yeah, yeah. (DD laughs) (Clip from "Small Potatoes" in Scully's apartment)
JL: One of the things I liked best about the show is that you guys never called each other by your first names.
DD: Right, right.
JL: I loved that. She was always Scully and ...
DD: Can I call you Lipton? (Laughter) Would you like that?
JL: That's right, and we haven't had an affair either. (Laughter) It's the same thing, exactly the same story.
DD: The tension grows.
JL: Whose voice is it saying "I made this" over the 1013 logo at the end of every X-Files episode?
DD: That is our sound mixer's son, I think it's Terry Couturier's son.
JL: It is.
DD: And I actually love that.
JL: So do I, so do I.
DD: I don't want to say it's my favorite part of the show ... (laughter)
JL: It's sensational.
DD: But it's like ... you know, that's what you feel sometimes when you get done with a job, when you get done creating something. You feel like an 8-year-old boy looking at your little Lego or your little sandcastle or whatever it is and just go -- (with boyish exuberance) I made this!
JL: Exactly. Who wrote and directed "The Unnatural"?
DD: Me. David.
JL: Did you enjoy it?
DD: I loved it. I loved being in control of every aspect from start to finish and I loved ... the greatest gift of being an actor is you get all these people who are so much better than you at what they do. Costume designers, scoring, hair and makeup, whatever, and they give you what they do. They give it to you. And they make you so much better than you are, and it was great.
JL: Who wrote and directed "Hollywood, A.D."?
DD: That was me too.
JL: This is one of the most self-referential of the episodes because they watch themselves the two of them being portrayed on the big screen.
DD: Right. The premise is that a screenwriter has turned one of their cases into a movie, which is not so far-fetched.
DD: We are thrown up against the difference between our Hollywood image and our perception of ourselves.
JL: Who plays Mulder in the movie?
DD: Garry Shandling. (Laughter)
DD: I just thought it was funny. And Garry said he'd do it.
JL: Who plays Scully?
DD: Téa Leoni, my wife. Yeah.
JL: In the bubble bath scene, what does Scully tell Mulder about Téa Leoni?
DD: That she has a crush on him. (Clip from "Hollywood A.D.")
(Second commercial break)
JL: Are you tattooed?
DD: Yes. I ... my daughter ... I have a tattoo ... I have a compass. My daughter's name is West and I have a compass with N, S, E, and West spelled out. (Shows tattoo) So I had that done when she was 9 months old. And I had a son and I only have one tattoo, so I gotta get another one.
JL: You're going to get another one?
DD: I have to. I mean, I can't ... what's he gonna think? It's like, daddy, where's my scarification? (Laughter)
JL: I'll ask my wife to note that he has one and is going to get two. And I still don't have one. (DD laughs) Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend a screening of a movie called "House of D." Who wrote "House of D"?
DD: I wrote "House of D."
JL: Who directed "House of D"?
DD: I directed "House of D."
JL: What is the genesis of the House of D? ("House of D" photos and behind the scenes stuff during this part of the interview.)
DD: Hundreds of yards from right here there was a Women's House of Detention on 11th Street and Sixth Avenue. It got torn down in 1973, but until then there was a prison in the middle of this neighborhood, if you can imagine that. And not only a prison, but a women's prison and not only that, but they could hang out the bars. And what fascinated me about the House of D was the idea that ... you know, we live in a society where prisoners are not in our midst, they are taken away. Much like the mentally ill. They are taken away and put away out of our sight. And I thought well how interesting must it have been to actually have the free world and the incarcerated world butt up against one another and actually have haphazard communication. And what if the free person was a boy who didn't have a mentor. You know, his father was dead and his mother was for whatever reasons incapable of mentoring him into the age of 13 into adulthood. And what if by chance he struck up a conversation with a woman there that he never saw. She only communicated to him through tilting a jagged mirror, which you assume is a weapon, and I started to like this imagery.
JL: Are there autobiographical elements in the movie?
