The Cosmo Interview
March 1997

David Duchovny: getting X-rated with the sexiest man on television

As Fox Mulder on The X-Files, David Duchovny is intense, loyal, and extremely committed to his job. To find out what he's really like, read the following. The truth is in here.

By Nina Malkin

David Duchovny is not paranoid. He just acts it on TV. As The X-Files' brooding FBI agent Fox Mulder, he has the dubious task of verifying the existence of UFOs, ESP, and all other manner of paranormal weirdness. As if this wasn't bizarre enough, he has a highly skeptical partner, Scully (Gillian Anderson), and superiors out to thwart his every move. It's the kind of a gig where paranoia pretty much comes with the territory.

No longer simply a cultish curiosity, The X-Files swept January's Golden Globe awards, winning best TV drama and best actor and actress in a TV drama. Along the way, its 36-year-old star has become a bona fide sex symbol. Members of the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade heat up computer lines admiring his piercing brown eyes and chiseled features. When in one episode this season, Duchovny hauled himself dripping wet from a swimming pool in a red Speedo, looking like a lost Baywatch extra, thrilled fans even debated whether he was leaning to the left or to the right.

Such probing attention has left the actor feeling a bit like the subject of an alien autopsy. Pictures of Duchovny wearing nothing but a teacup over his privates are being sold for $9.95 on the Internet, and rumors of sexual addiction received a fair amount of press. "If you're single and in the public eye and you have a few dates, you're a sex addict," he says of the allegations. "There was another story about me being a neat freak. I'm actually pretty sloppy. I couldn't deny I'd never had sex, but I could deny that I'd never been neat!"

For someone who has undergone such personal scrutiny, Duchovny is anything but paranoid. "It's flattering to a certain extent," he says of being a sex symbol. "But it's something a bunch of people get together and decide. It has nothing to do with me."

If The X-Files' premise–"The truth is out there"–is true, then today, the truth is freezing its buns off. The show is shot in ever-chilly Vancouver, and Duchovny's been outside all day, doing take after take. Right now, he's in a hurry to get back to the warmth of his silver Airstream trailer. Once inside, he yanks off his standard-issue black FBI-guy shoes and positions his feet against the heating vent, first one sole, then the other.

"Doing this every day for ten months and hardly ever getting half a day off, it's tough," he says. "We're in our fourth year, and the fact that there hasn't been a homicide on set is wonderful." As if on cue, the intercom in his trailer sounds, polite, insistent. He's needed back on the set. "F—!"

The trailer is a fount of clues. A softball and glove. Dog toys (Blue, Duchovny's affable Border collie-terrier mix, has been whisked away by his master's personal assistant). A yoga video, laptop, Scrabble, and piles of movie scripts. A big bed (perhaps the reason Mulder occasionally sports pillow hair) and plenty of books, both literary (A Joseph Campbell Companion) and New Age (The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron).

David Duchovny is probably the smartest star on TV. His single mother–a schoolteacher who divorced his father, a public-relations man, in 1972–had lofty goals for her children (Duchovny, who was 11 at the time, has an older brother, Danny, and younger sister, Laurie). As a child, he earned a scholarship to Manhattan prep school Collegiate (John-John was a classmate), then went on to Princeton on partial scholarship.

After graduating with a B.A. in English literature, he spent a year working on a "young man finding himself" novel. "It wasn't at all autobiographical," he jokes. The protagonist worked as a bartender at the Continental, which just happens to be the name of the Manhattan restaurant where Duchovny served drinks. The book went nowhere, so Duchovny headed for Yale, where he received an M.A. in English literature. It was while he was working on his PH.D. thesis (entitled Magic and Technology in Contemporary American Fiction and Poetry) at the Ivy League institution that he was led astray–dabbling in playwriting, hanging with the theater crowd. The acting bug bit, much to his mother's dismay, and he never earned his doctorate.

