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Gillian Anderson Biography

Home > Actresses > A > Anderson, Gillian > Biography

Birth Name: Gillian Anderson
Born: 08/09/1968
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Born Gillian Leigh Anderson on Aug. 9, 1968 in Chicago, IL, to parents Edward and Rosemary, Anderson's family moved to Puerto Rico shortly after her birth before settling down in London's North End while she was still a baby. Anderson spent her childhood growing up in London's Stamford Hill and Crouch End neighborhoods while her father studied film production at the London School of Film Technique. As Anderson approached her teen years, her family returned to America, settling down in the radically different Grand Rapids, MI, where her father took up work running a film post-production company, while her mother worked as a computer analyst. While attending G.R.'s City High School, Anderson's interest in acting was sparked when she auditioned for a community play. Though her prior interests had been marine biology and science, Anderson's childhood transition from England to the U.S. - combined with her dramatic personality - only helped bolster her acting ability. Performing a scene from "Romeo and Juliet" at the age of 14, Anderson began to display a natural talent for the craft.

Upon graduating from high school in 1986, Anderson went on to study acting at DePaul University's Goodman Theater in Chicago. After her freshman year, Anderson was invited to attend a summer workshop in Ithaca, NY, run by the National Theatre of Great Britain. She went on to earn her BFA from DePaul and headed to New York to pursue a career in acting. Landing her first break shortly after arriving in the Big Apple, Anderson was cast in the off-Broadway play, "Absent Friends." Though fairly new to the New York stage, she quickly garnered attention for her performance and was honored with a Theater World Award in 1991. Anderson went on to appear in a New Haven, CT production of "The Philanthropist" and made her feature film debut in "The Turning" (1992).

Relocating to Los Angeles, Anderson began to audition for television roles, a form of acting she had previously been opposed to pursuing until work became scarce. She made her television debut in an episode of the short-lived collegiate drama, "Class of 96" (Fox, 1993). That same year, Anderson auditioned for the role of Special Agent Dana Scully on the new Fox series, "The X-Files." Though she impressed series creator Chris Carter, Fox executives wanted an actress with more "va-va-voom" sex appeal for the lead role. Backed by Carter - who was most impressed with the young actress' convincing read of drawn out medical and scientific dialogue - Anderson landed the role and quickly relocated to Vancouver, B.C. to shoot the pilot. On set, Anderson met and began dating assistant art director Clyde Klotz; the pair later wed in Hawaii on New Year's Day of 1994. Soon, Anderson fearfully broke the news to Carter and her co-star, David Duchovny, that she had become pregnant. Not wanting to recast Anderson's character during the second season, the ever-loyal Carter created an alien abduction storyline that allowed Anderson a short maternity leave and consequently, the deepening of the story and the bond between Scully and her partner, Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). The real-life birth was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed the writers to indulge many whims with the Scully abduction, sending Mulder into a tailspin - all of which resonated with fans. Trooper that she was, Anderson gave birth to daughter Piper on Sept. 25, 1994 and returned to the set only 10 days later. Fortunately, the majority of her scenes took place in a hospital bed, where she spent most of her time between takes, sleeping.

Immensely popular with fans - called X-philes - and equally well-received by critics, the conspiracy series put Anderson and her equally sexy co-star Duchovny in the bright spotlight. Though Duchovny was the bigger name at the onset of the show, the relative unknown by his side soon began growing equally important, both in terms of plot and in fan popularity - particularly with the nerdy male set, who adopted her as their intellectual dream girl. The couple's weekly adventures trying to discover the "truth" that was "out there" and the matter of just when the sexually-charged agents would eventually hook up ("never!" according to Carter) became the water cooler topics du jour throughout the mid- to late-1990s. When the two actors posed naked in bed together on the cover Rolling Stone magazine, fans and critics were atwitter over its suggestive implications.

Apart from the rabid fan devotion, television critics took notice of the show and its impact as well. Anderson's deft performance of Scully earned her numerous award nominations and landed her Emmy and Golden Globe awards for Best Actress in 1997 as well as the 1996 and 1997 Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series. The TV show was such a cultural phenomenon by the late-1990s, that a feature film was made, taking off where that year's season finale had just left off. At the time, it was unheard of for a TV show to not only move its storyline to the big screen while still part of a primetime line-up, but to resume said storyline instead of offering a stand-alone feature for the unfamiliar filmgoer. Despite all potential strikes against it, the faithful and the as- yet-uninitiated turned out en masse, making "The X-Files: Fight the Future" (1998) a success at the box office and big enough to warrant a cover of Newsweek. That same year, Anderson branched out from Scully by appearing against type as a alcoholic biker in the Sharon Stone film, "The Mighty" (1998), as well as a love-weary woman in "Playing by Heart" (1998), opposite Angelina Jolie, Sean Connery and Jon Stewart.

