David Duchovny became a bona fide pop culture star in the ’90s with his wry, oddball performance as alien-chasing Special Agent Fox Mulder on TV’s The X-Files — though some may remember his even more eccentric FBI turn on Twin Peaks — a role he reprized over several award-winning seasons and two big-screen films. Duchovny parlayed the success into his current starring role on the hit Californication, while on occasion finding time to appear in films like this week’s Goats, in which he plays a bearded, stoned Arizona goat herder — and quite convincingly, it should come as little surprise to learn. With the film opening in limited release this week we got a chance to sit down and chat with Duchovny, where we talked about his five favorite films.
The Godfather. That’s two. One and two. Oh, it’s just epic, you know. It’s the best soap opera. It’s all those — you know, it’s the human drama and it’s exciting. And if it was done badly it’s like a soap opera in the afternoon, and you just realize that there are only so many stories that can be told, but when they’re told in the right way they’re beautiful and effective. So much of it is good, you know: The acting is good, the directing is subtle, withheld — so much of it in wide shots, with very few close ups. It takes balls to do that. I mean, it’s a different world now; close ups are the way people tell stories now. I don’t mind close-ups, I like them, but they’re kind of forceful — you see a lot, you get a lot of information in a close-up. There’s less mystery.
The Godfather has more of a studied frame.
Yeah. I mean, I’m not a guy that loves a painterly composed frame; I’m talking more about just, “Okay, we’re not seeing exactly what this guy feels.” We’re getting a sense of it, but we’re not being spoon-fed .
You’re interacting with the film.
Right, right .
Nobody ever mentions poor old number three.
No, number three is not as good. I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as [its reputation], it’s just that it’s compared to one and two. I think it’s got — I don’t know it as well, so I probably shouldn’t talk about it — but I do remember an amazing scene with Pacino and the priest, where the priest just guides him into confessing; it’s amazing. You think it’s just a conversation — it’s a long scene — and then the priest, he’s a good priest, he just leads him into telling all of the horrible things he’s done. It’s just an amazing scene.
It’s interesting that your director on this film, Christopher Neil, worked with the Coppolas on some of their stuff as an acting coach. Did you talk to him about that?
To Chris? No. I wasn’t interested in that part of Chris. I was interesting in him directing this movie. I don’t think his connection to those people had anything to do with him doing this movie. I’m sure it had a lot to do with him being interested in making movies.
He would be good with actors as a result of that experience, though.
He is. He’s gentle with actors. He’s generous in that he gives. For me personally it was great. I think it was his stepfather who was like a goat man to him, and his conception of the character was informed by that — even though that wasn’t mine, ’cause I had to come up with my own, he had a lot of pictures and stories and things like that that were really helpful to me.
I’ll say Annie Hall, even though I’ve probably seen it too many times. [Laughs] To me, Annie Hall, Manhattan are the Woody Allen films… but then Crimes and Misdemeanors, that’s… I might put Crimes and Misdemeanors ahead of the other ones, because it’s not just funny and sweet and sad, it’s also kind of brutal — and maybe more mature. I just think he’s so unique, his voice. There’s been nobody that’s been able to quite claim that area.
I’m gonna say Chinatown. That’s just great storytelling, acting, directing. I think Polanski’s an amazing director. It’s opera, you know. It’s the biggest issues. You can’t tell an epic without a big problem, and Chinatown is brilliant in the sense of Los Angeles history — the whole creation of the Valley, and the diversion of water to make the Valley. [Screenwriter] Robert Towne was able to take a very interesting historical fact — what’d he call it, Mulwray instead of Mulholland? — and tell this amazing personal story about it. I like that very much. I guess The Godfather is similar to that in many ways; obviously based on certain facts. I like that historical aspect to Chinatown as well.
I’m gonna throw a new one in there, just so I don’t seem like an old fogey. [Laughs] I’m gonna say a movie that I recently rewatched — I saw it for the first time last year — a Korean film called Oldboy. I love it. I think [Chan-wook Park's] an amazing storyteller. And I thought the actor was great.
Pretty tough performance, considering the octopus and all.
[Laughs] Just the whole thing. How about that one shot in the hallway when he’s fighting everybody? It’s one shot. How did — you know, to choreograph that? Days. And there are some hokey punches thrown, you can see — it’s not perfect — but it’s just fun. You start to laugh. I started to laugh, I’m like, “Oh god, he’s doing it. He’s gonna do it. He’s gonna go through the whole f–king hallway — and he’s not gonna cut.” And then the elevator door opens, and there’s all those guys — and the cut is the elevator door opening again, and they’re all dead.
It’s kind of crazy, yeah. There’s an emotional kick to the end of the movie, too.
It’s like Chinatown. [Laughs]
Goats is in select theaters this week.