Another X-Files? Why Some Roles Sink Hooks Into Actors (and Fans)

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in "The X-Files: I Want to Believe"

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”

Last week, David Duchovny told Jay Leno that he, co-star Gillian Anderson and creator Chris Carter are “always on board” to make a third X-Files movie. In fact, he said, “You could wheel me out. I’ll play Fox Mulder forever.” Something about that exchange left me scratching my head. Was this the same David Duchovny who abandoned the show before its penultimate season?

Way back in 1999, Duchovny mused the cult-hit series could go on without him, telling a newspaper, “I’m sure they’d hire a good actor,” while admitting he’d miss playing Mulder. The actor has had a mixed relationship with the character, and with The X-Files franchise. It’s strange to see him so unabashedly eager for a return to chasing aliens through cornfields after so many years of equivocation.

William Shatner on "Saturday Night Live" in 1986

William Shatner on “Saturday Night Live” in 1986

Or is it? Plenty of stars have trashed their biggest career triumphs in genre films and television shows, only to circle back around and return to the same well later in their careers. In 1986, William Shatner delivered his famous “Get a Life” monologue on Saturday Night Live, telling an audience of fake devotees that Star Trek was “just a TV show,” and that fandom was a “colossal waste of time.” Only last year, Shatner made a documentary about Trek fan culture. Of course, the Trek films netted a good deal more money for their stars than the original TV show, and Shatner has never really left Captain Kirk behind.

The last X-Files installment, 2008’s I Want to Believe, grossed an anemic $68 million, opening in the shadow of The Dark Knight (still, that’s more than twice its estimated budget). But considering the reception Duchovny’s subsequent films have received — The Joneses brought in just $7 million, and Goats has a rating of 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes – a new X-Files film must be looking pretty good about now. And Duchovny might be thinking about his long-term career: When he’s in his 80s, I’m sure he’d like Oscar host Quvenzhané Wallis to do a bit about Fox Mulder in her opening number.

Speaking of long-term, Carrie Fisher has said yes to reprising her role as Princess Leia, despite writing in her memoir Wishful Drinking about her discomfort with that whole metal bikini incident, and the intense fan response that followed the release of the three iconic Star Wars films. When Fisher writes “George Lucas ruined my life … and I mean that in the best way possible,” I could imagine Shatner or Duchovny saying the same thing.

Carrie Fisher in that legendary metal bikini

Carrie Fisher in that legendary metal bikini

It’s impossible to know what these actors are thinking. Are they looking for money? For the attention of fans who have dwindled over the years? Immortality? When David Duchovny is gone from this world, his obituary will have one paragraph about Hank Moody, and three about Fox Mulder. There are characters that are great to play, thought-provoking and insightful — and then there are those that hook into people and create fans for life. I would imagine that kind of power is addicting and repulsive at the same time.

Of course, there are some genre actors who never, ever come back to the roles that made them famous. Amy Jo Johnson is primarily known for playing the Pink Power Ranger, but she was uncomfortable with the intensity of the show’s fans, and went on to dramatic television series (like Felicity and Flashpoint). Alec Guinness, had he lived to see this latest batch of Star Wars films, would have been unlikely to join the cast. He has been quoted as saying the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi was “not an acting job” – he received an Academy Award nomination for his performance — and that the dialogue was beneath him. (Yet he recognized a hit when he saw one, and shrewdly negotiated a royalties deal that made him a wealthy man in his later years.)

It will be a long time until a third X-Files film sees the light of day. It’s nice to know that Duchovny is willing and able to come back to the character that made him famous, whatever his reasons for doing so. It’s possible that with the success of Californication, which scored record ratings last month, it’s not such a scary thought to be stuck playing the same alien-chasing, brow-furrowing, Scully-rescuing FBI agent for one more film.

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Comments

  • Dekko

    I’m not sure that “X-Files” could even work as a satisfying movie experience at this point.  The show was intoxicating because it fully took advantage of the serialized format and the slooooww roll-out of its mythology.  Even if they could figure out a short-form tale for the characters, I would prefer they just take it to cable of netflix and have a 10 or 12 hour mini.

  • runner_j

    The fact is, Chris Carter ran the X-Files so far into the ground, there’s no real future for it. If he had stopped the show just before the first film came out (as I believe the original plan was) maybe things would be different. But Fox gave him a truckload of cash to keep going (I believe those were his words) and ruined the show.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Sanders/690069501 Greg Sanders

    I think it’s oddly kind of sad. These are classics, never-ending characters that will live well beyond any of our lives, I mean, they’ve all become engrained in our collective pop culture sub-conscious. It’s disheartening to (rightly) assume that many of these actors really are repulsed by their franchised roles, whether kids looking for escapism (Star Wars, Star Wars) or older teenagers convinced the world is a darker, dirtier place (X-Files) these fictitious tales are woven into our minds at such an impressionable point in our lives, and we’ve become enamored, and struck by their vast mythology and captivating characters.