Due in part to his new marriage to LA-based actress Tea Leoni, Duchovny became increasingly restless and vocal about moving the show from Vancouver back to the States to be closer to his wife. After Duchovny got his wish - as well as the opportunity to direct an episode of the show - he left "The X-Files" in 2000 due to a contract dispute, throwing fans of the obsessive agent and the actor himself into a tizzy. Much was then expected of Anderson, who was teamed up with actor Robert Patrick as Agent John Doggett in her quest to find Mulder, who was never written out of the show completely by Carter, in the hopes that Duchovny would return at some point. With his departure, Anderson became the star of the series. Going behind the camera that same year, Anderson also became the first woman to write and direct an episode of the series, entitled "All Things." Though ratings went down following Duchovny's exit - due mostly to the fact that the pull of the show had always been the couple's journey together; not separately - the loyal fans continued to tune in.

Landing her first starring role apart from the series, Anderson went on to appear as Lily Bart in the feature film adaptation of Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth" (2000). Well-received by critics, Anderson's performance earned her the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress. There was even talk of an Oscar nomination, to no avail. But as Anderson relished her success on the big screen apart from Scully, she knew she had to return to the paranormal world of "The X-Files." Realizing the show was winding down, to everyone's great relief, Duchovny returned to finish out the series in 2002. After nine years, Anderson and Duchovny left the show together - with their characters finally hooking up - both well aware of their place together in pop cultural history.

After finishing the nine-year run, Anderson relocated to London where she returned to her theater roots. She appeared in a West End production of the play, "What the Night is For" in 2003 and starred as Dana Fielding in a 2004 production of "The Sweetest Swing in Baseball." Returning to film, Anderson went on to appear in the Irish film, "The Mighty Celt" (2005) opposite Robert Carlyle and in the Michael Winterbottom comedy, "Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story" (2005). Apart from a few appearances in tabloid stories - one for suffering a serious fall which required hospitalization, as well as for her failed marriage to her second husband, documentary filmmaker, Julian Ozanne - Anderson appeared to be MIA to American audiences for several years.

When Anderson appeared as Lady Dedlock in the BBC production of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" (2005), she came back in a big way. Her brilliant performance earned her Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and landed her the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actress. A year later, Anderson starred opposite Forrest Whitaker in the critically acclaimed drama, "The Last King of Scotland," which focused on the life of brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Adding to her rising profile was the reported news that, after several years, Anderson and Duchovny would revive everyone's favorite paranoid FBI agents with yet another big screen foray into the world of "The X-Files." As a semi-retired Scully, Anderson and her partner were once more called back into action by the FBI for the long-delayed sequel "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" (2008). Conceived as more of a stand-alone installment, as opposed to a continuation of the series' byzantine mythology, it was meant to satisfy both the show's fans, as well as be accessible to those unfamiliar with the source material. Unfortunately, it did neither. Generally assessed as muddled, unfocused and unsatisfying by critics, it also had the misfortune of opening just behind the record-breaking blockbuster "The Dark Knight" (2008). By all accounts the film was a major disappointment and the chances of a third film seemed slim, at best.

Anderson was next seen in the U.K. art scene comedy of manners "Boogie Woogie" (2009), as well as on the London stage as Nora in an acclaimed mounting of Ibsen's "A Doll's House" that same year. She then delivered a well-regarded portrayal of the Duchess of Windsor in a U.K. television adaptation of "Any Human Heart" (Channel 4, 2010), prior to making an appearance as bumbling British agent Rowan Atkinson's boss in the slapstick spy sequel "Johnny English Reborn" (2011). She took on work in a pair of literary-based miniseries on both sides of the Atlantic; first, as the wife of the obsessed Captain Ahab (William Hurt) in the made-for-cable interpretation of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" (Encore, 2011), then as Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" (BBC, 2011). Anderson caused a minor ripple when in a March 2012 interview with Out magazine, she casually recalled several lesbian affairs from her youth, going back as far as high school. When pressed on the subject, she revealed that the dalliances never led her to believe she might be "100 percent gay," as she was also always attracted to men, even during this rebellious period of her life.