GIllian Anderson: The Malibu File
Resolving to veer away from the subject of Anderson's daughter, about whom I'm certain she could talk passionately and endlessly, I ask, "How satisfied are you with the way your career's going?"
Anderson smiles and lolls back her head to soak up the waning sunlight. "It's interesting how, after I did a cover story for a magazine last year, my manager [Connie Freiberg] got a phone call from someone saying things like, 'What an amazing job you've done with Gillian's career!' and 'What an amazing career this girl's had!' Connie laughed hysterically and said, 'What career are you talking about? She hasn't done anything but The X-Files' " Here, for the first time, Anderson laughs airily and not a bit defensively. She knows how far she's gone on precious little previous experience.
Yet, such is the breakneck nature of Hollywood on-the-job-training and freakish fame that Anderson, who many in town predict will become a movie star, now wields the clout and the self-possession to utter such pronouncements as: "I want to work with Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Patricia Arquette, Isabelle Adjani--people whom I respect, obviously, but also with whom I want to share an energy. I won't necessarily be in these movies I develop. But if I feel a project is something that needs to be made, a story that needs to be told, then, that's where I want to be at."
Social importance does not seem to rank as the ultimate raison d'etre for the movies she has just done, but Anderson is full of serious earnestness when I ask her why she wanted to do them. "First and foremost, The Mighty--I'm going to call it by its original title, Freak The Mighty, because I like that better--was a project directed by Peter Chelsom, who directed Hear My Song and Funny Bones. After I saw Funny Bones at the Vancouver Film Festival, I literally could not talk for two or three hours. It had that huge an impact on me. When I heard he was doing another project, I asked to see the script and completely loved it."
Rumor had it that star Sharon Stone was not a happy camper while making The Mighty. Was that indeed a problem? "Sharon Stone's not the leading lady of The Mighty," declares Anderson, adding that by the time she reported for her own small role as Meat Loaf's screwed-up girlfriend, Stone had left. "The movie's being sold on her, but I believe she only worked for 10 days, like I did. Everybody remembers those 10 days. You never know what the truth is, but everybody was cautious as to anybody new coming on the set, like, 'How are they going to be?' By the time I got there, it was just about the work, about interpreting the script and creating, as a unit--which is what it should be about."
The actress's goal in doing both The Mighty and Hellcab was to show off colors other than Dana Scully's discreet grays and taupes. Playing in The Mighty "an eccentric alcoholic basically stuck in her life, in her concept of who she is as opposed to who she used to be," clearly jazzed Anderson. She sounds both exhilarated and slightly terrified as she admits, "I was flying by the seat of my pants. I'm only going to know if I pulled it off when I see the final cut."
Perhaps she needn't worry; the director of The Mighty has already declared he's determined to hunt down a follow-up project for her to star in. Although Anderson is equally unsure of how she comes off in Hellcab, playing "a not very bright South Side Chicago chick in big purple pants and big hair," she describes her experience making it as "cathartic, in terms of the joy of spontaneous creativity.
"You see, being a lead does not interest me," Anderson asserts, just in case we hadn't figured this out. "It's about the quality of the material and who's involved in it. I want to be part of the process, and if the title 'star' comes as a result of that, then it does. But that's not a goal."
Having heard Anderson's name mentioned earlier for paranormal-friendly movies, I wonder how intensely she feels the danger of getting pigeonholed. "Anything having remotely to do with Scully, unless it's something absolutely phenomenal, goes by the wayside," she asserts, setting her jaw resolutely. "I was considered for Volcano, but the action genre is something that I wouldn't want to indulge in until, you know, five, ten years from now. Contact did, actually, come up, though I don't know whether it was something where I was actually being seriously considered. Jodie Foster and I are very similar in many ways." Interestingly, the one role Anderson sounds genuinely sorry about having missed out on is the woman-in-a-parallel-universe gig that Gwyneth Paltrow eventually got in the forthcoming Sliding Doors. Anderson calls it "a wonderful, very metaphysically oriented concept that just sends chills down my spine."
Her own aspirations aside, of course, Anderson knows full well that it is the yet-to-be-titled X-Files movie she is shooting right now that people want to see her in. It's also this project which stands the best chance of doing for her on the big screen what the series did on TV. But you can see from the expression on Anderson's face at the very mention of the production that the X-Files movie is a mixed blessing as far as she's concerned. "And here we'd gotten so far with you only barely mentioning X-Files," she laughs with only partially mock disappointment. She admits to me that, for starters, she's "not a big science fiction fan." And when I casually remind her that before she gets to making socially influential movies with the Fienneses and Streeps of the world, she still owes Fox two more years of slogging through city sewers in search of alien sludge, she gives me a silent but unmistakable look that says, "Don't bet on it."
The fan and Internet circuit has buzzed for some time about Anderson's being vocal with Fox about the financial inequities between her series salary and that of David Duchovny, with whom she's never sounded enamored, at least publicly, anyway. "There is no truth to the rumor," she says, politely dismissive, when the money issue is brought up. Sources close to Anderson suggest that the X-Files film marks a salary coup for the actress who, since she didn't contractually owe Fox the movie that they could not make without her, is rumored to be earning around $4 million to star in it. She won't confirm or deny any figure, but she doesn't frown when she says, "I couldn't be more grateful for what I'm being paid to do this movie." (Her manager told me, laughing, "I warned Gillian she shouldn't get spoiled by this kind of money because it's probably not going to happen again anytime soon.")
As befits The X-Files rabid fan base, rumors run wild on the subject of the film. The plot is being kept under heavy wraps, but there are no total secrets in Hollywood, and if you talk to certain people you'll hear an outline that makes the film sound like_ Invasion of the Body Snatchers_ meets Outbreak meets Alien. One source I spoke with likened the movie to "a very, very good episode of the series done with big visual fireworks." Scuttlebutt has it that the ensemble cast of characters (played by such unexpected types as Glenne Headly, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Blythe Danner) get embroiled in Agent Scully's and Mulder's battles to save the human race from a vicious attack by lizardlike space creatures. Along the way are such gruesome delights as black blood that has a life of its own, virus-carrying bees, lots of explosions, a kiss between Scully and Mulder, and a naked butt shot for fans of Duchovny's southern exposure. Oh, and yes, there is a government conspiracy to shield the aliens. One way or another, expect this TV season's The X-Files storyline to lead directly into the events of the movie.