Anyone who thinks that acting in the same TV series for nine years straight might render an actress typecast needs only to look at Gillian Anderson to have a serious re-think. Although she is indisputably best known for her iconic role as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully from ‘The X-Files’ (1993), she is also an accomplished actress of the big screen and theatre.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, on 9 August 1968, Europe's year of revolutions, Anderson's mother Rosemary was a computer analyst and her father Edward Anderson owned a film post-production facility house. Very soon after Anderson was born, her parents moved to Puerto Rico, where they lived for 15 months, before relocating yet again, this time to England.
Anderson spent her childhood growing up in the leafy suburbs of North London, where the family lived in Stamford Hill and Crouch End at various times, before finally settling in Haringay, where her father enrolled for a course at the London Film School. When Anderson was only 11 years old, the family moved back to America, where they settled in the town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Anderson attended school at Fountain Elementary, then City High-Middle School, where her talent was quickly recognised, such that she received a thorough grounding in the humanities on the faculty's gifted students programme. But she was a troubled adolescent, by all accounts, and it is interesting to speculate whether she would actually have preferred to remain in England. At high school, Anderson was mocked and teased because of her English accent and she has commented in various interviews that she felt totally out of place in the American Midwest.
She cemented her "outsider" status still further by dying her hair in outlandish shades, having her nose pierced, and even, at one stage, joining a punk band. Anderson's entries as "Most Bizarre", "Class Clown" and even "Most Likely To Be Arrested" in one of her high school yearbooks says it all. The tempestuous teen almost turned the last prediction into a self-fulfilling prophecy when she was apprehended on graduation night, and caught trying to jam up the doors of her high school by filling up the locks with glue.
As a youngster, Anderson aspired to become a marine biologist, but this career plan was sidetracked. By a curious stroke of fate, she instead discovered the cure for her teenage angst when she enrolled in a community theatre programme and began acting at high school. Anderson subscribes to the philosophy that "everything happens for a reason", making it appropriate that the trials and tribulations of her teen years led her stormily, but inevitably, to her future love of and career in performance. Her mother Rosemary has described her utter astonishment at watching her punk rocker daughter take to Shakespeare, performing an extract from 'Romeo and Juliet', assigned as class work, with utter ease and fluency. There was no doubt in the minds of anyone watching her acting that they were witnessing a star in the making.
When the acting bug took a firm hold on Anderson, her life miraculously turned around. Her grades improved, along with her attitude, and she was promptly voted "Most Improved Student". After graduating from City High School, she enrolled for acting classes at the renowned DePaul University's Goodman Theatre, where she scored a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts. Gillian was soon on her way, for the very next summer, she was picked to attend a workshop run by the National Theatre of Great Britain at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. Very shortly afterwards, she landed her first plum role in the off-Broadway production 'Absent Friends' in 1991, winning a Theatre World Award for her performance in this play. More stage plays followed, along with a couple of student films and a low-budget flick called 'The Turning', before Anderson decided to get serious about movie acting, relocating to L.A.
However, roles did not suddenly miraculously appear, leading to Anderson taking an audition for the TV pilot of a new Fox Network show called 'The X-Files'. She was immediately taken with the script - and what young actress wouldn't dream of playing a role like Agent Scully to David Duchovny's Agent Mulder? - but both she and Chris Carter, the show's producer, had to do some serious ducking and diving before the role was finally hers.
For starters, Anderson had to lie about her age: she was still only 24, and the producers had reportedly envisioned someone older, taller, bustier, blonder and with – believe it or not – more general sex appeal for the role. Anderson took a deep breath and claimed to be 27, but even this did not open the door. However, Chris Carter was backing her appointment, knowing in his gut that she was perfect for the role, and stood firm with the producers, insisting on his choice of actress.
Anderson was overjoyed to receive the news that she had finally landed the part, and flew straight to Vancouver where filming was due to start immediately. 'The X-Files' was an instant success with the viewing public, thanks to its occult, offbeat themes and wacky paranormal plotlines. Having initially thought that the series would only run to a few episodes, it soon became clear that the producers had a blockbuster of a winner on their hands. 1997 was a good year for Anderson, as she won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama TV Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series.
