David Duchovny undergraduate Princeton

David Duchovny undergraduate Princeton, "I feel like I'm a late bloomer," David Duchovny is saying, which sounds strange coming from a guy who has been wildly successful his entire life.

Long before he and actress Téa Leoni, his wife
of 11 years, built a storybook existence with their kids in Malibu, before he won Golden Globes for Californication (his current cult-hit TV series) and The X-Files (his previous one), and before he shined as a student and athlete at America's finest schools (Collegiate prep, Princeton undergrad, Yale grad), Duchovny was by all accounts precocious to the nth degree. His longtime collaborator, friend, and squash partner Chris Carter, who created The X-Files and directed the X-Files movie sequel that opens July 22, says, "I have a feeling David came out of the womb asking for a basketball and a volume of Nietzsche."

So what's this about Duchovny just getting started?

It's an answer that requires a strange kind of cocktail, apparently. We are at Real Food Daily, the vegan-with-a-vengeance restaurant where Hollywood's non–meat-eating elite meet, and Duchovny is obviously a regular. The waitress, thin as a yoga mat, nearly beats us to the table with the organic libation du jour: a beet-spinach--carrot-ginseng-apple concoction. If nothing else, it helps explain why Duchovny could pass for late thirties even though he's 48. A pescetarian in his diet, he also maintains an Olympian workout regimen that includes yoga, boxing, swimming, basketball, racket sports, and the occasional triathlon.

But back to this late-bloomer business.

"There's a line from Hamlet," Duchovny says, with that sphinxlike smirk and languid monotone. "'Readiness is all.' My whole life I've wanted things before I was ready. I was always pushing for the next job, the next success. I was so focused on achieving and the path that I was missing some great point about life." He sips his peach-colored elixir. "Now I'm finally working out that you're supposed to appreciate what you've got while you've got it."

Duchovny certainly has a lot to appreciate. He and Leoni have two children: daughter Madelaine West, 9, and son Kyd Miller, 6, both of whom go by their middle names. "I'm constantly amazed by the ability a child has to show sympathy, to read emotions, to get to the heart of any situation," says Duchovny. "It's unfiltered and completely inspiring." Equally inspiring is his marriage with Leoni, a rare success in a town where divorce agreements are dispensed like nonfat soy lattes. Mama Leoni is best known for parts in blockbusters such as Deep Impact, Bad Boys, and Jurassic Park III, but it's her role at home that Duchovny values most. "Téa is the best thing our family has going for us," he says. "As a mother, she's involved and loving and fair but not overbearing. I'm sure we make horrific mistakes, but I wouldn't want to go through this with anyone else."

In the six years since the X-Files series went off the air, Duchovny has had his ups and downs. His movies have mostly flopped. (Did you see House of D? Things We Lost in the Fire?) And in 2003, his father died. It had been a relationship Duchovny says was "complicated, and not always in a good way."

As Carter puts it, "These past few years have had a profound effect on David, and he has worked hard to understand the meaning of it. He's a family man now, a husband, a father, and he has experienced failure and personal loss. For many years David was focused primarily on his work, but these other experiences have strengthened him."

Those changes are reflected in the new movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Duchovny was 32 and single when he first stepped into the role of FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, the sardonic UFO chaser who made The X-Files an international cult sensation. This time, Duchovny wanted to do more than just wave flashlights at aliens. The sequel is less about what's out there than what's inside Mulder. As Duchovny says, "Time changes your mind, it changes your approach. So just as I've changed and grown in these 15 years, in whatever pseudo Zen master way I could, I wanted Mulder to change too. That's not to say I wanted to see Mulder with an enlarged prostate, but you do want to see the consciousness that comes with age, the maturity, the added sense of self-awareness."

Born on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the summer of 1960, he was the middle child in a middle-class family that rewarded smarts, a quick wit, and competition of every sort. As Duchovny puts it, "I was always trying to win at something, whether it was in baseball or basketball or tennis, or in fights with my older brother, or achieving academically."

