The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 24, 2005

On Movies | House of - Dumbfoundedness?

By Steven Rea
Inquirer Columnist

'I'm not cool," declares David Duchovny, conceding that after years of consorting with freaky aliens and freakier conspiracy nuts on The X-Files - and after turning up in such offbeat fare as Kalifornia, The Rapture, Playing God and Full Frontal - "I probably come off cooler than I am."

In town recently to present House of D, his directing debut, at the Philadelphia Film Festival, Duchovny is anticipating a certain amount of audience dumbfoundedness (if that's a word) for his self-scripted project. Inspired in part by his experiences growing up in Greenwich Village in the 1970s, the film is a coming-of-age drama - about relationships, about time, about secrets - that some Duchovny fans might find a tad, um, sappy.

"I think half of the people will be moved and entertained and think it's an honest and smart movie," he says. "And I think maybe it will be attacked [by others] for being sentimental. I never think that it's sentimental, because I think it's authentic, but you know, it's not for me to say."

Duchovny has a role and does the voice-over narration in the R-rated picture, which opens in theaters Friday. But it's the kid actor Anton Yelchin who carries most of the load, portraying Duchovny's character, Tom Warshaw, as a teenager in '70s Manhattan. Robin Williams is the young Tommy's mentally handicapped friend. Téa Leoni, Duchovny's wife, plays Tommy's chain-smoking, drug-addled, grief-stricken widow of a mom. The singer Erykah Badu has a key role as an advice-dispensing prostitute, incarcerated in the Women's House of Detention building that used to stand on Sixth Avenue in the Village. Hence the title of Duchovny's tale.

In fact, it was the idea of a young kid standing on a city sidewalk while looking up at the barred window of a jail cell and talking to its occupant that first came to Duchovny when he sat down to write.

"I always loved that image of the boy on the street and the woman in the tower," he explains. "That you could have a random interaction with a prisoner on the city street - you can't do that anymore. It seemed like a Fellini film to me... just crazy in that way."

Duchovny, who did nine seasons as Fox Mulder, the FBI guy whose metier was unexplained phenomena, learned to direct on the hit Fox series. He cites X-Files directors Rob Bowman, Chris Carter and Kim Manners as mentors, and directed two episodes of the series himself.

In 1998, Duchovny and Gillian Anderson starred in a big-screen X-Files that did $189 million in global ticket sales and didn't do too shabbily on home video, either. The actor says that all parties concerned are ready to do a follow-up.

"We're all willing. The problem is that when we were doing the TV show, everybody was in the same place at the same time. [That would be Vancouver, British Columbia, where the series was shot.] We had to be. Now we're not, so it's just a matter of trying to get us all together at the same time."

Duchovny, who got his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his master's in English literature from Yale, lives in Los Angeles with Leoni and their two young children, a boy and a girl.

He has written several other projects that he would like to direct, including one called Yoga Man that he pitches as a kind of 21st-century Shampoo - with a yoga master instead of Warren Beatty's casanova coiffeur seducing the Hollywood set.

He also has a comedy, Trust the Man, from filmmaker Bart Freundlich, in the can. Julianne Moore (Freundlich's wife), Billy Crudup and Maggie Gyllenhaal costar. And he's about to start work on The Secret, directed by French movie star Vincent Perez, up in Montreal. Based on a Japanese novel by Keigo Higashino that was turned into a film, Himitsu, in 1999, the thriller is about a man whose life changes suddenly after the bus carrying his wife and daughter goes off a cliff. The wife dies at the hospital, but the daughter lives. When she regains consciousness, she appears to be possessed by the dead wife.

Sounds like a case for Mulder and Scully.