In 1998, 'The X-Files' made the quantum leap to the big screen with the release of 'The X-Files: Fight the Future'. In order to counter the notion that playing the same character for five years straight meant that she could not do anything else, Anderson decided to diversify her choice of acting roles. In the movie 'Chicago Cab' (2008), she played a Southside Chicago gal from the early 1920s, soon followed by 'The Mighty' (2008) in which she played a middle-aged alcoholic biker. Choosing such extraordinarily diverse roles showed all and sundry that Anderson possessed an acting talent that ranged far beyond the demands of playing Agent Scully.
In 2000, Anderson achieved another triumph by becoming the first woman ever to write and direct an episode of 'The X-Files'. She then confounded the critics by starring in the period costume drama 'The House of Mirth' (2000), written and directed by Terrence Davies. Based on the novel by Edith Wharton, and set in the high society of New York in the early 1900s, Anderson played the role of Lily Bart, a young woman who falls from favour with her family, meeting a sorry end.
The film attracted great acclaim and critical success, and featured on Rolling Stone magazine's Top 10 films of 2000. She also won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress and Best Performance Award from the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll.
Meanwhile, 'The X-Files' completed its 9th and last series in May 2002, marking a major transition point in Anderson's life and career. She had always loved living in England, and soon decided to move back to London, returning her focus to acting on the stage. From autumn 2002 until February 2003, she starred in Michael Weller's play 'What The Night Is For' in London's West End. She proceeded to take on an interesting range of roles in British film productions, including the costume drama 'Bleak House' (2005), which earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress, followed by 'The Last King of Scotland’ (2006) and 'Straightheads' (2007).
However, Anderson's links with the science fiction franchise that helped build her career were not over yet and in 2008 she returned with 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe', the second feature film in the series following the 1998 film. Co-starring David Duchovny, Billy Connolly and Amanda Peet, the movie received mixed to negative reviews, but performed well at the box office. The same year also saw her star in the comedy 'How to Lose Friends & Alienate People', which featured Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst and Jeff Bridges.
'Boogie Woogie', a 2009 comedy set in London, also kept Anderson busy, while 2010's 'Any Human Heart', a television adaptation broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK allowed her to work with Jim Broadbent and Matthew Macfadyen. She portrayed Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, in the production, which was also aired in the US.
Anderson also landed a part in Rowan Atkinson's parody of the James Bond secret agent genre in the comedy 'Johnny English Reborn' (2011), a sequel to the 2003 film 'Johnny English'. She was also cast to appear in 'The Smell of Apples' in the same year.
The year 2011 proved a busy one for the actress who also starred in period drama 'The Crimson Petal and the White' and a retelling of 'Moby Dick', which also featured William Hurt and Ethan Hawke. These roles were followed by one of her most memorable - Miss Havisham - in the BBC adaptation of the Charles Dickens's classic 'Great Expectations' over Christmas 2011.
In 2012, Anderson played the lead in TV thriller drama 'The Fall', which tells the story of two hunters, one of whom is a serial killer while the other is a detective sent to catch him, as well as in 'Shadow Dancer' with Clive Owen, which is set in 1990s Belfast.
She also appeared in 'Mr Morgan's Lost Love' with Michael Caine in 2013 and will star in 'Our Robot Overlords' in 2014.
Behind the camera, Anderson's private life has been spectacularly eventful and every bit as dramatic as her career. She met first husband Clyde Klotz in 1994 on the set of 'The X Files', where he was working as an assistant art director, and they were soon engaged after a whirlwind romance of only several weeks duration. Curiously, the couple were married by a Buddhist priest on the 17th hole of a golf course in Hawaii without the presence of any onlookers, although Anderson reportedly maintained that her parents were fine about not being invited! Sadly, despite the birth of their daughter Piper Maru in 1994, the marriage was short-lived, with Anderson and Klotz divorcing in 1997.
Anderson subsequently coupled up with Julian Ozanne, a documentary film-maker, and the two tied the knot in a suitably romantic manner in the village of Shella on Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. This marriage lasted only 16 months. Since moving back to England, however, she started a relationship with a new boyfriend, businessman Mark Griffiths. Anderson gave birth to their first child, a son called Oscar, in 2006, and the couple had their second child Felix in October 2008. Unfortunately, they were divorced in 2012.
For many people, Gillian Anderson will always be most fondly remembered for her groundbreaking role as FBI Agent Dana Scully, and although she would be the first to agree that fate delivered her a winning hand with that role, she clearly has talent enough to extend far beyond TV's favourite sceptic, and so we want to believe that the best is yet to come.