David William Duchovny is an American actor, writer, and director. He is best known for playing Fox Mulder on The X-Files and Hank Moody on Californication, both of which have earned him Golden Globe awards.
Duchovny was born in New York City, New York in 1960. He is the son of Margaret "Meg" (née Miller), a school administrator and teacher, and Amram "Ami" Ducovny (1927–2003), a writer and publicist who worked for the American Jewish Committee. His father was Jewish, from a family that immigrated from the Russian Empire and Poland. His mother is a Lutheran emigrant from Aberdeen, Scotland. His father dropped the h in his last name to avoid the sort of mispronunciations he encountered while serving in the Army.
Duchovny attended Grace Church School and The Collegiate School For Boys; both are in Manhattan.
He graduated from Princeton University in 1982 with a B.A. in English Literature. He was a member of Charter Club, one of the university's eating clubs. In 1982, his poetry received an honorable mention for a college prize from the Academy of American Poets. The title of his senior thesis was The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett's Early Novels. Duchovny played a season of junior varsity basketball as a shooting guard and centerfield for the varsity baseball team.
He received a Master of Arts in English Literature from Yale University and subsequently began work on a Ph.D. that remains unfinished.The title of his uncompleted doctoral thesis was Magic and Technology in Contemporary Poetry and Prose. At Yale, he was a student of popular literary critic Harold Bloom.
Duchovny appeared in an advertisement for Löwenbräu beer in 1987. He appears in two scenes in Working Girl (1988). He had a recurring role as a transvestite DEA agent on the series Twin Peaks and played the narrator/host in the long-running Showtime erotica/softcore TV series Red Shoe Diaries. In 1992, he played the role of Rollie Totheroh, in the biographic film Chaplin, directed by Richard Attenborough, and based on the life of Charlie Chaplin. In 1993, Duchovny began starring in the science fiction series The X-Files as FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, a conspiracy theorist who believed his sister had been abducted by aliens. The show emerged as a cult hit and quickly became one of The Fox Network's first major hits. Also in 1993, Duchovny was cast alongside Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis, in the Dominic Sena-directed thriller, Kalifornia.
During The X-Files run, in between the fifth and sixth seasons, Duchovny co-starred alongside Gillian Anderson in a 1998 motion picture that continued the X-Files storyline, titled The X-Files: Fight the Future. He remained with the series until quitting in 2001, partly because of a contract dispute that occurred after season seven finished filming. Duchovny appeared in half of the season eight episodes, but did not appear in season nine until the series finale in 2002. He also provided the voice for a parody of his Fox Mulder character in an episode of The Simpsons, titled The Springfield Files. Duchovny was nominated for four Emmy Awards.
Duchovny caused controversy when it became public that he was the primary reason for which filming of The X-Files series was moved from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Los Angeles in 1998. Many residents of Vancouver were upset with Duchovny over scripted jokes on Late Night with Conan O'Brien about the city's heavy rainfall; he joked, "Vancouver is a very nice place, if you like 400 inches of rainfall a day" (Duchovny's character Fox Mulder would later reference this joke in the Season 5 episode Schizogeny). He also stated, "Of course, I'm tired of the rain. But if I wasn't married to a woman that lives in L.A. I'd stay in Vancouver. It's a lovely city." During the run of The X-Files, he also made several guest appearances in the cult TV satire The Larry Sanders Show, playing himself, but adding a strong attraction to Sanders. In the final episode of the series, he performed a parody of Sharon Stone's 'flashing' scene from Basic Instinct and a parody of "Dr. Hannibal Lecter" being introduced to Agent "Clarice Starling" in The Silence of the Lambs.
Duchovny has guest hosted Saturday Night Live twice (May 13, 1995 and May 9, 1998). Both shows were season finales. In 2000 he starred in the feature film Return to Me, a romantic comedy/drama directed by Bonnie Hunt and co-starring Minnie Driver and Carroll O'Connor. In 2001 Duchovny played a hand model in the Ben Stiller comedy, Zoolander. He also played the role of Ira Kane in the movie Evolution alongside Seann William Scott that same year. He appeared in a celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in May 2000. He got to the $250,000 question, but answered his $500,000 question incorrectly and lost $218,000, leaving him with $32,000. He appeared on Celebrity Jeopardy! in 1995 and 2010.
Duchovny provided the voice of Ethan Cole in the 2005 video game, Area 51, as well as that of the title character "XIII" in the 2003 video game XIII. In 2003 Duchovny starred in the 84th episode of the HBO show Sex and the City. He played the role of Jeremy, Carrie Bradshaw's high-school ex-boyfriend, who has committed himself to a Connecticut mental health facility. In 2005 Duchovny, who had already made his directorial debut with an episode of The X-Files, wrote, directed, and appeared in the feature film House of D. The film starred Anton Yelchin, Robin Williams, and Duchovny's wife Téa Leoni in a coming-of-age tale. It received mostly poor reviews and little box office success. Duchovny also directed an episode of Bones (Episode 211, "Judas on a Pole") during its second season.
Duchovny currently plays Hank Moody, a troubled novelist in Showtime's series Californication. The portrayal landed him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Comedy or Musical in 2007.
According to X-Files creator Chris Carter, Duchovny turned out to be one of the best-read people he knew. After getting the role, Duchovny thought the show wouldn't last for long or that it wouldn't make as much impact as it did. Executive producer Frank Spotnitz called portraying actor Duchovny "amazingly smart". He further stated that Duchovny was behind some of the main characteristic ideas behind Mulder.