David Duchovny in a romance. David Duchovny in a kilt. Not as strange as you might think.

Submitted by Bazza on Sat, 04/01/2000 - 00:03

The last time David Duchovny was in Scotland he was 10-years-old, just another American kid being dragged round the old country by a mother who had left her home near Aberdeen for a new life on another continent. 

He couldn't have imagined that on his next visit, nearly 30 years later, he would be hobnobbing with royalty, attending a movie premiere wearing Ancient Hunting McFarlane and fielding questions about his new film between brief transatlantic chats with his movie star wife and continued speculation over his role in one of the most famous television shows on the planet. Not without a little off-planet help, anyway. 

Perhaps behind his habitually amused look and healthy Californian tan, the irony of it all has struck the Yale and Princeton-educated star of The X-Files. If it has, he doesn't say, although he will admit to feeling at ease in the land of his mother's birth. 

"Genetically half of me feels home," he says. "I don't know which half, but there's some kind of pull. My mother has always identified herself as being very Scottish and talked about it a lot so it is definitely a big part of my heritage." Tall, muscular and wearing a blue shirt and sleek black trousers, Duchovny is certainly physically imposing and you can see where the "thinking woman's sex symbol" tag comes from. In his poise and carriage there's lingering proof of a sporting past which included a berth in the Princeton basketball team. 

The nose, in profile, is perhaps a little longer and more sharply defined than it looks on television, the hair more carefully placed, but we're talking fractions. What's most evident is how undifferent he looks from his on-screen character. There's more body movement, though ­ the hand on the chin is a favourite, showing off the unflashy watch and slim wedding band. And he likes to rock back in his chair and chuckle. And of course there's that gleeful little smirk. Always the smirk. 

Slap on some freckles and he'd look a little like the kid from the Mad comic books, though by all accounts he was far from a mischievous child. Growing up in New York City, he was so quiet his elder brother, Daniel, kindly referred to him as retarded. In truth he was anything but, winning a scholarship to New York's prestigious Collegiate Prep School where fellow pupils included John F Kennedy Jr. He studied at Princeton then went to Yale. The title of his PhD thesis? Magic And Technology In Contemporary Poetry And Prose.

Duchovny claims he wanted to act since his parents divorced when he was 11, but it wasn't until he was on the verge of gaining his PhD he plunged in full time. His feature debut came in Working Girl in 1988, although today a rather more celebrated part is the one he showed in a low-budget softcore flick. Other roles followed ­ Twin Peaks, Chaplin, Beethoven, Kalifornia ­ and then came The X-Files, the programme that went on to become a televisual phenomenon. 

Today, he lives in Malibu, California, with actress wife Tea Leoni and their two-year-old daughter, Madeleine West. Publicly Duchovny raves about Leoni and the marriage seems solid, if unconventional by Hollywood standards. "When we first started dating, she sent me a song by Ween called Piss Up A Rope," he says. "She sang it to me over the phone. It's really a funny song and the lyrics are really beautiful." Probably doesn't get played on the radio much, however. 

But if he's genetically part-Scottish, he is genetically wholly funny ­ half-Scottish and half-Jewish, Duchovny has the wit of the one comic tradition and the cynicism of the other and he employs both to good effect as he sits in an Edinburgh hotel room enjoying a fine view of a sunlit Princes Street. 

He has twice appeared on The Larry Sanders Show, once winning an American comedy award for his efforts, and has voiced parts in The Simpsons, Duckman and Frasier. 

This, then, is a man who likes a laugh, a fact he proves in Return To Me, the romantic comedy which has brought him to the capital where it received a royal premiere in front of the Prince Of Wales. Hence the kilt. 

The movie sees Duchovny play a bereaved husband who, fatefully, ends up falling in love with the waitress who receives his wife's heart after she dies in a car crash. Minnie Driver plays the waitress, Joely Richardson the wife, and, while the blonde wife-in-car crash storyline may have had a cruel resonance for at least one audience member at Wednesday's premiere, it's ultimately a schmaltzy tale about hope, coincidence and destiny which recalls the feelgood flicks of classic Hollywood directors Frank Capra and Preston Sturges. Although neither of those directors ever cast James Belushi as a beer-swilling Chicago fireman. 

"At the risk of being too deep, destiny is really just story-telling," says Duchovny of what is frankly an unbelievable plot. "That's what we do when we tell stories. We try to make sense out of what happened, we try to give it meaning. So I think it's all chaos and it doesn't make sense until we tell the story."

