Photo: Rommel Demano/WireImage
Mulder and Scully first met twenty years ago, and to commemorate the anniversary, X-Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson talked up a storm this weekend — at the Paley Center, at New York Comic Con, and on Reddit. Their celebratory tour so excited Vulture that it has necessitated multiple posts, but we figure one more won’t hurt anyone. Here are a couple of the key topics covered this weekend by the twosome, who, despite having foggy memories, seemed closer than ever, cuddling on red carpets. touching each other throughout the panels, and picking romantic clips to show at the Paley Center. Mulder and Scully shippers should know that even Anderson slipped and called Duchovny “Mulder” at one point during the Paley panel, to the sold-out crowd’s delight. And, the two actors revealed at NYCC that when they exchange e-mails with each other, they sometimes sign off with “Mulder” or “Scull-bag.” Awww.
WHAT IF THE X-FILES DEBUTED TODAY?
If Fox were trying to launch The X-Files today, Duchovny predicted that they would cast “younger people.” Anderson added, “And they’d get more money. And they’d tweet about it every day. And people would binge-watch.” Duchovny mentioned that the show would likely be on cable with fewer episodes, because 25 episodes a year was a brutal schedule. “You’re going to have some crap on, because it’s just not humanly possible. You can have twelve great episodes, but nobody should have to do 25 hours of television.”
What kind of cell phones would Mulder and Scully have?, one fan wanted to know. “Probably the same that everybody else has!” Anderson laughed. What kind of apps would they have? “Über-alien,” Duchovny said. “What’s the app called Grindr? What if it were to help you find aliens? An Alien Grindr.”
Recalling the days of appointment television, the actors marveled at all the fans who came up and talked about how they grew up watching The X-Files with their families — until the cumulative effect of all the baby-philes coming forward made them feel old. “Let’s just stop with how young everybody was when they started watching!” Duchovny laughed. “Let’s put an end to that.” (When Anderson talked about the “chemical impact” the show had on people by watching it together, Duchovny joked that that’s how baby-philes are made).
THE SURPRISE SUCCESS AND THE “SCULLY EFFECT”
Fans kept asking Duchovny and Anderson if they predicted the success of the show, but they didn’t. “Whoever expects something to be a hit? What kind of an idiot does? We had no clue. I never expected it to last more than a week or two,” Duchovny said.
“Same,” Anderson concurred.
“I thought it was about aliens,” Duchovny said. “That was my impression, and I thought, Eventually you have to see the alien and it’s over. How long can you go before people are pissed that they haven’t seen the alien?”
As far as the ongoing mythology of the show, “We were just trying to keep up,” Duchonvy said. “I stopped trying to follow it,” Anderson said. Some of the mythology came out of practical concerns, such as when Anderson got pregnant and to excuse her absence, her character was abducted. “I don’t think Chris ever had an idea that it was going to be a part of the show, let alone the part of the show that people liked the most,” Duchovny said. “I don’t think Chris had an endgame, until the very end. I could be wrong.”
It wasn’t until the third season that the show really picked up, despite the two characters being what Duchovny called “horrible FBI agents”: “We never, ever solved one case.” (Anderson noted that her inspiration for Scully was the more successful Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs.)
An unintended consequence of the show’s newfound popularity was what is known as “the Scully effect” — the scientific-minded Scully, who gave up a promising career in medicine to join the FBI, has inspired countless young women to pursue careers in science and medicine.
“Well, that was originally why I took the job, because I knew … ” Anderson said. “Um, no. No, I had no idea. It was a surprise to me, when I was told that. We got a lot of letters all the time, and I was told quite frequently by girls who were going into the medical world or the science world or the FBI world or other worlds that I reigned, that they were pursuing those pursuits because of the character of Scully. And I said, ‘Yay!’”
“I believe that a lot of men, because of me …” Duchovny started.
“Threw pencils at ceilings?” Anderson asked. “Ate sunflower seeds? Hid themselves in basements? Got into porn?”
“Got into Scully,” he corrected her.
“You weren’t into me!” she said.
“What?” he asked.
“You weren’t into me,” repeated Anderson (which prompted an audience member at Comic Con to shout, “I was! I still am!”).
Duchovny and Anderson reminded Vulture prior to the Paley panel that the pilot of The X-Files contained an impediment to the Mulder-Scully relationship that was cut out — Scully’s boyfriend Ethan, portrayed by Tim Ransom.
“It was the first scene we shot,” Anderson said. “The first actual scene I shot in the pilot was a scene with Scully’s boyfriend. And did they have an argument?”
“Then later, she takes a call with Mulder, while she’s in bed with this guy,” Duchovny recalled. “And what they cut was her close-up, because you can’t see the guy. But you were really into that guy!” he teased Anderson, joking that he stole her from “Mr. Scully.” “But there were problems in the relationship before I came along, okay?” he laughed. “I just happened to be there at the wrong time. And I said, ‘Don’t use me as the reason to get out of this! You got to figure it out yourself. And I’ll be here or I won’t.’ Remember?”
