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Playboy Interview - David Duchovny
  • December 13, 1998 : 15:12
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Playboy: Ever try peyote?

Duchovny: I may have. Pretty sure I did.

Playboy: If you had one wish, what would it be?

Duchovny: It would have to do with writing. To be able to tell a story like Homer. To almost sing a story. Actually, I'd rather sing. If I could sing I probably wouldn't care about writing.

Playboy: What person would you like to be able to sing like?

Duchovny: Many, many people. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, even Bonnie Raitt. It would be funny, Bonnie Raitt's voice coming out of me, but I would change my physical appearance to make it work.

Playboy: Did you ever write anything for magazines?

Duchovny: I wrote two articles, one for the English Tatler, about my high school, and the other I can't remember.

Playboy: What did you write about your high school?

Duchovny: It was years later. And it wasn't good. It was basically about the fact that a lot of rich, famous people's children went to my high school, like John F. Kennedy Jr. and Jacques D'Amboise's son Chris, F.A.O. Schwarz IV, William Kennedy Smith before he was famous, and then a couple of kids who were prodigies on their own merit. We had a guy who was the editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle in high school! We had some geniuses there. It was a special school, called Collegiate. I had a great time there.

Playboy: Did you know John Kennedy Jr. at school?

Duchovny: Briefly. My first day at Collegiate I was kind of starstruck. I just wanted to see who John John Kennedy was. I asked this kid at lunch, "Which one is John John?" And he said, "His name is John." That was my first slap in the face. John left after my first year. We had a class trip down to Washington in 1975 and because I was new they put me with him. We roomed together. We went to the White House and one of the tour guides said, "I'm told that John Kennedy Jr. is among you." And we're all saying, "Who?" so that John wouldn't be embarrassed.

Playboy: You mean that they didn't recognize him?

Duchovny: Not then. We all had long hair parted on the side.

Playboy: Did Kennedy talk about the White House?

Duchovny: No. Not at all.

Playboy: Do you know him now?

Duchovny: Yeah.

Playboy: Was it during your high school years that you first had sex?

Duchovny: I lost my virginity when I was 14. And I haven't been able to find it.

Playboy: Did the girl go to high school with you?

Duchovny: She was 84.

Playboy: Are you going to tell us?

Duchovny: She was a year younger, but she wasn't a virgin. She was more experienced than I was.

Playboy: Did she seduce you?

Duchovny: No, it was mutual.

Playboy: Did she know it was the first time for you?

Duchovny: No, but I told her many years later.

Playboy: Any other interesting teenage experiences with women?

Duchovny: When I was 16 I had a Mrs. Robinson. It was really good, gave me a lot of confidence.

Playboy: Was she the mother of any of your friends?

Duchovny: No, though I definitely had my eyes open for that [laughs]. That's all I ever thought about. I always wanted an older woman. Actually, at that age it was any woman.

Playboy: How did you finally meet your older woman?

Duchovny: Two girlfriends of mine were babysitting for her. She had kids and was married.

Playboy: Did she seduce you?

Duchovny: Oh yeah. I didn't have the balls. We all went out dancing and she sat on my lap and said, "Take me home and make love to me." She definitely had to make every move.

Playboy: Could you believe it when it was happening?

Duchovny: Oh, I felt I was the luckiest guy in the world.

Playboy: How often did you see her?

Duchovny: Whenever I could!

Playboy: Had you seen The Graduate?

Duchovny: No.

Playboy: Have you talked with this woman since?

Duchovny: Yeah, the summer after. It was hard because I was feeling heroic and I took a friend to see her. I was showing off. And she didn't mince words: It was over. And I shouldn't bring anybody around or talk to anybody about it. It was like an introduction to the adult world. I wasn't thinking of any consequences, but she made it clear.

Playboy: Was she sophisticated?

Duchovny: To me, yeah. She was a woman. I'd never been with a woman. I'd been with girls.

Playboy: What happened after that, when you went back to girls?

Duchovny: Actually it's kind of romantic because I fell in love for the first time with a girl my own age while I was seeing the older woman. It was a really specific moment in my life. I was lying in bed with this woman, and she was just beautiful and totally exotic to me. She was younger than I am now. That summer I was a janitor in a place and had a little room. I met a girl who was having trouble with her parents, so I invited her to stay at my place -- I had two single beds. I liked her. I called from this woman's house just to see how she was doing. And I remember thinking, I want to be with her. It was weird, because here was my fantasy, and I was having feelings for this girl. It was the first time I fell in love.

Playboy: What happened with her?

Duchovny: We went out for about a year. I still hear from her every now and then. She's been married a couple of times.

Playboy: How did you react when your parents divorced?

Duchovny: I don't think I understood what divorce was or what it all meant. If you tell a child that his father is going to live somewhere else, it's like hearing the sun is so many miles from the earth. You understand what it means but you don't know what it is until it actually happens. It goes on for a month, then six months, then a year -- and then it's, Oh, now I understand what that meant.

Playboy: How often did you see your dad after he moved out?

Duchovny: First it was weekends, then less as time went on. It hurt, but I wasn't aware of that. I probably felt rejected. It involved things I wouldn't have had the vocabulary or the mentality to deal with.

Playboy: Did you have other problems as a child? Did you ever steal, for instance?

