A timeline of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s ‘X-Files’ ‘feud’

In September 1997, 28-year-old X-Files star Gillian Anderson took out full-page ads in both The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety thanking the cast and crew of her mega-hit FOX series after neglecting to mention creator Chris Carter, the show's writers and, most glaringly, co-star David Duchovny during her acceptance speech at the Emmys earlier that week. The E! Online rundown of the kerfuffle is particularly harsh in its assessment of the actress:

On Wednesday, Anderson bought full-page ads…to pay tribute, albeit belated, to the cast and crew of her Fox show. That's right. The cast and crew. You know, the people she forgot and/or declined and/or ran out of time to thank on Sunday night when she picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

“I would like to sincerely thank Chris Carter, my dear friend and creator of The X-Files,” Anderson's five-sentence make-good begins.

The ad also offers a nod to her costar, David Duchovny. “Your talent has always inspired me–without your 'Mulder' there would be no 'Scully,'” it reads.

While there was no comment Thursday from Anderson's camp as to the reason behind the print campaign, it has been reported that the 28-year-old actress' colleagues weren't exactly big fans of her Emmy acceptance speech.

The report goes on to relate how Anderson “gushed effusively over presenter Helen Mirren and then turned her attention to her family–a family, she says, that still treats her like a real human being and presumably not like the World Class Master Thespian she is.” 

Aside from the snark, arguably the most telling part of the article comes in a short paragraph near the end, when the writer describes how the actress's “attempt at self-effacing humor was met with meek laughter…and a stone-faced reaction shot from Duchovny.”

Except when you watch the clip now, it quickly becomes apparent just how overblown E!'s description of the moment was. Before getting up to accept the award Anderson not only leans back to give Duchovny a kiss, but the actor's so-called “stone-faced reaction” instead plays as, well, intent listening. While it's impossible to know how Duchovny really felt or what hurt feelings, if any, went on behind the scenes, if nothing else the E! piece offers a window into “the media's” capacity to twist the split-second, wordless reactions of public figures into something ugly. And without the benefit of YouTube, where we now have the capacity to judge and re-judge these things for ourselves, it's easy to understand how little it took for E! to make a proverbial mountain out of a molehill.

Despite the press's unfair treatment of the situation at the time, like any long-time co-stars — and certainly even more than many long-time co-stars — Anderson and Duchovny's working relationship was clearly a complicated web spun from rigorous 16-hour working days, disputes over contracts and compensation (Anderson was paid considerably less than Duchovny for several seasons of the original series, and initially offered half his salary for the revival) and the inevitable personality clashes that arise between people forced into close quarters over a long period of time. Both Duchovny and Anderson have described the relationship as akin to a “marriage,” but perhaps it's their alternative rendering of it as “a brother-sister” dynamic that's more apt. Like siblings, actors don't normally have the luxury of choosing their co-stars.

In light of all the recent press surrounding the currently-running X-Files revival and attendant questions about Anderson and Duchovny's supposed “feud” — stoked by multiple print stories in addition to one spectacularly awkward Jimmy Kimmel interview — I've delved into media reports since the show first began airing in 1993 to construct, as best I can, a timeline of their so-called clash on the series' Vancouver (and later Los Angeles) set.

1996 or earlier:

In the Chris Nickson-penned book The X-Factor: The Unauthorized Biography of X-Files Superstar David Duchovny published in December of 1996, an early indication of tension between the co-stars can be gleaned from a quote attributed to the actor (p. 141) in which he says in part, “[W]e don't hang out. We are very wary of the fact that any moment the other can turn into a psychotic human being because of the demands that are put on us, the sixteen-hour days. So I know when she is tired and irritable, and she knows the same about me. We have a great respect for the fine line the other is walking all the time.”


