New York Daily News

David bets the 'House'

New director Duchovny's 'D' takes it personally


April 14th, 2005

On "The X-Files," he was the serious, mysterious David Duchovny, the one who spawned a million geek- girl fantasies about FBI agent Fox Mulder.

During TV interviews, he's the self-mocking David Duchovny, the one helping to keep alive the art of the quirky talk-show appearance.

And with "House of D" - his writing-directing debut, opening tomorrow - Duchovny, 44, turns wistful, looking back on his childhood in New York, circa 1973.

"I think this movie is more true to who I am than my persona, which is not so much glib as sort of ironic," says Duchovny, before heading to the former site of the House of D - the Women's House of Detention, demolished in 1974 - at Sixth Ave. and 10th St. in Greenwich Village.

"Audiences may learn that about me through the movie. [The rest] is sort of a character I created to appear in public.

"People will say 'House of D' is a personal film, but what makes it personal is that it's about some of my own experiences. And I think the only way to make a movie that's truly universal to everyone is to actually be very specific.

"In Hollywood, they say the phrase 'personal film,' as if you did it for yourself. It's not that way at all. I want to connect with people."

In the movie, 13-year-old prep school student Tommy Warshaw (Anton Yelchin) gets advice on how to impress the girl of his dreams from an unlikely source: an incarcerated hooker (Erykah Badu) at the House of D.

He also helps a mentally challenged co-worker, Pappas (Robin Williams), deliver meat around the city, and deals with a drug-addicted mother (played by Duchovny's wife, Tea Leoni). Duchovny appears at the beginning and end as the adult Tommy, now living in Paris and telling his story to his family.

"About 14% of the movie is from my own life," says Duchovny. "I figured it out: I did deliver meat as a kid, but my mother did not have a pill problem, so those cancel each other out. ... Oh, and the French wife I have in the movie is fictional."

Duchovny - whose father was a writer from Brooklyn and whose mother was a schoolteacher from Scotland - grew up in the East Village and attended the Grace Church School on Ninth St. and Broadway. He and Leoni met in 1996 and were married at Grace Church. Now living in L.A., they have two children, Madeleine, 6, and Kyd, 3.

Duchovny earned degrees in English literature from Princeton and Yale and started acting on a fluke, trying out for numerous TV series in the late '80s before getting bit parts in films and the soft-core cable series "Red Shoe Diaries."

"Even before I did any movies, TV people said I was 'too movie-ish,'" he says. "I do think the style I brought to 'The X-Files' was kind of cinematic."

He says he didn't get comfortable with acting until the third season of the popular sci-fi drama, which began in 1993. "I'll catch a rerun sometimes, and if it's an early episode, I'll say to my wife, 'Look how bad I am.'"

He says another "X-Files" movie is out there (the show spawned a big-screen version in 1998), and that he and series co-star Gillian Anderson are on board.

"Gillian wants to do it, I want to do it, and ["X-Files" creator] Chris Carter wants to do it," he says. "We just have to iron out some details with the studio."

But the program that made him famous spoiled him for other work. "I consider 'X-Files' to be the best that TV can be," he says. "I didn't want to take something that wasn't going to be good. ... Actors only have so many tricks. So I think that it was good to wait a couple years before coming back."