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Mulder And Wiser

In the words of that great 20th Century poet, Lord David of Byrne, the world moves on a woman's hips. It's a line that could be used as the battle-cry in David Duchovny's latest TV hit, Californication.

And it might be said that, at the heart of his most famous TV outing, The X-Files, was an undying lust between its two leads, Duchovny's Agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson's Agent Dana Scully.

"Absolutely," smiles Duchovny, when I caught up with him in London's Dorchester Hotel. "Sex is the driving force behind just about everything. Every piece of art, of every piece of commerce, every industry, invention, every divine inspiration -- a woman's hips. Or a man's, of course ... "

It should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever followed David Duchovny's career that the man has a sense of humour. It's there in his wonderful Basic Instinct-inspired cameos on The Larry Sanders Show. It's there in Evolution. In, eh, Beethoven. And it's there in The X-Files.

Only trouble is, for Duchovny, there's never quite enough humour in The X-Files. Hence his constant on-set clashing with the sci-fi franchise's creator, Chris Carter.

"Yeah, Chris and I don't always see eye-to-eye on the humour front," nods the 48-next-Thursday actor. "It's just something I think helps you swallow all the crazy stuff that bit easier."

The crazy stuff like, hey, the alien abductions, the psychotic visions, and the big, hairy fallen priests.

"If you get too po-faced about it, people turn off. And, you know, I think that's been borne out ... "

Hmm, is he referring to the demise of The X-Files series on May 19th, 2002? Or the fact that not that many people went to see The X-Files: I Want To Believe when it opened in the US last weekend? Either way, David Duchovny isn't the kind of actor who's going to try and sell you something he doesn't believe in.

The longest-running sci-fi TV show ever in America, The X-Files hooked as many people with its tales of 'things' (aliens, government spooks, raccoons, whatever) going bump in the night as it did with the smouldering lust threatening to overcome Mulder and Scully.

It was burning love strong enough to inspire that rather fine Welsh band Catatonia to write a rather fine pop song all about the Ross and Rachel of sci-fi geekdom, imaginatively titled Mulder And Scully. Going one better, our boy was the subject of a song by Philadelphia songstress Bree Sharp. Wittily titled David Duchovny.

For Duchnovy, coming back to the show that he had pretty much abandoned two years before its TV finale (his role having by then been reduced to the occasional cameo) hung largely on his old onscreen flame making the return trip too.

"It was crucial that Gillian came back too," he says. "I wouldn't have really been all that interested in coming back to The X-Files if we weren't somehow continuing the story that we had started. Otherwise, you're just dealing with a different beast.

"I think, as much as the fans want to delve further and further into the science fiction part of the show, there's a large chunk of them out there who care deeply about these two characters, and what happens to them."

What happens to them in I Want To Believe isn't, unfortunately, all that much. Currently sitting not-so-pretty on the Rotten Tomatoes website with a lowly 34% approval rating, those diehard X-Files fans were quick to voice their disappointment with the latest outing.

Like so many of those fans, I really wanted to believe that creator Chris Carter made X-Files: I Want To Believe because, well, he believed he really had something to say. And he wasn't just milking his once-lucrative TV franchise for one last round. Unfortunately, it feels like he was.

A traditional serial-killer thriller at heart, having half the budget this time round (under $30m, compared to $66m for 1998's Fight The Future) kinda put the kibosh on the pyrotechnics too. There's a distinct sense that The X-Files spaceship has flown.

Despite the poor box-office performance in the US, Duchovny says he's "all for the idea of another movie somewhere down the line".

In the meantime, he's busy with another TV series, Californication, playing a depressed single dad writer who's living a very single life in sunny LA. Which must have been difficult to tap into, given that, in real life, Duchovny is living the very married life in sunny LA with his beautiful actress wife, Tea Leoni, and their two, no-doubt-beautiful kids, 11-year- old Madeline West and six-year-old Kyd Miller.

"Oh, yeah, playing a guy round about my age, living in the city where I live, being an artist, getting it on with all these beautiful women ... ," Duchovny pauses, "It was a hell of a stretch for me. I just had to read a lot of Warren Beatty biographies. It was my only hope of understanding this character."

The X-Files: I Want To Believe hits cinemas today