11 Surprising Facts About Gillian Anderson

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

Gillian Anderson was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 9, 1968. In the 50 years since, she has lived quite the life—moving with her family from Chicago to Puerto Rico to London to Grand Rapids, Michigan, before returning to Chicago to attend DePaul University. Though she’s best known for playing Dana Scully on The X-Files, Anderson has portrayed a bevy of interesting and bold characters, including Stella Gibson on The Fall, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier on Hannibal, and Blanche DuBois in Broadway and London theater productions of A Streetcar Named Desire. Here are 11 facts about the Emmy-winning Anderson, in honor of her birthday.

1. HER FIRST THEATER JOB LAUNCHED HER CAREER.

After graduating from DePaul University, Gillian Anderson moved to New York City in 1990. She auditioned for the role of Evelyn in Absent Friends, which Mary-Louise Parker was originally cast to play but left to star in Grand Canyon. Anderson read twice for the part, and director Lynne Meadow decided to give the early-twentysomething—and inexperienced—Anderson a chance.

“When Lynne had my resume in her hand and said, ‘Is this all you've done?’ I didn’t know what she meant,” Anderson told The New York Times in 1991, in her first-ever interview. “I thought I had done a lot. But once I was hired, a big fear of mine was letting Lynne down. She was taking a big risk, and I didn't want her to find out she’d made a mistake.”

2. HER HIGH SCHOOL CLASSMATES VOTED HER BOTH “MOST BIZARRE” AND “MOST LIKELY TO BE ARRESTED.”

In 2012, Gillian told Out Magazine how her sense of style and relationship status upset people when she was a teenager. While attending high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she said she dated a woman and also somebody who was a lot older than her. “Everything that that kind of anarchistic attitude brings—the inappropriate behavior it leads to—was how I chose to be in the world at that time, which was, you know, not what people did,” she said.

3. SHE’S BIDIALECTAL.

As Stella on The Fall, Anderson probably surprised some fans in speaking in her native British accent. Anderson told The Guardian it’s easier for her to speak with an American accent in the U.S. and then speak with her British lilt when she’s in the UK. “I was in Los Angeles recently with a couple of Brits and I thought, I’m going to see what it’s like to talk among Americans with a British accent, and I felt so uncomfortable,” she said. “It felt so disingenuous, and I kept thinking they must think I’m a complete tw*t. But when I’m here, it’s nearly impossible for me to maintain an American accent.”

4. SHE “STRUGGLED” TO FIND DANA SCULLY AGAIN.

After an eight-year break from playing her most iconic character—The X-Files movie was released in 2008—Anderson returned to the role of Dana Scully in the 2016 show revival. “I struggled in the first week,” she told Net-A-Porter. “I was trying to find the Scully of the past, rather than accepting time had passed. She and Mulder aren’t together and she’s carved out a world for herself, in medicine, working with a particular disease, with children, assisting surgeons. You get the sense that she goes to work, she goes to her apartment, and that’s her life. There is something missing and, of course, the thing that’s missing is Mulder.”

5. ANDERSON AND JAMIE DORNAN DIDN’T GET TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME TOGETHER ON THE FALL.

The cat-and-mouse relationship between Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and serial killer Paul Spector climaxed when the two finally shared a long scene together in the final episode of The Fall's second season, in 2015. “After the first series people would come up to me and say, ‘I love The Fall ... what’s Gillian Anderson like to work with?’” Dornan told The Independent. “And I’d say, ‘I’ve no idea.’” Going forward, the actors got to act in more scenes together. Offscreen, though, they didn’t spend much time together, because of scheduling conflicts.

“I saw her three times during the first series: the read-through, one moment we had in the corridor of the police station, and then one day in the make-up trailer when she was working in the morning and I was working in the afternoon," Dornan explained. "Generally it was either a ‘Jamie day’ or a ‘Gillian day,' and Gillian has a young family as do I, so any time off I wasn’t in Belfast, I was back with my family. We didn’t see each other at all until we did all this press together and getting to know each other in the joint interviews.”

