Berliner Morgenpost interview
Did the drama bring you happiness, Mrs. Anderson?
Gillian Anderson, Actress
By Rüdiger Sturm
On an early Sunday morning at the Berlin Regent Hotel, Gillian Anderson appears highly intense and larger than life, even if her size asserts the opposite, as she introduces the Historical drama ‘The Star of India’ (available from August 10 in the cinema).
But the 48-year-old remains self-deprecating and honest, as she gives an up-front account of her changing career, which has not been without its low points, even during times of great success.
Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung: The world still knows you as an FBI agent from “The X Files”. So it is unusual to see you play a British Governor in “The Star of India”.
Gillian Anderson: Do you think so? I grew up in London and moved there 15 years ago. After the end of the series, I did theatre there, and bought a house. Actually, I wanted to commute between continents, but then I fell in love, got married, even if that marriage is now over, and the rest is history. I would not want to live anywhere else. Because even the work is better here.
Q: In what way?
GA: People here have a more unconventional approach to movie-making. I don’t tend to get typecast, also seen in “The Star of India”. By coming here, I wanted to prove that I can play every possible type of character. I can make films which I respect, and which I would watch myself. And I also love appearing on stage, which is easier here than in Hollywood.
Q: The original [X Files] series ended after 202 episodes in 2002. How did you feel back then?
It felt strange. “X Files” was such a big part of my life – the show lasted more than nine years. I didn’t really have time to meet with friends, or even pay my bills. And that’s why afterwards, part of me wanted to completely lock myself away. I wanted to forget that I had ever done those episodes. After the show ended, for a while, I just went travelling. Didn’t want to be part of a television series anymore. My survival instinct kicked in. It’s why I refused to talk about “X Files” for several years. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would ever feel more relaxed about it. But enough time has now passed, and enough distance has grown, which was needed. Now I’m happy to have been part of the show and can talk about it quite easily.
Q: But what exactly got under your skin?
It was just such a long time. The work was hard, the hours were long. At the time, mistakenly, I couldn’t really appreciate the whole thing. Over time, I realised what a blessing the show was. I had a secure job, made some great connections, and played a character that helped make TV history.
Q: Did you make mistakes?
At the beginning I was young and full of energy. And my daughter was still small, so I could take her with me everywhere. So I decided to do extra promotional work during the vacations between seasons. I thought to myself, “I can see the world, and somebody else will pay for it.” But that was just stupid. If you spend three days in Germany, then three days in France, three days in Spain successively, then you just wear yourself out.
Q: You became famous all over the world. How often did you get recognized in public?
That always depended on my hair color. My hair is naturally dark, and when I’m dark-haired I can’t easily be recognized. But as soon as I switched to the Scully red, it was noticeable. On the other hand, I can’t always predict where I will get recognized. I was on vacation in Sri Lanka and thought I could remain anonymous, but everyone recognized me. In New York, I was worried that I’d get recognized everywhere, but then people left me alone.
Q: You were also celebrated as a sex symbol, posing half naked for magazines.
That was for a photo shoot, and actually I was wearing a very conservative outfit at the beginning. But somehow the photographer persuaded me to take it off. My agent was quite shocked. But that was a long time ago.
Q: Those photos still look incredible. It doesn’t seem like much time has passed.
I just try to stay healthy. So I limit my intake of flour and sugar. It’s a really big challenge, because those two ingredients are in 75% of the foods I love. I’m a big fan of bread and chocolate. But I admit: If I do without them, then it’s easier to get out of bed in the morning, and then I have more energy throughout the day.
Q: Was it a lot of fun for you to change your appearance during production?
It depended on the situation. For one film role in London my hair was a deep magenta, but then I returned to Los Angeles to shoot the”X Files” movie, and I had to dye my hair yet again. I spent 19 and a half hours in hair and make-up within a really short time, which wasn’t fun at all. And that was on top of a transatlantic flight to Vancouver. Then I had to make sure that my hair remained perfect at all costs. I remember what a huge relief it was when it all worked out really well. Because the fans just wanted Scully to have the right hair color.
Q: They are about to film the ‘X Files’ revival – Is the madness about to begin again?
Last time, it was manageable. Instead of dyeing my hair, I use a wig. These are just three seasons. Now I know how to regulate my life and work, and I have made a conscious decision that my family always comes first. When I shoot movies, I look for projects which will allow me to spend as much time as possible with my two younger children. My oldest daughter is already grown up. I don’t like to be separated from them for too long, because I miss my children terribly. Apart from that, I also have hobbies and other interests. I love art, and I try to visit almost every exhibition which comes to London. For years I collected paintings until my walls were full at home.
Q: Wouldn’t you just replace the old pictures with new ones?
I’m just not organised enough to keep up with that. Besides, I really hate replacing pictures. I want to see all of them.
Q: What else are you disorganized about?
I don’t know if this can be called disorganized, but when I wanted to get into acting, I was so naïve it was unbelievable. I had no idea where to start, so I asked around about where I should go and study, and somebody mentioned the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago. So I applied – but just to that one place, and nowhere else. Fortunately for me, I got accepted – but I had no back-up plan, and no idea what I would have done if my place had fallen through.
Q: Your father worked in the film industry. Was that not helpful for your career?
No, because he had a post-production company. There were no actors running around at home, and when I watched a movie in the cinema, I didn’t think it was anything to do with his work. However, my Dad did give me advice, which wasn’t necessarily encouraging. He was a very practical person, so he recommended that I should learn word processing. It was at the time when computers were just coming to the forefront. I was still studying at the time, and the chance to make money with the show was so small that he thought I had to try something different. If I had been familiar with word processing, I could also have taught other people. It was actually an ideal plan. But what did I do? Instead, I became a waitress and preferred to make cappuccinos.
Q: Your mother was a computer analyst. Did you inherit your IT talents from your parents?
Not that I know of. I’m not very gifted with computers! I also knew early on that I wanted to do something with acting. However, this didn’t come easily. At twelve I auditioned to be in “Alice in Wonderland”, there were 100 other girls, and I didn’t get a role. I thought to myself: “This is not for me.” Only later did I learn that I was almost cast. In the end, I wasn’t given the role because I’d never had a job before, and another girl had already made a name for herself. But then I got discouraged, and lost my confidence for a while before I had the courage to perform in a production in a church.
Q: Why didn’t you give up?
Because I felt like I was an outsider. I didn’t like my school very much, and I didn’t feel like I was going to get anywhere there. But when I acted in this production, I suddenly knew who I was, and became much more self-assured. It was like a light bulb was just switched on. Suddenly, I felt happy, and began to spend hours studying drama.
Q: There’s only one thing in life you haven’t succeeded in, because your two marriages ended in divorce. Would you like to try again?
I don’t know. You can never rule it out. Weddings can be very beautiful, and they give a partnership a special kick. But I’m very happy now, my life feels good. Why would I want to change anything?