Duchovny: Yup. I was a good thief. I stole food, candy, all this stuff. I had a foolproof method for stealing sodas: I'd carry a tennis ball can with one ball into the store and then I'd take out the ball and the soda would go right in, perfect, with the ball on top. I never got caught but I got extorted. My friend's big sister said, "You steal for me." I tried it for a couple of days, stealing for me and for her. I realized I was going to get caught, so I quit.

Playboy: Did you ever steal again? Were you totally honest when you worked as a bartender?

Duchovny: I stole money then. Fifty bucks here and there. Wouldn't put it in the register. There were more legal ways of stealing: You come in and have seven drinks and I give you four for free and you give me a $50 tip. That's stealing -- I didn't make you pay for the drinks so I would get a big tip.

Playboy: If you could steal anything today, what would it be?

Duchovny: A great artwork from a museum. I don't know which one. Maybe the Mona Lisa, that's a wonderful painting. I could look at her.

Playboy: Are there any actors you particularly admire?

Duchovny: I admired Bogart. He didn't give it all away. He was underplaying. If you look at a film of Bogart's, he may have the same expression for the entire movie except for that little twitch, and yet he trusted his own power enough that his moves would be evident. I like actors who don't condescend, who let the audience make up their own minds. Brando has always been my favorite. I love Pacino and Duvall. Meryl Streep is so gifted it's hard to even place her. She's a real actor. Brando, Pacino, Duvall, they're great actors, but they're forceful personalities. You really get a sense of the man. Streep -- I've never seen an actor, male or female, who comes close to what she does. I'm not saying I'd rather watch her than any of those guys -- sometimes I wouldn't. But her gift as an actor is greater than anybody's I've ever seen. She's like a freak, like Michael Jordan.

Playboy: You married an actor. You took the press by surprise when you and Téa secretly wed. Was that satisfying?

Duchovny: Yes, except that we stayed in New York for our honeymoon, which was a mistake. We were followed around, and it was infuriating. It's hard to describe the powerlessness -- an AA word. You can't win. And it's difficult to be in a position where you can't win. For some reason somebody decided, OK, here's the price you have to pay. Then when you complain about it people go, "Didn't you understand? That's the price you have to pay." Because the technology of spying, picture-taking, surveillance has far outstripped the laws against it, we have to redefine spying. There used to be no telephoto lenses. If you're 100 feet from me with a telephoto lens you're actually an inch away. Ostensibly you're in my space, illegally. We really have to reconsider what it is that a public person gives up. Why does a public person give up all his or her rights to privacy? I'm not sure I understand that.

Playboy: How does marriage work between two Ivy League-educated actors?

Duchovny: Téa went to Sarah Lawrence, then she got into Harvard but didn't go. She went on a dare to the Charlie's Angels cattle call. They were casting and wanted three unknowns, and she got a part. It never got made, I think because of the Writers' Guild strike.

Playboy: You've said that Téa is "beyond gifted." Is that like saying there are no words to describe her talents?

Duchovny: I know I sound biased, but I truly believe that Téa is a unique performer. She could have been in Showgirls, Speed 2, in one bomb after another, but she would have survived because she has something that's undeniable. Her performance is always wonderfully enthusiastic, funny, smart, sexy. It's like she can hit and field. She's like Willie Mays, great with the bat and on the field. She's a beautiful woman who's a really talented comedian, and that's rare. She just hasn't yet found the writer and director who can service her, because she's able to do it all. And if she doesn't get too depressed about the business and quits, she will.

Playboy: Were you surprised when her film Deep Impact outgrossed The X-Files: Fight the Future?

Duchovny: I thought there was no way Deep Impact would make more money than our film, and then it did. I wasn't competitive because I thought I'd win easily. Then I was disappointed [chuckles]. No, I was happy. She's not competitive at all that way. She was also surprised at how well Deep Impact did.

Playboy: Are you and Téa developing a sitcom similar to I Love Lucy?

Duchovny: No, that's out of whole cloth. At this point in my career television doesn't appeal to me at all because of the repetition. I could change my tune, but the idea of doing the same thing over and over doesn't appeal to me. Because The X-Files is going to be syndicated and playing with The Twilight Zone and I Love Lucy and all these time capsule-type TV shows, I think there's enough David Duchovny out there. Also, I know my own limitations -- you don't want to step onstage with Téa, because she will eat you up.

Playboy: Speaking of being upstaged, isn't that how you and Téa met -- during a preinterview for a guest shot on The Tonight Show, which she got and you didn't?

Duchovny: Yeah, that's true. The audition for The Tonight Show takes place over lunch. It's like a meeting, and if you're not famous but a working actor, somebody at the show might know who you are. Then they meet you to see if you have any interesting stories and whether they want you to take up the last five minutes of the show, from 12:20 to 12:25 a.m., after the the monkey has shit on Jay's head and the band hasn't closed the show. That's the spot I was going for. For some reason my manager convinced me that it was a career move of some kind. Téa's manager probably convinced her of the same thing. She was doing a sitcom, Flying Blind, at the time, and I had just finished Kalifornia and Twin Peaks. Unbeknownst to me they were meeting with Téa at the same time. It's brutal enough that you have to audition with your life -- it's not like being an actor where you do material. It's like, Am I interesting enough for you, Mr. Leno? And he's not even there. Téa was much more effusive and interesting and funny. She took over the meeting and I sulked. She got on and I didn't, and every time I'd hear her name after that I'd spit, because I thought she had ruined my chance at the big time.

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