January 1997:

During his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes after winning Best Actor in a TV Series Drama, Duchovny thanks Anderson — who had won Best Actress immediately prior and was standing just off-stage — for being “the best co-star anybody could have,” after which cameras move to pick up a reaction shot from the actress. It's hard to know what, exactly, her expression was meant to convey, but an eye-roll is detected. Anderson did not, for her part, similarly mention Duchovny during her moment in the spotlight.

August 1997:

In an interview with the magazine Cult Times, Duchovny admits that while he doesn't “socialize with Gillian, just because we're working together all the time,” he “get[s] along” with her despite the two having their “moments.” “Sometimes we all just show up and go, 'I'd rather be anywhere else but here, and I'm going to make you suffer for it,'” he says. “But then at other times I'll look at Gillian and think, 'She's the only one that really knows what I'm going through, and I'm the only one that knows what she's going through.' So there's a real bond there.”


Photo Credit: Cult Times

Sometime in 1998:

In an effort to crush rumors of an out-and-out feud, Duchovny tells the appropriately-titled X-Posé magazine that he and Anderson are forced to “deal…with other people's perceptions and trying to stoke rivalries between us that really have no place in the relationship that we have.” Elsewhere in the interview, Duchovny says that he isn't a “confidante” of Anderson's, while adding that “if she needed help I'd definitely be there but I don't think I'd be the first person she'd come to.”


February 1998:

A profile of Anderson in USA Weekend describes her “rapport” with Duchovny as “symbiotic, if somewhat strained” and reveals that the co-stars “retreat to separate trailers during shooting breaks.” It also references the Emmy kerfuffle, noting that Anderson took out the trade ads thanking Duchovny and Carter “under pressure.” In reference to the controversy, Anderson responded cryptically:

“There's a lot of deception that takes place in this business, but I refuse to play the game. I won't lie to make someone feel better.” She later concedes that “it taught me another lesson in this business: Just play by the rules.” 


Photo Credit: Gannett Company

June 1998:

In an interview with TNT Roughcut during the promotional tour for the first big-screen X-Files adventure Fight the Future, Duchovny addresses reports of friction with Anderson after the interviewer notes that the actress has “alluded to the fact that you guys [don't] get along.” Duchovny responds by trying to put himself in Anderson's shoes, saying in part: “You know, you have a working relationship with somebody that, over a period of time, gets strained. We've had five years together, very closely working together. I can't psychoanalyze Gillian, but I would say, she just wants people to know that she's a person with her own feelings, and that's one way for her to say that I'm more than Scully.”


In another interview published on E! Online the same month, Duchovny adds further context to the tension by suggesting that Anderson's perfectionist nature occasionally leads to on-set frustration. “She's a really hardworking actress. When you're tired and you want to move on, she stays in there,” he says. “She always tries to do it as well as she can, despite fatigue or lack of attention. And that can be pretty inspiring–and pretty infuriating.”


March 2000:

During the run of the show's seventh season (Duchovny's last as a full-time cast member), USA Weekend goes for a different spin by having Anderson and Duchovny interview one another. At one point the following exchange happens: “Here's one for you. How do you perceive our relationship?” Anderson asks. “It's like the roots of a tree. It's very twisted, but it's growing,” responds Duchovny. “You know the tree is alive, and it works in its own treelike way, yet you couldn't untangle it. You could, but you'd need the help of a gifted professional.” 

Another telling moment arises when Duchovny relates a meeting he had with Chris Carter during the filming of the “third or fourth” episode of the first season, during which the creator aired his concerns over the stars' chemistry. “…he actually wanted us to get help,” Duchovny recalls. “He was concerned with how we were relating onscreen. He said, 'You seem bored or angry with each other. Maybe you should go see somebody.'”

“I have no memory of that,” Anderson responds.

Also during the interview, Duchovny once again vents his frustration with the media's black-and-white portrayal of their relationship: “As soon as I say, 'No, we don't see each other after work,' then it's 'You hate each other,'” he says. “There seems to be no room in fans' minds — as the fans are portrayed through journalists — for a complicated relationship between us. It can't be summed up with 'I love her. She's the best!' or 'I can't stand her!'”