From the beginning–one cheesy Löwenbräu commercial aside–he took on the quirkiest roles. A biker who finds religion in 1991's The Rapture; a slacker who picks up on krazy kouple (Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis) in 1993's Kalifornia; and a drug-enforcement agent obsessed with wearing women's clothing in Twin Peaks. Oddest of all was his part on television's HBO sitcom The Larry Sanders Show, starring Garry Shandling. Duchovny came up with the idea while playing basketball with his friend Garry. On the show in which reality and fiction overlap, Duchovny appears as himself, only he has a crush on Sanders. "Garry said, 'People are going to think that's you.' I didn't care. It was fun."

Back in the Airstream, he sheds his sleek, dark gray jacket and reflects on his ideal romantic date. "Dinner, red wine, Italian food," he says, "pretty much your basic beginning of any Penthouse letter." Does he have "a type"? "No, just intelligent with a sense of humor." He does like a woman in a dress, but admits "if I was a woman, I wouldn't wear a dress all the time, but it's nice." He sees marriage and children in his future: I'm at the point in my life where I want that," but claims he doesn't know who the woman is yet. As he speaks, he continues undressing, unknots his tie, slips it off. "I think I'll make a good father, I look forward to it." The shirt, the pants....

Duchovny dated actress Perrey Reeves (she appeared in an episode of The X-Files as a vampire and the only woman Mulder has ever slept with) for two years but is currently single. Asked about rumors of a relationship with Crucible star Winona Ryder, he says, "She's a good friend. We met just out and around in Hollywood. We're friends." Standing in his snug long underwear, it's clear that Duchovny's vegetarian diet, the occasional pick-up game of basketball, and all those yoga classes have paid off. He's lean and subtly defined beneath the white cotton fabric. Seemingly unaware of being partially undressed, he explains that actors date other actors because "that's who we meet. And who else would put up with my schedule, what I have to do?"

At least the stars of The X-Files don't have to worry about those relationship-threatening sex scenes. Not one remotely lustful glance has passed from Mulder to Scully (or vice-versa), but their bond is the most intimate thing on television. Consummate professionals, they rarely so much as touch, but the space between them is all spark, sexier than any grope-and-tumble cliché Aaron Spelling could ever produce. "Mulder treats her as an equal, values her input, obviously likes her, but doesn't try to sleep with her," Duchovny says. "Plus, sometimes she laughs at his jokes."

As Gillian Anderson sees it: "Scully feels she can trust him with anything, she knows that in any situation he would be there for her. If she should disagree with him strongly, she feels it wouldn't ruin the relationship. The relationship has gotten more intimate over the years, and it seems to have matured in a very natural way." Of the man who plays Mulder, Anderson says, "There's a sensitivity to David that's very appealing to women."

Right now, Mr. Sensitive is talking about the reading material in the bathroom of his Vancouver home: "It's the Dictionary of American Slang, and it's huge, exhausting," he enthuses. "The first volume goes from A to G, and it's hysterically funny. There are so many ass entries! If you look at slang, you realize what's important to a culture, and the ass is very important to Americans. I'm anxiously awaiting the next two volumes. Think of P! P is gonna be big!"

There's no doubt that Duchovny is one of the biggest stars on television. He will most likely do The X-Files movie (there's no script yet) but will not stick with the series indefinitely. "You have to move on. That's not a reflection of what I think of the show," he says, alluding the fact that he's on the hippest–and perhaps best-written–show on TV. "It's just a matter of preserving my sanity. People think that if I'm honest about the downside of being on a successful worldwide television show, that means I'm not grateful. But I love this show, and I love my job."

Duchovny defines success as "mastery of your chosen field," not in monetary terms (easy to do when you're netting a reported $100,000 per episode). "I don't need more money; I'm not extravagant." His most lavish acquisition of late is a back-massage chair. "I can't be sure of my friends anymore," he says. "I think they just visit because they want to sit in my chair." He concedes, however, "The woman out there who is going to become my wife one day may unconsciously think He should keep working! What about our children?" Stay tuned.