DD: The boy has a meat delivery boy job here, so that's autobiographical. Obviously I grew up in this neighborhood, so geographically it's autobiographical. The boy's growing up without a father in the house -- that's autobiographical.
JL: I'm going to ask a question now, the answer to which will depress our writers to no end. How long did it take you to write this screenplay?
DD: Well, I would say since I started thinking about it in 1973, it took me 20 years.
JL: How long did it actually take you?
DD: Well, when I sat down to write it, it took me about a week.
JL: Did you intend to direct it from the beginning?
JL: When did it occur to you that you would act in it as well?
DD: When it became feasible economically, a good thing economically. It's an independent film. I had to raise, you know, a certain number of millions of dollars to make it outside of the studio system. I had to ... I had to cast some well-known people in it. I was lucky enough to get Robin Williams almost right off the bat.
JL: Did you propose to Tea that she would play the mother in this or was it her idea?
DD: I hadn't wanted to ask her because I didn't want to put her on the spot, you know, of saying "I don't want to be in your movie." And honestly, I just think she's an extremely gifted actress, almost freakishly so. And she said she was ... she said, 'You know why don't I play the mom?' And then of course the perversity of my wife playing my character's mom was ... it appealed to me. (Laughter)
JL: Who played that wonderful woman up in the jail cell?
DD: Erykah Badu who's mostly known as a singer but was in "The Cider House Rules." And the boy in the movie is this kid named Anton Yelchin who's just ... I hate the word "genius." It's not my least favorite word.
JL: We'll get to that. (Laughter) He's stunning in it. The kid is amazing.
DD: I mean ... he's just naturally so available. (Scene from "House of D".)
JL: Who played Pappass?
DD: That's Robin Williams.
JL: You enjoy working with him?
DD: Robin is like, you know ... he just wants to act. You know, he's just ... he never wants to go home. (Scene from "House of D".)
JL: Who was your Director of Photography?
DD: Michael Chapman who shot "Raging Bull." He shot "Taxi Driver." He shot "The Last Detail."
JL: And how do you work with him? Are you responsible for the setups and the choice of lenses or is he?
DD: I kind of tell him what I want to see and what I want to feel ... (Scene from "House of D".)
JL: I believe that you have an interest in psychotherapy.
DD: Yeah. It's funny cause I have this other script that I want to do next which is kind of about ... there's this psychotherapist named James Hillman who talks about, you know, seizing control of the narrative of your life. You know, I think like ...
JL: He says we're fictional.
DD: Yeah, he says we're fictional. And in a way, he says you have the power to tell your story the way you want to tell it. In a way you can tell your story as if you're a victim or you can tell your story as if you're something else. And I was just fascinated by that idea. That I at some point in my life had gotten into this rut where I was telling a story in a way that was lousy for me. So I wrote this script kind of about that that I want to do next which is really like ... it's how you tell your story.
(Third commercial break)
JL: We begin our classroom with the questionnaire invented by my great hero, Bernard Pivot. Tell me, what is your favorite word?
JL: What is your least favorite word?
JL: That's right up there with hopefully. (DD Laughs) What turns you on?
DD: The ocean.
JL: What turns you off?
DD: Pretension. Yeah.
JL: What sound or noise do you love, David?
DD: There's a sound that we used to make in high school that still gives me great pleasure.
DD: It's hard to do just like out of the blue, but it sounds something like this. [Sounds something like a cross between hurling and launching a loogie.] (Laughter) You see?
JL: Just out of curiosity, what is that?
DD: It's just a thing we did. (Laughter) And I will say my wife begs me for that. *Begs* me.
JL: She does?
DD: She says, "Aay hnng, say hnng."
JL: What sound or noise do you hate?
DD: Gee, I guess oddly enough when you kind of run your hand over a bed sheet like that when you're cleaning it. [Runs his hand across the stage to demonstrate.] That sounds like the chalkboard thing to me.
