Hanging out with aliens, monsters and conspiracy nuts made a star of David Duchovny. He’s had a tough time without the creatures and wackos of “The X-Files,” though.
Duchovny has flopped on the big screen with such romances and comedies as “Evolution,” “Return to Me” and last year’s “Connie and Carla.” Now he’s having another try, for the first time, as writer and director.
The coming-of-age tale “House of D” stars Duchovny’s wife, Tea Leoni, as a woman emotionally paralyzed by the death of her husband, whose son (Anton Yelchin) is left to his own devices to cope with a hard stretch in his teen years.
Robin Williams co-stars as the boy’s best friend, a retarded janitor who helps him make meat deliveries for a butcher shop, and Erykah Badu plays the youth’s “fairy godmother,” an inmate who dispenses advice from the bars of her cell in a women’s prison in Greenwich Village.
Duchovny himself plays the main character as an adult, now living in Paris and reflecting back on his childhood.
The drama was inspired by stories Duchovny’s mother told of a House of Detention for women in his boyhood neighborhood of lower Manhattan, where prisoners would converse with people on the street below.
Duchovny recently reunited with “Evolution” co-star Julianne Moore to shoot “Trust the Man,” a comedy written and directed by her husband, Bart Freundlich. He hopes another “X-Files” movie is on the horizon, and Duchovny is trying to line up financing for a film he has written set against the Boston Red Sox’ 1978 playoff collapse.
Duchovny chatted with The Associated Press before a screening of “House of D” at ShoWest, a theater-owners convention in Las Vegas.
AP: “House of D” is a movie without a huge marketing budget. What are you doing to get the word out?
Duchovny: I’m doing a city-to-city, hat-in-hand tour. It’s just that the market is such that movies that don’t have almighty hooks, that are hard to sell in 30-second commercials, have a hard time making themselves known in the marketplace.
AP: Are there movies with almighty hooks you passed on that went on to become hits?
Duchovny: Probably. I’ve probably made mistakes that way. It’s always good to do good business because it can help you do other things, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to work in a movie with a big hook. Sometimes it could be great, sometimes it can be horrible. I get better and better at figuring out what I think is going to be good, but it’s so hard to know. There are so many variables involved with making a movie. Any one weak link can bring it down.
AP: I’ve read you wrote the “House of D” script really, really fast. Was it one of those ideas that percolated for years and years then suddenly spilled out?
Duchovny: You could say it took me a week to write the script or that it took me 20 years. The images always were there. Women would hang out of the bars and have interactions with strangers, passers-by or people who would come to visit them. I thought, what if some kid needed advice and he actually became friends with a woman he never saw, a voice from above? Mythically, like the lady in the tower. I wanted to just try to make this urban tale function on one level as a realistic story but also as a fairy tale.
AP: How did you come to cast your wife as the mother?
Duchovny: I think I offered it to Meryl Streep. What I did is I sent her a letter and said please be in my little movie. She wouldn’t do it, so that was the only person I had asked to do it. Tea was like, “Yeah, yeah, try to get Meryl Streep. She’d be great in that.” She’d be great in anything. Then when Meryl Streep didn’t do it, Tea waited awhile. I think I was casting other roles. I remember one night she just came to me and said, “Do you think I could play the mother? I think I’d like to do that.” I said, “For sure. Yeah.”
AP: And Robin Williams?
Duchovny: He was early on. He really drove the making of the movie, because he was the big star. Robin got the script pretty much when I finished it. He read it and just called me and really got it. I went, “If you want to do it, that’s great news for me. Thank you.”
AP: How did you end up casting yourself as the grown-up version of the main character?
Duchovny: It just kind of happened. I needed to cast certain well-known people to get financing, but it was never the kind of role that was going to attract a well-known person, because it just wasn’t that flashy or that big. So it was always kind of there for the taking. And I just thought, well, I understood it, I like to act, I hadn’t acted in six months or something. So I thought, well, I’d like to do that. Maybe grow a mustache and play that part.
AP: Are you one of those actors who hopes to become known more as a filmmaker than an on-screen performer?
Duchovny: Acting is such a hot and cold business. ... I’m fortunate enough to financially be OK because of the show, so I don’t have to act all the time. When you’re hot, it’s great, because the roles are great and you’re working with great people. But I’d rather spend the cold times with my own stuff if I can.
AP: What’s going on with another “X-Files” movie?
Duchovny: I talked to (“X-Files” creator) Chris Carter last week, and he said all systems go for next winter, early 2006.
AP: Do you know the story?
Duchovny: I do, but I wouldn’t want to give it away. There’s no script, so I haven’t read a script. But Chris has told me some of the story, and it sounds good to me.