His Scottish-born mother, Margaret, was a teacher. His father, Amram, a Jew of Russian descent, made his living in public relations and supplemented his income by writing humor books (he contributed to The Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew) and an off--Broadway play (The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald). The couple divorced when David was 11, and shortly after, he won a scholarship to the elite Manhattan prep school Collegiate. The other students called him "Hayseed" because his downtown address was so far from the rarified residences of classmates such as JFK Jr. "There was a party freshman year at an apartment where the elevator opened onto this private -living space," he says. "I had never seen that before. In my world, elevators had always opened onto hallways. It was like the doors of my consciousness opening. It felt unnatural…obscene in a way."

He graduated from Collegiate as head boy, the equivalent of class valedictorian, and went on to study literature at Princeton, where his senior thesis was titled "The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett's Early Novels." He did so well that he landed a Mellon Fellowship and went to Yale to pursue his PhD in English literature, although he would leave prior to finishing his dissertation. To make extra money, Duchovny worked as a teaching assistant, a caterer, and a bartender. When that wasn't enough, he took a friend's advice and auditioned in 1987 for a Löwenbräu commercial, a gig that helped convince him to kiss the ivory tower good-bye. His first big role was playing a transvestite on Twin Peaks, and it was off to the races from there. "I had been in school all my life, and there was a falseness to that," he says. "I wasn't sure I could contribute anything original or exceptional in that field, and wondered if maybe this other field would let me excel."

Excel doesn't exactly cover what happened next. Once The X-Files took off, Duchovny became an icon to a generation awaking to a nifty new technology called the Internet. Early Web adopters instantly connected with the show's mythology of paranoia ("The truth is out there" and "Trust no one" are its trademark phrases) and trained their sights on Duchovny himself. On dozens of Web sites in the mid-1990s, the actor was monitored, dissected, and mined for every conceivable inanity. Did you know, for instance, that David likes to go barefoot and drip-dry after a shower? That his favorite zoo animal is the elephant? That his nicknames at school included "Duke" and "Doggie?" One online group dubbed itself "The Church of Our Guy David Duchovny" and named a star after him. It is located in the constellation Leo, Duchovny's astrological sign.

Even now, 15 years since Mulder spotted his first E.T., Duchovny is the focus of way too much scrutiny. When the film's teaser trailer was screened last February at the WonderCon sci-fi confab in San Francisco, the actor heard shrieks as he made his way to the podium. "Unless you have a guitar in your hand or your name is Ringo, I really don't understand how to give back to that intensity," says Duchovny. On YouTube afterward, obsessed fans analyzed cell-phone footage of the event as if it were the Zapruder film. A silent minute-long snippet showing Duchovny's costar, Gillian Anderson, plucking a piece of lint off Duchovny's sweater has drawn gushing commentary and nearly 5,000 views.

"I won't look online," says Duchovny, who is working on a salad so healthy it looks as if it could scamper away. "The whole fan thing makes me self-conscious, which is not to say I don't appreciate it or understand it. If Mickey Mantle were around, I'm sure I'd have a ton of questions to ask him that might make him uncomfortable. I get it. That doesn't mean it's not really awkward."

On Californication, the second-biggest hit of his career, Duchovny plays a tortured novelist-turned-reluctant-Hollywood-playboy trying really hard to be a good dad. Hank Moody fines his daughter a dollar every time she curses. But every so often--okay, every single episode--Hank totally screws up, like when his preadolescent daughter comes home to find a strange naked woman in Daddy's bed. "There's no hair on the vagina," Becca says, wide-eyed. "Do you think she's okay?"

For all the fussing about the show's nipple action and pot jokes, Californication is really just a commentary on how complicated it is for a man to balance career, family, and, yes, an unending cavalcade of grown-up urges.

"Men are so scared and ashamed of the feelings they have sometimes," says Duchovny. "The worst thing a man can admit is 'I'm not 100 percent fulfilled by my family.' But it doesn't mean he doesn't love his family. I love my family, but I still want to work, I still want challenges. It took me a while to fall in love with the responsibility of family life, and it was a deep thing when I did. But I also want to run back to the cave sometimes. Forever."

