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David Duchovny Biography


Home > Actors > D > Duchovny, David > Biography


Birth Name: David Duchovny
Born: 08/07/1960
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA


Born David William Duchovny in New York City, NY on Aug. 7, 1960, he was raised with his brother and sister by his father, Amram, a writer, and mother Meg, a school administrator. After his parents' divorce, Duchovny remained in New York with his mother and siblings, and later won a scholarship to the exclusive Collegiate School in Manhattan, where he excelled at both studies and sports. He graduated in 1978 as class valedictorian, choosing Princeton University for his undergraduate studies. An English Literature major, he graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and after a five-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, went on to Yale on a teaching fellowship. At Yale, he worked as a graduate assistant (and a bartender during the summers), teaching literature classes while working on his doctorate thesis. But he also developed an interest in acting during this period, and began traveling to New York to audition for off-Broadway roles. A turn in a beer commercial in 1987 led to a blink-and-you-miss it part in "Working Girl" (1988), which was followed by a larger role in independent director Henry Jaglom's "New Year's Day" (1989).

Duchovny's biggest notice up until that time came with a three-episode arc on David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" (ABC, 1990-91) as FBI Agent Dennis Bryson, who harbored a cross-dressing fetish. This led to more supporting roles in films and television, including the intriguing "The Rapture" (1991) as Mimi Rogers' libidinous sex partner. The following year, Duchovny served as the lovelorn narrator and host (of sorts) of Zalman King's glossy erotica "Red Shoe Diaries" (1992) and its subsequent series (Showtime, 1992-99). More supporting roles in features followed, including in the star-laden ensemble, "Chaplin" (1993), but he did make an impression with his starring role opposite Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis in "Kalifornia" (1993), about a pair of documentary filmmakers who become entangled with a pair of redneck killers. The movie struggled under its own artificial hipness, but Duchovny's performance impressed writer and producer Chris Carter enough to invite him to audition for the lead role in a new supernatural-themed television series he was developing at Fox. And the rest was TV history.

The show, which eventually became "The X-Files," focused on two FBI agents - one, Fox Mulder (Duchovny), a seemingly paranoid conspiracy theorist with a personal interest in getting to the bottom of paranormal claims; the other, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), a born skeptic whose beliefs were constantly challenged by the cases she undertook alongside Mulder. After a slow start in 1993, "The X-Files" took off as a runaway global smash for all involved, with Duchovny suddenly finding himself the lust object of countless female fans, wooed by his looks and sardonic charm At the peak of the show, Duchovny found himself the subject of two pop song tributes, including Bree Sharp's eponymous cult hit, which included the memorable line "Why won't you love me/David Duchovny?" He also netted a mantle's worth of awards for his performance, including a Golden Globe and TV Guide award in 1993.

Duchovny's first foray away from "The X-Files" was a hilarious turn as himself on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), with one slight wrinkle: he carried a considerable onscreen torch for Garry Shandling's character, late night talk show host, Larry Sanders. The appearance was followed by popular demand by three others, including the series' finale in 1998, in which, much to Sanders' horror, Duchovny parodied the interrogation room "leg uncrossing" scene from "Basic Instinct." Real-life best friends, Duchovny and Shandling appeared to have had a ball trying to screw with their viewers reality, taking the whole "gay thing" to a new level for their uncomfortably hilarious scenes together. In the midst of playing the angst-ridden Agent Mulder, the "Larry Sanders" appearances, though sporadic, gave an excellent showcase for the actor's dry wit, and earned him an Emmy nomination and an American Comedy Award in 1999.

Unfortunately, his big screen efforts were less successful, even during his popular Mulder run. It was almost as if, "Larry Sanders" notwithstanding, fans could and would not accept Duchovny any way other than in pain, chasing ghosts in the dark and continually shouting at the heavens for people to believe in his supernatural quest. His first feature after "X-Files" stardom fared somewhat less successfully. "Playing God" (1997) was a stagnant thriller that was notable as an early, pre-stardom film for Angelina Jolie, but the film disappeared without a trace. On a brighter note, after years as a notable bachelor, squiring around the likes of actress Perry Reeves and singer Lisa Loeb, Duchovny shocked fans by tying the knot decidedly fast after dating fellow actress Tea Leoni, then best known as the critical darling with all the failed TV sitcoms. Many predicted that it would not last, but the happy couple went on to have two children, a daughter, Madeline, in 1999 and a son, Kyd, in 2002, and appeared to enjoy wedded bliss well past a decade. At the same time, the inevitable "X-Files" feature film appeared in theaters in 1998 - making for an interesting situation, what with the TV show between seasons and the film addressing the running storyline - but it was a pale carbon of the show's better moments. Although it did well at the box office, the film signaled that the program had lost its way in an attempt to untangle its labyrinthine conspiracy theory plotline.

