- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2001

LOS ANGELES — David Duchovny, fresh from severing ties with "The X-Files," finds himself promoting a new film in which he teams with a knockout redhead to save the world from aliens.

The irony isn´t lost on the sleepy-eyed actor, star of the new science-fiction comedy "Evolution," which opens today. With his eight years on Fox´s hit drama behind him, the last kind of project he wanted was one in which his co-stars were covered with scales, fur or other extraterrestrial exteriors.

"Evolution" teems with aliens, a squadron of beasts that hail from the computer-generated recesses of Hollywood.

But the chance to make funny with Ivan Reitman, the director of "Ghostbusters" (1984), "Stripes" (1981) and "Twins" (1988), helped Mr. Duchovy temporarily forget his need to alienate himself from all things science fiction.

In "Evolution," the actor portrays a frazzled community college biologist who discovers an alien life form that hitched a ride to Earth on a meteor. The creatures begin life as microscopic beings, then quickly evolve into mammoth beasts that threaten mankind´s existence. The film wallows in realistic special effects of the jaw-dropping variety and co-stars Orlando Jones ("Double Take"), Julianne Moore and Seann William Scott ("American Pie 2").

Mr. Duchovny, wearing a cobalt-blue shirt, with his hair touched by highlights, displays the kind of dry humor not typically associated with Mr. Reitman´s films. One has to stay alert to catch his next snarky comment.

That nasal delivery may be better suited for cerebral guffaws, but Mr. Duchovny wants you to know he can be funny in less subtle ways.

Making people laugh, he says, will help him escape the aura of dour Special Agent Mulder.

"Because Mulder is such a deep impression, such a culturally pervasive show, that´s just what I have to get out from under," he says. "Thankfully, I´m trying to run away from a success, rather than a failure."

Mr. Duchovny is quick with a self-deprecating comment, but he´s even quicker to defend his decision to leave "The X-Files."

"It´s time," he says flatly. "I did enough. That´s enough of me acting on 'The X-Files.´"

Now he has to convince audiences he can make them laugh. "Evolution" gives him the chance to engage in the kind of sophomoric high jinks that "The X-Files" never would permit, even if some of the gags fall flat. He even briefly exposes his posterior in one cheeky scene.

"I wanted to be funny in a way different from what comes naturally to me," he says of moments like that, which he improvised on the set.

When he says "different," he means a bit silly, which is Mr. Reitman´s stock in trade.

It takes a smart man to make stupid funny. Just listen to Mr. Reitman ruminate on the intricacies of Mr. Duchovny´s moon shot.

"I didn´t know it was gonna work. For a person who has made as many comedies as I have, it´s an odd thing to admit," says Mr. Reitman, whose boyish approach to comedy is gilded by his marketing savvy.

When Mr. Reitman sent Mr. Duchovny the "Evolution" script during his last "X-Files" hiatus, the actor could not have been happier.

"I thought, 'Great. I´ve got four months before going back to 'The X-Files,´ and Ivan Reitman wants to do a comedy with me,´" he says.

Then he leafed through the script.

"Twenty pages later, there are aliens, and I say, 'Oh, a cruel joke. Now I can´t do it,´" he says.

He discussed the script with his wife, actress Tea Leoni, and slowly reconsidered.

"I decided the kind of acting I´d do in this movie would be so different from what I had been doing," he says. "The alien is a superficial coincidence."

Sounds like spin worthy of a government agent, but watching "Evolution" proves Mr. Duchovny´s past and current roles don´t overlap as much as one would think.

Besides, if you´re an actor looking to make a name in comedy, you could do worse than letting Mr. Reitman pull your strings.

Mr. Reitman met the actor while producing 1992´s "Beethoven," in which Mr. Duchovny played a supporting role.

"When I met him, I thought, 'Hey, here´s a good-looking guy who´s real smart and real funny,´ a very rare actual combination," Mr. Reitman says.

"Then he got hired on 'The X-Files´ and didn´t smile for eight years," he says. "I thought, 'He´s a resource that needs to be tapped.´ When I started working on the script, I started thinking about him."

Mr. Duchovny politely disagrees, at least with the former sentiment.

"I do smile on the 'The X-Files´; it´s just that the preponderance of the shows I don´t," he says. "You have to sift through the somber ones to get to them."

Dry, dry humor indeed.

He draws a big laugh in "Evolution" when his character throws away a line, which was in the original script, about how you can´t trust the government.

What the first draft didn´t contain, though, were the jokes.

Mr. Reitman oversaw the script´s transformation from a science-fiction yarn into a "Ghostbusters"-style comedy.

"To do it as a straight-ahead sci-fi film was not interesting to me. My vocabulary still remains comedic," says Mr. Reitman, who retains his boyish enthusiasm for juvenile humor, at times to the chagrin of anyone older than 12.

Miss Moore first met Mr. Duchovny during auditions for "The Flintstones," "which was a humiliating experience for both of us, I´m sure," she says, laughing.

"I knew that he was funny. I wasn´t surprised to see him in a movie like this," she adds, her flame-red hair a sweet match for her all-blue denim outfit. "You can hear it in his voice."

She initially thought her character, as written, wasn´t funny enough, but she found Mr. Reitman more than willing to let her, and her cast mates, help leaven the material on the fly.

"He would encourage you to improv until you found something, a way to find a different energy for the scene," she says.

Mr. Duchovny hopes the results will help audiences see him in a less conspiratorial light.

Despite leaving series television behind him, he says he hasn´t abandoned his most famous role. He gladly would sign on for another "X-Files" motion picture.

"I´ll miss the character, I´ll miss the people, and I´ll miss the show," he says, looking ahead.

Still, he says he has earned a break after eight rigorous years. He plans to explore writing and directing and spend time with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, Madelaine West, in between.

"I want time to be lazy. If you work too hard, sometimes the inspiration stops coming," he says.

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