San Francisco Chronicle
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR DAVID DUCHOVNY
- Reyhan Harmanci, Special to The Chronicle
"Hey," David Duchovny said, proffering his hand at the end of the interview with his trademark smirk. "You'll always remember that I was your first, right?"
Duh, David. No one ever forgets her first celebrity interview.
Even at the end of a long day of interviews for national and local media outlets in San Francisco to promote "House of D," a film he wrote, directed and co-stars in with his wife, Tea Leoni, Duchovny remained an amiable smart-aleck.
Dressed in a black leather shirt, jeans and black suede shoes, Duchovny still looks a lot like Fox Mulder, his character in the late, great Fox television series, "The X-Files."
It's not easy making the transition to film after being an obsessively-loved TV character on television -- and who could forget the "Red Speedo" series of poems that appeared on the Internet after Duchovny wore one on the show? Since the show ended, he's been building his cinematic resume with parts in "Full Frontal" and "Zoolander," but has yet to land a blockbuster -- and so far early reviews of "House of D" have been less than kind. The film, told mostly in flashback, follows Tom Warshaw (Duchovny) back to his boyhood home in Greenwich Village and charts his journey to manhood with the help of a mentally retarded janitor (Robin Williams) and Melissa (Zelda Williams, Robin's daughter). A friend he knows only as "Lady" (Erykha Badu) speaks to him through the bars in her cell in the Women's House of Detention, which really existed in Greenwich Village until the 80's. "It was too perfect that the jail became a garden", Duchovny says, as we sit down at a table outside an incredibly large suite at the Ritz Carlton. "If I had made it up for the ending, it would have been trite, but since that's actually what happened to the House of D, I had to use it."
Duchovny lives in Malibu with Leoni, who Duchovny "feels lucky" to have been able to cast as the mother in "House of D," and their two children. We caught up with him during a recent visit to San Francisco to promote the film.
Q: What was the process of writing the screenplay like? I understand ittook you a whole six days to complete ...
A: Yeah, six days ... I don't want to make anyone feel bad! But, in another sense, I've been working on it for 30 years. While I'm not particularly interested in pointing out what's autobiographical, I did draw on my childhood, impressions and experiences I had growing up in New York.
Q: How was directing your own feature film different from your previous work experiences?
A: Well, on the plus and minus sides, you're in control. If there's a scene that works, that is funny, you can feel really good about being responsible for it. And when something isn't funny or doesn't work, well, you own that too. There's much more freedom to change things as you go along. I mean, if I had decided to give Mulder a French accent, well, that just wouldn't fly.
Q: In the past, you've criticized the publicity machine that has accompanied your acting. Now that you're doing publicity for a more personal project, does it feel different?
A: Sure. And no. I mean, I've always thought that if I took an acting job, one of the parts at the end of the job was to go out and publicize it. With "X Files," it just became, by years six-seven-eight, there was nothing left to say about it. ... It was everywhere.
This film, though, is different. In some ways, I feel as if I'm all it has. The field is very crowded, and I'm just trying to whisper above the din. One of the really cool things, actually, has been keeping a blog about it (lionsgatedirectors.com/duchovny). It's a great way to circumvent junkets, get straight to the public and avoid the machine that only runs on money.
Q: You went to Princeton as an undergrad and to Yale as a doctoral candidate in English literature, then left to become a fledgling actor in commercials. How did that happen?
A: If I had ever thought, today is the day I'm going to become an actor, I never would have left campus, but you know, when you're getting a Ph.D., you're barely in school. I was teaching for two days a week in New Haven, and started taking an acting class in New York City. I started slinking away to the city more and more, and eventually it just became clear I wasn't going to go back.
Q: What's next? Are you going to keep writing and directing or are you returning to acting?
A: Do I have to choose? Actually, I'm doing both. I have a script written, and we're looking for money to shoot sometime in September in New York again. I'm also working on some other films, one's called "Trust the Man," by Bart Freundlich. ... I'm also talking to people about another "X-Files" movie, to be shot sometime next year. I miss the character, and I've always thought the material would be perfect for a movie franchise. We ended the show, what, three years ago in May? Yeah, that's about the right length of time for another movie.
E-mail Reyhan Harmanci at firstname.lastname@example.org