Telling this particular story is actress-turned-director Bonnie Hunt, an old friend of Duchovny's from his pre-Mulder days whom he met on the set of Beethoven. She wrote the script and touted it to MGM. The studio green-lighted it but, despite it having Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan written all over it, Hunt decided to punt it in the direction of George Clooney, an old friend of hers from Chicago. 

So what happened? Duchovny groans. "It's a terrible showbiz story," he says, dropping into a smarmy corner-of-the-mouth drawl. "I was on a flight to New York from Los Angeles, sitting there in first class section with George Clooney, television and film star, and I was talking to him because we know each other ­ we're famous people. He knows Bonnie from Chicago, they have a long history together, and he said, 'Did you read Bonnie Hunt's script?'. I said, 'No' and he said 'She wrote a great script'. As soon as I landed I called my manager and said 'Get me Bonnie Hunt's script. Pronto'." 

The script arrived by whatever means scripts arrive on the doormats of American TV stars who use words such as "pronto". Continues Duchovny: "I thought it was a beautiful, heartfelt story and I knew that with Bonnie's comic sensibility, if you merged the two, it would be a great, heartfelt funny movie. I knew immediately it was the movie I wanted to do so I called Bonnie and said, 'I want to do your movie. Why did I have to hear about it from George Clooney?'. And the truth of it ­ or the truth that I want to believe ­ is that Bonnie didn't want to impose on our friendship."

There's a sense, however, that the script represented more than just a heartfelt story for Duchovny. Filming began in Chicago the week after his The X-Files stint in Vancouver was due to finish and, in retrospect, it's easy to see that he was already flexing his muscles and limbering up for the time he would have to go toe-to-toe with the makers of the hit series. The programme that made him was one day going to have to lose him. 

One US television critic last week pleaded for Duchovny to be released from the show on the grounds he looks so bored and it was only an eleventh hour agreement between the parties which saw him agree to appear in an eighth series at all. He's tight-lipped about the ongoing saga, but is prepared to expand on comments he made about feeling that he was treated like a prostitute. 

"When I said that prostitute thing I meant more like a kept lady and when I said that I meant something very specific," says Duchovny. "Sometimes when you work as an actor, the powers that be think you can be assuaged with gifts and baubles. It's like,'We're not going to honour your contract but we're going to give you a trip to Hawaii.' My response has always been, 'I can afford my own trip to Hawaii if I so choose. Just honour my contract'. Any dispute I ever had with Fox was over my interpretation of my contract and I always said that when their interpretation met mine the lawsuit would be over." 

The $25 million lawsuit involved Duchovny's claims to a share of the profits from The X-Files and has caused a rift between him and the show's creator, Chris Carter. So, his character Fox Mulder will appear in the next series, but only in about half the episodes courtesy of an abduction storyline which will see co-star Gillian Anderson team up with another agent to try to find him. Sound far-fetched? Well it is The X-Files. 

"I am doing many less shows," he confirms. "The most important thing to me was to have time off to do other projects." And it's the other projects which will make or break him. Currently, Duchovny's a member of that strange club of stars whose celebrity rests on their roles in long-running television series. It's a club which includes NYPD Blue's David Caruso and Jimmy Smits, ER's Julianna Margulies and George Clooney, the entire cast of Friends, and, of course, Gillian Anderson. 

As American cultural exports these programmes are as strong, if not stronger, than Hollywood's big screen offerings, but the actors in question can't always make the transition between the two as successfully as they'd like. Of the list, only Clooney can genuinely claim to have become a movie star. 

"He is a few floors above me there in the famous building," says Duchovny. Anderson, meanwhile, has her crack at the big time coming up with the release of The House Of Mirth which, ironically, also has a Scottish connection ­ it was largely filmed in Glasgow last summer. So can Duchovny make it? If the DDEB-ers ­ the acronym stands for David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade ­ who staff the hundreds of unofficial fan sites have anything to do with it, his future is safe, although, on the basis of Return To Me, the jury's definitely out. Hunt, however, has no doubt Duchovny's talent is elastic enough to cope with anything. 

"David is one of those fearless actors," she says. "He can probably do just about anything. It's just whether or not an audience would accept him." And what about Fox Mulder himself ­ can The X-Files survive without him? If the truth is out there, Duchovny says he doesn't know where it's lurking. But, he adds: "I hope they do. Honestly." Then the smirk again. Always with the smirk.

Filmmaking