Photo Credit: Gannett Company

April 2007:

Five years after the airing of The X-Files' final episode and less than one year prior to the release of the second X-Files feature I Want to Believe, Anderson takes to her official website to lash out over continually being asked about the series while promoting other projects:

“What usually happens is that [interviewers] ask about the long hours – I say yes they were long – they say, but you have said that at times it was a living hell and I say, yes at times it was… it was insane and long and wet and all that but there were good times too – and then the interviewer says provocatively – as if I'm either an idiot for staying in the series under such conditions or an idiot for saying it was so challenging when clearly it wasn't because I stayed – why didn't you get out? And my response which is as much incredulity that someone who has written for years about the television industry has either never heard of a contract or has the shallowness to pretend he has never heard of a contract – I say, 'are you kidding me?! when you go to network you sign a contract even before your last audition.'…..”

She goes on to reiterate the difficult/complicated nature of her relationship with Duchovny:

“The series went on for a long time – longer than any of us had anticipated or some of us had wished. It was the hardest work I will ever do in my life. I hope for the sake of my children and my sanity that I never have to work that hard again. 


“Did David and I hate each other? At times yes like any brother and sister, husband and wife, co-worker and co-worker forced to spend that much time together under such strenuous circumstances. 

Do we hate each other now? Not in the least. 

Do I imagine that when we do the film [I Want to Believe] together we won't hate each other for a few hours during the filming? No. We will. Vehemently. As David waits patiently, again and again for the hair dryer to calm my frizzy hair between takes so it matches the beginning of the scene… he will undoubtedly be thinking 'what the hell was I thinking agreeing to shoot with her f****** frizzy hair again?'”

(It bears noting that eight years later, Anderson would again reference her f****** frizzy hair during that Kimmel interview.)


August 2008:

During an interview with Metro to promote the release of I Want to Believe, Duchovny again addresses his relationship with Anderson when the interviewer states, “After working so closely together for eight years you must have been sick of the sight of each other.”

Duchovny: “Absolutely. Familiarity breeds contempt. It”s nothing to do with the other person. All that fades away and you”re just left with the appreciation and love for the people you”ve worked with for so long. We used to argue about nothing. We couldn”t stand the sight of each other.”


February 2015: 

During an interview with the Guardian just short of a year before the debut of the new season, Anderson plays coy about what, exactly, infuriated her about her former and future co-star:

“I mean, yes, there were definitely periods when we hated each other.” She starts again. “Hate is too strong a word. We didn”t talk for long periods of time. It was intense, and we were both pains in the arse for the other at various times.”

How was Duchovny a pain in the arse for her? “Erm …” Ten seconds pass without a word. Meanwhile, her smile gets wider and wider till it”s halfway up her cheeks. “I”m not going to get into it. I”m not even going to begin to get into that. But we are closer today than we ever have been.”

Now that the rebooted X-Files is a bona fide hit for FOX, fans are clamoring for another go-round between Mulder and Scully, either in another season of television or even a third big-screen movie. Whether Anderson and Duchovny can come to terms on a deal for more episodes/films remains to be seen, though both are seemingly open to the idea. Nevertheless, the difficult nature of their original run on the show (Anderson once referred to it as a “living hell”) seems to have made them more discerning about what conditions they're willing to work under when it comes to anything X-Files. During a 2015 interview with Duchovny and Anderson on the set of the revival, TV Insider asked what their expectations were going into the new run of episodes and Anderson hinted at her love-hate relationship with the series when she coyly responded:

“I initially had an expectation that six [episodes] would be it. I had no interest in doing any more. I think I'm a little bit more open to the idea of doing more, but under certain circumstances.

TV Insider: Such as?
Duchovny: She's not going to say.
Anderson: I'm not going to say.”