JL: I see. Everybody's favorite: What is your favorite curse word?
JL: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
DD: Uh, attempt? (DD laughs)
JL: And succeed.
DD: I'd like to be a professional basketball player, a professional baseball player.
JL: Would you? What profession would you absolutely not like to undertake?
DD: I'd say butcher. I think that would be hard for me.
JL: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
DD: There's what I think he will say and then there's what I'd like him to say.
JL: Okay, let me have them both.
DD: What I think he will say is: (goofily) "MULDER!" (Laughter) What I'd like him to say? You did good. You used what you had.
JL: Here he is, students.
Sarah:Hi, my name's Sarah, I'm a second year actor.
Sarah: Thank you for coming. I was wondering ... you talked a lot about your work with Marsha. I was wondering when you first get a script, what you usually do for your way in?
DD: Well, the first time I read it, I kind of ... there's a certain kind of feeling that I look for in my ... let's be delicate, close to my gut. There's a tingling that should happen somewhat lower than my gut whether or not I feel like ... I'm getting like nerve jangly reading this thing and something in me is ... and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up or something happens. I don't even know what it is. And then ... so then I know, okay there's an area in there that I'm interested in and then I kind of go back and read it again and again and again and try to figure out what that is and the way in. But as I'm sure you do with Marsha there are ways in after that. You know, ways in through centering wherever the guy is in his body and animals and all those wonderful tricks and stuff that you learn. I call them tricks, but ...
DD: Tools. (Laughter) That's better. Tricks is kind of fun though, isn't it?
DD: Tricks. Hi.
Amy: Hi, my name is Amy. I'm a first year playwright. And I was just curious if your interest in psychoanalysis and literary criticism influenced your writing and how you create characters?
DD: Most people would say that Freud is a literary critic. I mean the things that he talked about, you have the Oedipus complex. You have ...
Amy:We study him in our playwright classes.
DD: Right. He was a fan more than anything. And the things that he talked about ... I know he liked to say he was a scientist, but the ego doesn't exist. You can't find it in the head. Neither does the id or the superego. These are poetic conceits, so he's both a critic and a poet. He happens to be a very powerful one, and he's virally infected us with his language so that we speak about these things as if they exist. (Laughter) They don't actually. So I think that in that sense, you know, looking at Freud, or psychoanalytic terminology or mental critical terminology, it can be helpful. It can also get in your way because it's one step removed from the primal impulse. So you gotta juggle it. I mean ... I can't, I'm never gonna get fully away from it in whatever I do. So I work with that. You know, I think a lot of what happens in your life as you grow, as you get older as an artist is you realize okay, I got this. This is what I do, and I can work within this range. And you start to know yourself and I hate to say it, you know your limitations which can be a wonderful thing. I know it sounds like hell, but it actually can be a wonderful thing and you actually surpass some by recognizing them sometimes.
(Last commercial break)
JL: Let's close with this. Would you introduce your friend? Come on, introduce him.
DD: The wonderful actor Ron Eldard. (Applause)
JL: I challenge Ron to ask a question.
RE: Remember that time in Mexico ... (Laughter) When you directed your film, what was your happiest moment, and what was your saddest moment?
DD: The happiest moment was probably watching this 14-year-old boy Anton Yelchin be a great actor, you know, just kind of ... You know I cast him, I thought he'd be good. I hoped that he didn't get tight, I hoped that he could deliver. And then to see him just blossom in front of me, it was just amazing. And then the saddest moment ... oh, well actually, I mean, it's very personal. The saddest thing was that my father who lived in Paris and is not really the prototype for the character but I was gonna shoot those three days in Paris and my father died like two weeks before I started shooting. So I didn't get to ... I was very much looking forward to ... in many ways as a child just showing off that I was going to come to Paris as a director and you know wear a beret and a megaphone and show my dad those things. And that was very sad to me that we missed, we missed. But then when I was in Paris I got to see where he lived and all that stuff, so it was very personal, the saddest thing.