    And yet, here we are, seeing history played out in front of us time and again, how these franchises have created disgruntled actors who never wanted to become these icons of geekery, as it were. And why, really? Why is Ford, why was Shatner, why are any of them so disenchanted by these roles that made them, well, famous, to say the least.

    Do the fans really behave so repulsively? Are they really that venomous, or is this a simple case of an actor’s ego telling them they were made for more, but these franchises, these fans, hold them back, forever chained to roles that no one will quite take seriously?

  • Fearitself

    Wow, Guiness, at least you should have kept your mouth shut, if you really did it for the money. Shoud we feel bad about liking Obi-Wan, just beacuse he thought the dialogue was bad. Didn’t he think that someday, someone would ask why he even accepted the role. Yeah, for money. So he can be a  total  snob, douchebag sell-out, just beacuse he is the holy and sacred Alec Guiness?

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    I’m actually surprised. After the last X-Files movies and with his Showtime series, Californication, I really thought Duchovny was through with Fox Mulder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=48805881 Michael Fitz-Gibbon

    I know it would probably turn out to be a train wreck, but I want to see them at least wrap up that “invasion in 2012″ thing. Maybe the aliens are running late. Got caught in traffic.

  • Lccf

    I agree that the show lasted too long, but stopping it just after the first movie ? That’s harsh. There are really good episodes in seasons 6 ( “Two fathers/One son”, “Monday”, “The Rain King”, “The Unnatural”), and even 7 (“Closure”, “En Ami”, “All things”). Anyway, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I only replied because season 6 is one of my favorites with 2 and 3 …

  • darthtigris

    I’m sure it’s not just the fans, but the media and even other casting directors.  I’d imagine that most actors relish playing different roles throughout their careers, so to have one harped on endlessly, even when beloved, could wear thin.

  • darthtigris

    If this was the prequels, would you feel the same?  Or just agree?

    The OT had horrible, awful dialogue too.  Just hideous.

  • Phumilm

    Duchovny was always eager to do more films after FTF. When he left the show he always said he will be in for more XFiles movies. 

  • Comicsintheclassroom

    My understanding was always that Carter wanted to stop the show earlierbut that Fox wouldnt end it so Carter stayed on to run it into the ground as best he could. Better himthan someone else.

  • John Smith

    I wish they had ended X-Files at season 7, and the good parts of Seasons 8 and 9 condensed into a few movies or miniseries. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

  • John Smith

    If they do a third/final film on the conspiracy, I suppose they could say that Dec 12, 2012 was simply an incorrect interpretation of the prophecies. Or maybe an invasion did happen on that date and was stopped – in secret, behind the shadows.

  • Omega Alpha

    Guiness didn’t really hated Star Wars. Here’s what’s on his IMDB trivia section:

    “Contrary to popular rumors, he did not hate working on the
    Star Wars films. What he hated was the fact that many of the Star Wars
    fans would only ever remember him as Obi-Wan Kenobi despite all the
    success of his previous roles.”

    Which is more than understandable.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KKBJV2WBMZUBWJDJ7ED3AGKQTU Oh, sure

    The Duchovny part of this story, at least, is nonsense. His objection to the TV series was ALWAYS the shooting schedule–10 months of being in virtually every scene, every year for 7 years. He always said that if it only shot for 3 or 4 months a year he’d be Fox Mulder forever. So saying today that he’d be happy to do another film and be Mulder forever is perfectly consistent. 

  • xprophet

    Please give us one more! Or maybe three!

  • Alien X

    All of you who say the show “lasted too long” likely never watched the last seasons.  There were excellent shows during seasons 8 and 9 – certainly superior that the drivel that is broadcast today.  X Files broke ground and was far ahead of its time.  Bring on more films and an X Files New Generation television show.

  • Tommy

    The last two seasons may not have been as good but they weren’t by any means awful or bad in any way as far as I remember. 
    And I think that it’s not that big a deal that actors’ opinions on their roles that made them famous change over time. I’d imagine that as an actor you want to try different roles and after playing the same characters for many years you might feel a little tired and want to take a break from it. Then few years later after you’ve had a little break and done some other things you start to warm up to playing your most famous role once again and may start missing it.
    Of course a cynical person might say that they just start to miss the fame and money that came with their most well known role after having had some other likely less successful roles but I believe that this is not the case for all of them at least 

  • athena

    We need to get collectively get out of our arrested adolescence and realize that these are just people with active artistic careers trying to practice their art in the modern age. As a true fan of the X-files, I think its great that David Duchovny wants to do another film. He is a most fantastic actor.