“That would have been a good scene,” Anderson laughed. “But they cut that out because it was over 42 minutes.”
Anderson later said at NYCC that she enjoyed the slow burn between the eventual couple. “I personally enjoyed the fact that they didn’t get together for a really long time,” Anderson said, “that the writers were clever enough to drag it out, so that even the touch of a hand or a hug was meaningful.” (At this, Duchovny touched her shoulder lightly). How much of that was scripted? “At the very beginning, they wanted us to button scenes with looks toward each other,” Anderson said. “And I remember thinking, ‘Uh …’”
“I don’t think it was written in the script,” Duchonvy said. “It was mostly us, just doing what felt right in the moment. I know if it were me, and they wrote that I had to touch your hand …”
“You wouldn’t have touched me?” Anderson asked.
“I would have gone, ‘Fuck you,’” he laughed.
One fan asked, “How was baby William conceived?” and Anderson laughed, “Do I really have to explain that to you?” “… a bottle of red,” Duchovny mumbled. “Does it make sense that it would have been during ’All Things’?” “It could have also been the miracle-baby thing,” someone pointed out, to which Duchonvy said, “Ah … no.”
But Duchonvy and Anderson are themselves confused about the status of the Mulder-Scully relationship in the last film in 2008. “Were we actually married?” Anderson asked. “I believe so. That was my impression,” Duchovny said, adding, “When we came back to do the second film years later, it was weird to be Mulder — but it wasn’t weird to be Mulder and Scully.” Anderson and Duchovny also don’t think the second film closed out the relationship between their characters. “No, that doesn’t end, really,” said Duchovny. “That stuff doesn’t die.”*
Duchovny is also a fan of the romantic Mulder-Scully mash-ups set to song. “It’s really kind of cool, and I get it now.”
Mulder was the thinking-woman’s sex symbol, something fans reminded Duchovny of when they told him that they had crushes on him. “I think he was every woman’s crush object,” Anderson told Vulture. “It’s not just people who think.” “Go on!” Duchovny laughed.
Part of that could have something to do with Mulder’s infamous red Speedo scene, which Duchonvy revealed was his own swimsuit and is now in the Smithsonian. “I think Chris Carter wanted me to wear board shorts because he’s a California guy,” the actor said at the Paley panel. “But I told him nobody swims laps in board shorts. Let me wear my suit.”
When a political question was posed the next day at Comic-Con, Duchonvy quipped, “I didn’t know we were going to have to be smart. I want to answer questions about the Speedo.” (This is not to say that they didn’t get political — Anderson quipped when asked about conspiracy theories, “The most ridiculous conspiracy I’ve heard lately is that Obama is trying to ruin America with a health plan!”)
THE CREEPY CRAWLIES
“I think I had snakes in my pants once,” Duchovny said when asked about gross-out moments on the show. “Were there maggots you didn’t like?” he asked Anderson. “Yeah! You got a problem with that? Who likes maggots?” “I’m not judging!” he laughed. (Duchovny also shared that he used to pick up and play with cockroaches when living in New York, so he didn’t mind the “clean Canadian” cockroaches, “who when they ate your food, they actually apologized.”)
And then there were, of course, the bees, which were real, they noted. “I was in a particularly bad mood that year,” Duchovny said. “I wanted to get out of there. And it seemed to me that we got everything we needed, and I said, ‘When do we get the fuck out of here?’ And Chris said, ‘The bees get upset. What we do is we take the queen bee away from the hive and the bees become disoriented because they no longer have a woman to work for, and that’s why they don’t sting so much. But come nightfall, the bees get upset, and so we have to wrap the bees before nightfall.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know who the fuck is the agent for these bees, but I got to get that agent!’”
FAVORITE CRAZY MOMENTS
When asked about eating a cockroach in the “Humbug” episode, Anderson suggested an alternate topic — “Penis tricks! That’s more interesting than the cockroach!” (“I think he means on the show,” Duchovny joked). During “Humbug,” the Jim Rose Circus were guests, and invited the cast to observe what Duchovny called their “organ origami”: “Swollen Thumb, Flying Squirrel, the Hamburger” the actor started rattling off the names of shapes made with male genitalia. “All good.” (“Don’t try this at home!” Anderson chortled).
Anderson was also a fan of the Darin Morgan–penned episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” in which Scully is told she won’t die. “And I’m not dead!” Anderson said with glee. And since Scully had a religiously iconographic look in the last movie, Anderson joked, “She’s God … and there will be more about that in the third movie.”
