Duchovny Film Takes 'X-Files' Star Back to Roots

Wed Apr 13, 8:07 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It is almost like David Duchovny is going home.

The former star of "The X-Files" embarks on a new career path on Friday when coming-of-age drama "House of D" debuts, marking his first try at writing and directing a feature film.

Duchovny, 44, is known around the world as the actor who played alien-hunting FBI agent Fox Mulder on U.S. TV's "X-Files." But the star holds a masters degree in English literature from Yale University, and told Reuters his first artistic love was always writing.

"House of D" was his first chance to direct a screenplay he had written, and he hopes there will be more in the future.

"My initial impetus to get into acting was to learn about writing for the stage or screen," he said. "It's almost like a coming back to what I started with."

"House of D" also takes Duchovny's fans to New York's Greenwich Village where he grew up, back to a single-parent household and a private school scholarship, back to delivering meat as a teen-ager and hanging out with friends near a women's detention center in lower Manhattan, nicknamed "House of D."

For Duchovny, the movie harkens to 1973 when he was a gawky kid learning about love and searching deep inside himself for his place in the world. But "House of D" is not an autobiography, he is quick to point out.

"My life is not as dramatic," he said.

When delivering meat as a teen-ager, for instance, he said he fantasized about a being seduced by a sexy, older woman. His sort of "Mrs. Robinson moment" made it into the movie.

"Unfortunately, that's not autobiographical," Duchovny said with just a hint of disappointment.


"House of D" stems from Duchovny's fascination with the irony of the women in the detention center who even while jailed, were able to talk openly with people on the street from their cell windows. They were isolated, yet strangely free. "The whole story really grew from wanting to take advantage of that dynamic," he said, adding that the rest of the story he essentially dreamed up.

"House of D" opens with Duchovny playing 43 year-old Tommy Warshaw, an illustrator living in

Paris with a French wife and 13-year-old son. But his marriage is on the rocks. On his son's 13th birthday, he is going to reveal the truth of his troubled youth to his family in an effort to mend relations.

The movie then takes audiences back to 1973, and they watch as 13-year-old Tommy Warshaw (Anton Yelchin) deals with his father's death, mother's depression, the awkwardness of sex, a personal moral failure and the strain of a long friendship.

To help mentor him through, Tommy relies on advice from "lady," a prisoner in the house of D.

Duchovny calls the movie a universal coming-of-age story with specific observations of his youth. "The more personal you can make your observations, the more universal, I think, they are. At heart, what we go through is all the same when we're trying to grow up. Whether it's 13 or 43, two men are growing up in this movie," he said.

By looking back on his youth, the 43-year-old Warshaw can impart the wisdom of maturity to his own teen-age son.

Duchovny's wife, Tea Leoni, plays the mother, singer Erykah Badu is the lady in jail, and Robin Williams is Tommy's friend Pappass, a child-like adult with a low I.Q.


"House of D" is a slice-of-life film whose success relies on audiences identifying with its characters. There are no alien visitations to draw Duchovny's "X-Files" fans.

As a result, even a big star like Duchovny had difficulty raising the money to make it, he said.

"It's a movie for adults that stars a kid, and nothing can scare a marketing person more than that," he joked.

His casual style and humor run counter to the often unemotional, straight-arrow Fox Mulder. Yet over the years, Duchovny has played a wide variety of roles, making it relatively easy for him to break away from his TV alter ego.

Older fans may remember him playing a cross-dressing FBI agent on quirky TV program "Twin Peaks" in 1990. He showed a flair for broad comedy on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" and as weatherman Johnny Volcano on "The Bonnie Hunt Show."

He's got two more screenplays he would like to see made. One called "Yoga Man" and another "Bucky (expletive) Dent." He is quick to admit he will have to change the latter's title.

But acting is still part of his current plans, and "X-Files" fans will be pleased to know that its creator, Chris Carter, is "making some noise" about making a third movie based on the popular show, Duchovny said.

"It's like the desert," he said of his fans. "They are underground and dry, and they are just waiting for a rain" to come out and blossom.

But Duchovny doesn't have to wait for his rain to blossom. He has his pen in hand and ideas to put on paper.