Actor David Duchovny earned an early reputation for willingness to bare his crown jewels for the camera, but that seems a far cry away from the iconic role which secured his career and stardom. For since the '90s we have all come to love him as the FBI’s resident conspiracy theorist, Special Agent Fox Mulder, in one of the most popular and long-running TV series ever made, 'The X-Files' (1993).
Duchovny was born in New York City on 7 August 1960, into a family with a highly diverse cultural heritage. His father was a native Jewish New Yorker called Amram Duchovny, a would-be writer, who worked as a publicist for the American Jewish Committee.
Amram's Jewish ancestors originally emigrated to America from Russia. Duchovny's mother, Meg, was a Lutheran and schoolteacher, who originally hailed from a small town near Aberdeen in Scotland. Duchovny also has a sister called Laurie, and a brother called Daniel. He loves to joke that his family background endowed him with a keen Protestant work ethic, as well as plenty of Jewish guilt, a 'careful' approach to money, and laughingly observes, "I'm half Scottish and half Jewish: it's hard for me to buy anything!"
Growing up on the lower East Side of Manhattan, David had a cosmopolitan and varied childhood. He enjoyed several trips back to Scotland with his mother, and actually celebrated his 10th birthday on Erraid, a small island off the west coast of Scotland. Back in New York, he was also introduced to the theatre, when a play written by his father, ‘The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald’ (co-authored with Leon Friedman) enjoyed a week-long run at Broadway’s ANTA Playhouse in November 1967.
Sadly, David’s parents divorced when he was just 11 years-old. His father Amram moved to Boston and took a post at Brandeis University, whilst Meg remained in New York with the children, becoming a single working mother.
Meg’s vocation was teaching, and she soon found a good position at Grace Church School, where she taught for many years. Yet she had a pessimistic view on life, perhaps occasioned by the collapse of her marriage, and according to Duchovny, was constantly reminding him that “poverty was just a small step away”, hammering home the importance of hard work and success into his impressionable young mind.
The message clearly hit home, as before long, Duchovny had won a scholarship to the prestigious Collegiate School for Boys, one of the oldest independent schools in America. Here, he found himself rubbing shoulders with the children of the rich and famous, including John F Kennedy Jr, with whom he shared a room on a school trip to Washington.
Duchovny’s early conditioning about the Protestant work ethic reaped rewards. He worked hard, becaming an A-grade student, graduating in 1978 as class valedictorian, and was then offered his pick of studying at the top colleges in America, including Harvard, Yale, Browns and Princeton.
He chose Princeton, where as well as scoring high honours in his English Literature Bachelor of Arts degree, he established himself as a keen basketballer and scraped holiday money together working as a bartender in New York, where he would wisely trade free drinks for large tips.
During his time at Princeton, Duchovny hooked up with a girl after cunningly joining her politics class just to get the chance to know her. His chatting up paid off, and they were together for four years. The lucky girl wasn't his first partner though; Duchovny makes no secret of the fact that he was sexually active from the young age of 14, and enjoyed a relationship with his very own Mrs Robinson, an older woman who had seduced and later dumped him as a youth. David’s upfront attitude to sex was to pay its own dividends later on in his movie career, when he gained a reputation for gamely accepting roles requiring full frontal nudity.
Duchovny had certainly considered pursuing an academic career, as his father had before him, and prepared to follow his BA with a Masters Degree in English Literature at Yale. Yet the love of acting, which had seeded as a child while watching his father’s play being performed, had never really gone away. Encouraged by his mate Jason Beghe, Duchovny acted in a few college plays, soon finding himself to be bitten hard by the acting bug.
Already he had a reputation for taking important life matters such as studying, sport and sex seriously, and he naturally applied the same commitment to performance. He started commuting to Manhattan twice a week to study under the renowned drama coach Marcia Haufrecht, who had previously tutored such famous thespians as Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, Harvey Keitel and Alec Baldwin.
One of Duchovny's first on-screen appearances was in a beer commercial for Lowenbrau, and he was hugely impressed to find that one advert could earn him a staggering $9000, twice the amount he received for working as a teacher’s assistant at Yale. Realising there was big money to be made with this hobby, he began to apply himself to the craft with increasing vigour.
Although Duchovny has not left behind a string of high profile girlfriends, as have many famous actors, he did date Maggie Jakobson, who later became well known for her portrayal of Chandler's girlfriend, the dreaded Janice, in hit television sitcom 'Friends' (1994). It was not a smooth relationship, and Jakobson accused Duchovny of evading commitment, but she did him a great service in introducing him to quirky film director Henry Jaglom, who was then engaged in casting a movie called 'New Year's Day' (1989). Jakobson had already been cast and wryly suggested her sometimes-boyfriend Duchovny to play the role of a faithless boyfriend. Even said faithless boyfriend barring all for the camera could not guarantee the film a successful release, but it helped put Duchovny on the map.
Spurred on by this initial foray into movie acting, Duchovny began auditioning in earnest, relocating to Los Angeles where he would be better placed to audition for major roles. He scored a bit part alongside Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith in 'Working Girl' (1988), but was turned down for 'Bull Durham and Valmont'. As the 1990s dawned, Duchovny scored the role of Agent Bryson in David Lynch's groundbreaking offbeat television series, 'Twin Peaks' (1990), in which he was called in to investigate a narcotics gang in the process of setting up Kyle MacLachlan's Agent Cooper.