Upon returning to the network version that same year, Duchovny garnered controversy from Canadian fans when it was discovered that his influence had prompted the show to move its shooting location from Vancouver to Los Angeles, all so he could be closer to his new wife, it was rumored. The incident would mark a cooling period between the series and Duchovny, which re-ignited two years later, when he sued Fox and the show's producers - including good friend Chris Carter - for money owed from the syndication of the program. The producers and network eventually settled out of court, but the move signaled the end of Duchovny's participation in the show. He left the series in 2001, but returned twice in 2002; once to direct the episode "William" (he had directed two episodes prior), and once to appear in the season finale in which, it was presumed, Scully and Mulder had finally gotten together. Despite his rancor with Fox brass and his weariness in being pigeonholed as Mulder, Duchovny would later admit that it was his fondness for the show itself and his loyalty to his own character's story arc, his co-stars like Anderson and Mitch Pileggi, and to the show's fans, which kept him with one foot always in the "X-Files" universe, despite any hard feelings at the time.

In the meantime, Duchovny devoted more time to his growing family and to exploring a career in the movies. His first effort in that direction came with the 2000 romantic comedy "Return To Me," in which he played a widower who falls for the recipient (Minnie Driver) of his late wife's heart. This was followed by the Ivan Reitman comedy "Evolution" (2001), which parodied his Mulder persona in its story about aliens arriving on Earth, and Steven Soderbergh's low-budget "Full Frontal" (2002), as a producer with a particularly unpleasant sexual kink. Unfortunately, none of the pictures made a mark at the box office, though Duchovny received favorable reviews for his work in each.

In 2003, Duchovny returned to television for an episode of "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) as a boyfriend of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) who had suffered a nervous breakdown. He ventured again into the movie waters with "Connie and Carla" (2004), the disastrous follow-up to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" for writer-producer Nia Vardalos. The following year, Duchovny made his feature debut as writer-director with the independent film "House of D" (2005), in which he also starred as an American illustrator living in Paris who comes to terms with his troubled past. The film, which also featured Robin Williams, singer Erykah Badu, and Duchovny's wife Tea Leoni, received some positive reviews from critics, and enjoyed a middling run at the box office.

In 2006, Duchovny appeared with Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup in the drama "Trust the Man" (2006), which focused on a pair of couples as they navigated the ups and downs of relationships. This preceded a particularly busy period for the actor, which found him starring in a new television series, "Californication," about a writer, Hank Moody, who struggles to maintain his career and life with his daughter and girlfriend - for which he won a Golden Globe in 2008 for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy TV Series - and starring in several films, including the comedy "The TV Set" (2007), about a writer who sees his dramatic script turned into a frivolous Hollywood comedy. He also lent his distinctive voice to a television ad campaign for Pedigree foods.

Most importantly to longtime X-Philes, as the diehard fans were known, came news from Duchovny that after numerous false starts and legal developments between Fox and Chris Carter, a script for a sequel to the "X-Files" movie was in the works for a reported 2008 release date. And that yes, Duchovny and Anderson were on board, as was Carter behind the scenes to continue his creation's complicated but still compelling storyline of whether the "truth was (still) out there." Unfortunately, upon the film's release in the competitive summer of 2008, "X-Files: I Want to Believe" did less than stellar business. Critics blamed the stand-alone plot with religious undertones as being not compelling enough; others blamed the film's delayed release as being too little, too late and that it was five years too late, in fact. Despite the underwhelming performance of his signature project on the big screen, Duchovny still had Hank Moody and the perverse world of his hit series, "Californication" to return to. However, near the beginning of the show's second season, the actor shocked fans with his voluntary admission into rehab for reported sex addiction. Rumors swirled immediately that there was trouble in the seemingly idyllic Duchovny/Leoni household. Not long after Duchovny's release from rehab, the couple issued a joint statement, confirming they were separated and had been for several months. Duchovny received a touch of good news late in 2008 when he earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in the television comedy series category, a feat he repeated the following year. Although Duchovny's return to the big screen opposite Demi Moore in "The Joneses" (2010), a social comedy about an ideal American family who are not what they seem, barely registered at the box office, his ongoing portrayal of Hank Moody once again garnered him a Golden Globe nomination in 2011.