A fan brought up the episode “Home,” and the actors said they were surprised that it turned out to be so controversial, but conceded they could see why. “I remember reading about the mother under the bed and thinking, ‘Whoa!’” Anderson said. “All of that shit, man. And the fact that it didn’t air in some cities?”
“That’s the one episode, Kim Manners, who directed the second-most, if not the most of anybody, Kim was very proud of the fact that ‘Home’ was the only X-File that didn’t repeat,” Duchovny noted. “They took it out of the rotation, because people were grossed out, and standards and practices couldn’t deal with it.”
“You can show a mangina,” Anderson laughed, “but you can’t show …”
Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, also was an X-Files writer. “Some of his episodes were some of our favorites, I would say,” Duchovny said. Anderson’s favorite episode, “Bad Blood,” for instance, is a Gilligan-penned creation, and she picked the autopsy scene from that episode as a clip to show at the Paley Center.
Would they ever work with Gilligan again? “We go by the material, not by the people, but he writes good material, so you’d say, ‘Yeah!’ We’d work with Vince, probably, depending on the material,” Duchovny said. Also good X-Files scribes that they’d be interested in talking to — Howard Gordon, now on Homeland, and Darin Morgan, who always penned “a superior script,” a phrase Duchovny often repeated during the Paley panel. “I love Darin, but he takes a long time.”
Duchovny also recalled on Reddit that when he first met Morgan, he didn’t recognize him, because the writer had also played Flukeman and was in costume and makeup at the time.”A couple of months later, I was on a flight from Vancouver to L.A., and a guy sat next to me, and started asking me a bunch of inane questions,” Duchovny said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have three hours to sit next to this guy.’ And I was despairing. And then he handed me a book and said, ‘Will you sign it to my nemesis?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘I’m Darin Morgan. I’m Flukeman.’”
At the Paley Center, Duchovny and Anderson had to be reminded of what actually happened in the show’s finale (“That’s crazy shit!” Duchovny marveled. “That sounds too far-fetched!”), and when the question came up again at NYCC, Duchovny reminded the audience that they don’t remember a lot of the specifics. “We love you anyway!” a fan shouted. “I didn’t think it was a fault of ours,” Duchovny deadpanned.
Anderson remembered having a water fight at the end of the last episode, “and I think I won.”
But back to the finale. “It’s impossible to end a show that runs that long in a way that’s satisfying for all the fans,” Duchovny added. “How would you have liked for it to end?” Anderson asked an audience member at NYCC, and was told that fans wanted more answers to the conspiracy theories. “The endgame was always that we would do the movies,” Duchovny said. “And we did two, so … I shouldn’t speak for Chris, but I would imagine the reason he didn’t tie up all the loose ends was because he wants to play with it in the movies.”
Could there be another X-Files movie? You don’t even have to ask. Before the moderator at Comic Con could even get out the question, Duchovny interrupted to say, “We would love to, Chris would love to.” On Reddit, Duchovny elaborated and said that Carter actually is working on a script, or at least claims to be. “If he wants to do that and Fox wants to make it, Gillian will do it, I will do it, so start your writing campaign now. Seriously. The ball’s in Fox’s hands. And not Fox Mulder, Fox the studio.”
And in terms of what they think that third movie should be, Duchovny told the NYCC crowd that “Gillian and I agree that it should be alien-conspiracy-based. I don’t know if it would tie up loose ends, but that was the heart of the show and we’d like to get back to that.”
At a fan’s request, Duchovny and Anderson even did an extended improv bit at NYCC as Mulder and Scully, to show they still had it:
Anderson: Mulder, it’s me.
Duchonvy: What is it, Scully? What have you got?
Anderson: I’m in New York right now …
Duchonvy: Are we on the phone? What are you wearing? Scully, what are you wearing?
Anderson: On my legs, I’ve got …
Duchovny: Hold on, let me get comfortable. Go ahead. What?
Anderson: … I’m wearing a purple Lycra pantsuit …
Duchovny: Slow down. You had me at purple.
While we wait for a third movie, what about some other form of a reunion, say if one of them were to guest on the other’s current television show(s)? Duchovny told Vulture he didn’t think it would be a good idea. “We don’t want to cross that line,” he said. “We think that the characters are so iconic, why play with it? I think we could act together, but it would have to be very specific.”
“I think it would be better if we did comedy,” Anderson said.
“But not that … I hate that winking, meta-meta-meta shit,” Duchovny said. “I hate it more than anything.”
Anderson, still, had a few ideas. “Hannibal Lecter could eat Mulder,” she suggested, referring to her role on Hannibal. “And on Californication, she’d be game for a guest spot playing “a Scully-impersonating stripper” with whom Hank Moody has sex. “I could wear a pastel suit!” Let the fan campaigns begin!
* We have updated this article to reflect the fuller, accurate quote by Duchovny where indicated.