After years of playing spooky Agent Fox Mulder on TV's "The X-Files" and in two big-screen "X-Files" movies, it's only natural that David Duchovny wants to lighten the mood a little bit. The 52-year-old actor won a Golden Globe for his hilarious role as troubled novelist and unrepentant ladies' man Hank Moody on Showtime's "Californication," the sixth season of which is scheduled to air in January. Now Duchovny appears on the big screen in the quirky comedy "Goats" as Goat Man — a chill, perma-stoned wild man of the desert who has inadvertently become the father figure to the son (Graham Phillips) of the hippie (Vera Farmiga) whose garden he's been tending for years.
We sat down with Duchovny as he waxed philosophical about nature vs. technology, the legalization of marijuana, the future of "The X-Files" and why getting to play guitar with Marilyn Manson was a high point of his life.
Did you base anything about Goat Man on a real person?
He's an amalgamation of many things, personally. Chris [Neil], the "Goats" director, had an actual Goat Man in his past as a kid — a father-figure type, goat-herding person in the desert. But Chris didn't write "Goats," which is the coincidence. So did Mark Poirier, who wrote the book and screenplay. Chris had pictures of his actual Goat Man, which was helpful for me. Once I got the look, I had the key.
You had to handle a lot of goats in "Goats." Were there any goatastrophes on the set?
I wish I had known that word! Goats are not that surprising and pretty neutral. They kind of just hang where they want to. They're not hostile to me or to strangers. There's a scene where I'm trying to mail a letter, and the goat started eating my letter, and that was not called for. If you put something in front of their face, they're going to try to eat it.
How long did you have to sit in the makeup chair and have hair glued to your face and head to become Goat Man?
I was able to grow that in about a month, actually—just press my belly button and pull my hair. No, it took about an hour in the makeup chair to put it on and a half hour to get it off. It was quite uncomfortable but so worth it in terms of having a mask and a look to play with.
Did you and Graham Phillips, who plays Ellis in "Goats," do any bonding before the shoot so your kind of father-son relationship seemed more natural?
Well, we spent a little time together. It's always a mystery when you're going into a role — "Here's your wife of 40 years and … action!" How do you create ease or chemistry or whatever is supposed to exist? The age difference between Graham and I was enough. I liked him, and I think he liked me, and that was enough to start with.
You have some fun scenes with Justin Kirk in this movie, so it's like a Showtime mash-up with him being from "Weeds" and you from "Californication." Did you know each other prior to this?
We've met, but I didn't know him. I liked his work. Ty Burrell I actually worked with in "Evolution," but I didn't work with him on "Goats," oddly enough. We just inhabit the same movie. Justin is really funny in the film.
Goat Man is a real man of the earth. In real life, are you a nature man or into urban living?
I'm more into nature, but I don't know anything about it. It's a long-distance relationship [laughs]. I love the ocean, wide-open space and trees, but I'm not a gardener or anything like that. I think I may be eventually. I was raised in the city, so I don't have that skill set, but my heart is more with the dirt than the concrete. It's an unrequited love with nature — a one-way love affair.
Goat Man knows his way around a blunt. Should we legalize it?
Oh, yes, I think pot should be legalized, sure. Think of just the tax revenue. They should legalize prostitution, too — the eradication of diseases and violence. We could build a lot of roads and feed a lot of people with those blunts. I say this not even as an avid pot smoker.
What do you think happens to Goat Man after the end credits? Does he ever hook up with Wendy, played by Vera Farmiga?
No, I think Goat Man is destined to be alone. I like to think of him as staying with Wendy and they take care of one another.
Between "Goats" and "Californication" and movies like "The TV Set," you seem really at ease with comedy. Would you say that is your favorite genre right now?
It's something that, while I was doing "The X-Files," I was certainly hungry to do. It was important for me when I got off the show to try my hand at that. It was difficult for me to find because it wasn't the way anyone saw me going off that show, but I think I naturally look for the funnier and absurd side of things and characters. Even in "The X-Files" I'm trying to find the funny stuff. This is my nature. Comedy is a place I like to go.
Marilyn Manson was at the "Goats" premiere and he appears in the next season of "Californication." Who does he play and what is his relationship with Hank Moody?
He is in two episodes playing a character named Marilyn Manson who is a fan of Hank Moody and palling around with this fake rock star we have on the show. I knew Manson from years ago and it was great to work with him. He was kind enough at the wrap party to sing "Hotel California" and I got to play guitar behind him, and I had only been playing guitar for nine months. It sounds geeky, but that was one of the biggest thrills I ever had. Plus there were four other guitars around me so I could play really bad and no one could hear it. Manson isn't small — wherever he goes is big.
Is there a planned end for "Californication?"
It's hard on cable, because they don't pick up shows until after they start airing. When they start airing, you've already shut down production for the year. We wrapped yesterday and we won't air until January. It's tough and sad because it's possible that was our last show. Every year, we have an ending that functions as an End. Last year, it looked like I was killed because we didn't know if we were going to get picked up. I hope we get to know when it's going to end because then we can end it better.
Were you disappointed in the critical and commercial response to "The X-Files: I Want to Believe"?
I was, but I wasn't surprised. They didn't spend the money to make a big film. It was weird — it was a small film but it was "The X-Files." If you want to make a summer blockbuster, you have to spend the money. You can't not spend the money and be disappointed when it doesn't compete with "Batman" because it can't.
Do you think we'll see you play Agent Mulder again on-screen?
I hope so. I hope we get to do a third movie and maybe more. I've always wanted to continue that into a successful movie franchise.