In a way, that's exactly what Duchovny saw his father do. After his parents divorced, Duchovny's dad moved first to Boston and eventually to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life. Duchovny says he has come to understand his father's journey. Running away to Paris was his father's way of liberating himself. At age 73, two years before he died, Amram Duchovny realized his dream of becoming a novelist. His book, Coney, about the Coney Island of his youth, earned him the best reviews of his life: It was a first-time novel "as satisfying and exhilarating as a ride on the Cyclone," The New York Times had raved.

Duchovny made peace with his father during those final years, and since his dad's death, he says, "I feel his presence not less and less but more and more, which I find comforting. As I get older, I feel him inside me. I'll do something--a gesture, a vocalization--and think, That's my father exactly. Oftentimes when I read to my children, I realize it's my father reading to me."

What also strikes him is how different things are for fathers now than they were in his father's generation. "The generation of parents in my childhood was much less child-centric than we are now, which might have been a good thing," he says. "It's gotten to the point where our children's stress is our stress, our children's successes are ours. This element of micromanaging our children's every move is new."

Duchovny says he and Leoni split their parenting, though like Hank Moody, he admits to being a bit of a chauvinist. "My wife says my daughter can get anything out of me. She was in the hospital with pneumonia when she was very young, and now every cold makes me nervous. With my son, if he gets a cold, it's no big deal.

Fortunately, Duchovny has better luck in love than Hank does. Not that he can explain why he and Leoni have so far beat the curse that bedevils most celebrity marriages. Duchovny likes to say finding a life partner is a matter of luck. "Statistics will tell you your chances of marital success are just as good if the Reverend Moon marries you as if you fell in love," he says. But he also knows that faith and patience factor in big-time.

"Twelve years ago, I would have been hard-pressed to understand why I'd want to be involved sexually with one person this long," he says, cracking off a piece of carob-pecan cookie. "Before Téa, the longest my intense sexual interest would last would be maybe two years. But the thing men don't realize is, that initial rush you get from sex gives way to something else. A lot of guys run with fear when that intensity starts to fade, but the real rewards of a relationship come after you've been together a while. That's where Téa and I are lucky. It keeps getting deeper. It's kind of exciting. I'm as surprised as anybody."

A sudden hush seems to fall over the restaurant, as if everyone is straining to hear the follow-up to this sex talk. I quietly ask him the famous Jimmy Carter question about whether he lusts in his heart for other women. "I'm not running for president, so I don't have to answer that question, but there's nothing wrong with acknowledging the panoply of life's rich experience," he says. "And if my wife were sitting here, she'd say the same thing. The only thing that matters is your word and whether you live up to it or not. You can't control your mind. Why would you want to? You can't feel guilty about being alive, about being a man, about feeling attracted. You can only control your actions."

Duchovny sits in silence. He never knows when he's said too much. There was the time he confessed to a reporter about his fascination with hotel porn ("I like to watch other people f--k" was the exact quote) and rumors swirled that he was a sex addict. He's not. Then he said something about "400 inches of rain a day" in Vancouver, where The X-Files was shooting at the time, and half of Canada wanted him deported.

But he has also been around long enough to know that if some "truth" about his life is going to be out there, it's best if it comes from him. That's probably why he turns the conversation to a new adventure he's embarking on with his family, and here's where the late-bloomer concept starts to make sense.

This September, Duchovny is moving the family to New York City. "It was Téa's idea," he says quickly. As he puts it, "Téa is the person who falls in love with an idea and moves heaven and earth to make it happen, but then hates it. I'm the person who hates every idea and then gets there and loves it."

Both of them think it's the best thing for the kids. Los Angeles is a weird place, after all, especially given the sort of bubble-boy existence most celebrities end up living. "You can go a year and not see old people in Los Angeles," says Duchovny. "I want to see how my children respond to the life of walking places, to that intense stimulation. I want them to see strangers."

Moving to New York is also a home-coming for Duchovny, of course, and given his suggestion that life is just starting at 48, the move East could signal his "readiness," as he puts it, to appreciate how far he has come. He hopes so, anyway. As he caps off The World's Healthiest Meal with an organic rice-milk green-tea latte, Duchovny smiles broadly, as though the real secret behind his healthy habits has just been revealed. "It has always taken me a while to get things, but when I get them, I get them good," he says. "Now the trick is to see if I can hang on long enough to really enjoy it all."
Title: David Duchovny undergraduate Princeton
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