'Twin Peaks' was a huge success, and Duchovny began to attract the attention of top Hollywood producers. 1991 represented a hugely productive year as he featured in a string of successful films including 'The Rapture', 'Julia Has Two Lovers' and 'Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead', followed by 'Chaplin' and the children's comedy 'Beethoven' in 1992. Grander adventures and achievements were just around the corner.
In 1993, Duchovny heard on the grapevine that producer Chris Carter was putting together ideas for a television series with offbeat paranormal themes, and was looking to find an actor who could make the sci-fi storylines believable to the viewing public.
Always on the lookout for new projects to boost his career, and not expecting the series to run longer than a few episodes, Duchovny auditioned, landing his career defining role as FBI Special Agent Mulder, alongside Gillian Anderson, playing sceptical Agent Scully. The first few episodes introduced a host of quirky, offbeat ideas, including New Age themes, the occult and pre-millennium fever.
The show seemed to strike a real chord with the public, who lapped it up and demanded more, boosting it to overnight success. Although Duchovny certainly had not planned such a long stint of acting for the small screen, 'The X-Files' proved an unstoppable phenomenon, running for nine years and becoming one of the most successful television series ever produced.
The series was not without its internal problems though. For season 6 'The X-Files' were relocated from original location in Vancouver to LA largely at the behest of Duchovny, who tired of spending so much of each year away from home. During season 7 reports of conflict began to leak from the LA set and Duchovny became involved in a law suit against series production company Fox Broadcasting.
By season 8 he was appearing in only about half of the episodes and was entirely absent from the concluding season 9, returning only for the finale. Interestingly, despite this apparent cooling interest in the show which scored him a Golden Globe and three other nominations, he became heavily supportive of and involved in the production of the second X-Files film, 'I Want To Believe' (2008).
While 'The X-Files' was being filmed in Vancouver, Duchovny frequently ran foul of the Canadian press with public moans about the poor weather. He was lambasted for his outspoken and tactless remarks, even inciting local protesters to erect signs over the countryside surrounding the filming locations, telling him to go back home to the USA. Off-screen though Duchovny's private life was unfolding very smoothly, and he was married to fellow actress Tea Leoni in 1997, with whom he has two children, Madelaine West and Kid Miller.
Duchovny's success in 'The X-Files' also led to prestigious guest appearances on shows including 'The Simpsons' and 'Saturday Night Live' as well as several episodes of 'The Larry Sanders Show'. The latter have now passed into television legend, thanks to Duchovny's game side-splitting homosexual flirtations with Sanders.
During his lengthy stint on 'The X-Files', Duchovny also tried his hand at writing and directing a few episodes, and he returned to the big screen in 2000 in sweet hit 'Return to Me', opposite Minnie Driver. This was followed by a wide variety of starring roles in movies including 'Zoolander' (2001), Steven Soderbergh's 'Full Frontal' (2002) and an episode of the television series 'Sex and the City' in 2003.
Having previously directed an episode of ‘The X-Files’ for television, Duchovny harboured ambitions to step into the big league and he did so with his directorial debut ‘House of D’ in 2004. Unfortunately for him, the film was a commercial failure and critics roundly gave it negative reviews. He put the poor performance behind him by starring in ‘Trust the Man’ (2005), animated series ‘Queer Duck’ (2006) and ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’, a 2007 movie co-starring Halle Berry.
He went on to land another key television role, this time as writer Hank Moody in hit series 'Californication' (2007) for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Comedy or Musical that year. He has gone on to be nominated for this award every year since. Teaming up with director Chris Carter and co-star Gillian Anderson again, Duchovny reprised the role of Fox Mulder in ‘The X-Files: I Want to Believe’ (2008), the second science fiction-thriller in the franchise.
Although the film performed well at the box office, critics were not overly excited about it. And despite his next movie ‘The Joneses’ - which starred Demi Moore - getting generally positive reviews, audiences panned it, leading to a dismal performance at the box office.
In 2012, he appeared in the comedy 'Goats' with Vera Famiga and Keri Russell and is also appeared in 'Phantom' with Ed Harris. Meanwhile, his hit show 'Californication' continues to go from strength to strength. Duchovny will then act in 'Relative Insanity' next year. This is a contemporary adaption of Anton Chekov's classic play 'The Seagull', set in a present day New York and the Hamptons. Maggie Grace and Helen Hunt will also star in the film.
Duchovny's personal life has also provided a lot of material for tabloid newspapers. In August 2008 he hit the headlines after checking himself into a rehabilitation facility for sex addiction.
Upon his exit from the centre, Duchovny and wife Tea Leoni, with whom he has two children, announced that they had separated. Their first child Madeline West Duchovny was born in April 1999, while their son Kyd Miller Duchovny was born in June 2002. However it was revealed later in 2009 that they had patched up their differences and were still together.
Despite appearing to have reconciled after the revelation of Duchovny's sex addiction, the couple separated once again on 29 June 2011. They have not yet divorced so perhaps they will give their marriage one more shot.