6. SHE THINKS HER HONESTY IS WHAT DRAWS FEMALE FANS.

Gillian Anderson in 'The Spy Who Dumped Me' (2018)
Hopper Stone, Lionsgate Entertainment

When discussing why so many women seem to "fangirl" her, Anderson told Net-A-Porter she thinks it's because she champions women. “I tell people when they are beautiful, I tell other actresses when I think their work is amazing ... So I think women feel relatively comfortable in my presence,” she said. “Also, because I’m not perfect, you know? I’ve got flabby thighs, I’m aging and I’m 5-feet-3-inches. I talk about my failing in contemporary society in terms of gyms or food or whatever. I think there’s a polite appreciation that I’m honest.”

As far as her male fans go, she thinks it's because she played a sex symbol on The Fall. “For the photo op [at Comic-Con] there was a line out the door of men, which has never been my experience before," she said. "With women, it feels more like it’s the mix of the human being and the characters that I choose, whereas, on that day anyway, the men were hooking into a specific character and a specific aspect, which was sex appeal.”

7. SHE CO-AUTHORED A BOOK ON WOMEN.

In 2017, Atria Books—a part of Simon & Schuster—published We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, co-written by Jennifer Nadel. “It’s a book about facing oneself,” Anderson told The Guardian. “It’s about working through things in one’s own life in order to be of better service out in the world. And it’s about the community of women, too: the fact that there is so much competition and judgment and negativity out there, especially on social media, when we should be turning to each other, helping each other to find our voices.”

8. SHE THRIVES ON TENSION IN A ROLE.

“Somebody at one point said something about the fact that I’ve ended up with, or have chosen, these roles where it’s me . . .  not necessarily against, but rivaling these [male] characters: the triptych of Mulder, Hannibal, and Spector,” she told The Telegraph. “That I find myself in those situations, those roles. I mean, Mulder’s not really a predator, we’re not in that dance, but there’s tension. Various forms of both intellectual and sexual tension.”

9. SHE DOESN'T THINK DANA SCULLY IS "PARTICULARLY COMPLEX."


Frank Ockenfels, FOX

“I don’t yearn to play Scully in the same way I do Stella or Blanche [DuBois]," Anderson told Net-A-Porter. "Part of that is because she is not particularly complex. People appreciate that fact and that there are other complexities in the show, but as an actor, I don’t have the same passion [to play the role].” However, she does know that Scully is a “great character,” and that “there is a formula and a flavor to [The X-Files] that hasn’t been recreated in anything else.”

10. SHE HAS BEEN VOCAL ABOUT THE UNFAIR PRESSURE PUT ON WOMEN AS THEY AGE.

In early 2016, the Daily Mail reported that Anderson had undergone some plastic surgery to her face. Anderson quickly took to Facebook to shoot down the rumors. “If it weren’t so sad, this bollocks would have made my day,” she wrote.

“I’m not necessarily anti-surgery; I’m anti the shame that is attached to women who make that choice, rightly or wrongly, in their own mind," she told The Telegraph in September of that same year. "I think it’s unfortunate that there is so much pressure on women, and yet they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. That is heinous. But I must say very honestly that I am lucky. In a few years there may be something I find intolerable, and I’m not going to say I wouldn’t buckle. I hope that I would be comfortable enough with myself not to, but I have to allow for the fact that I am an actor, and there is vanity in me.”

11. SHE TURNED DAVID DUCHOVNY’S HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME CEREMONY INTO A MOCK FUNERAL.

In January 2016, David Duchovny received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Anderson didn’t attend the ceremony but sent a morbid message, pretending his day was actually a funeral. “He was a nice man,” she wrote. “A kind man. Quite smart. He liked avocado and pilates. Actor, writer, friend. He will always be my shining star. May his soul be forgiven and rest in peace.”

“I mean, it’s such a weird thing, anyway, that whole idea of a star on Hollywood Boulevard,” she told The Telegraph. “It is akin to a gravestone!” Two years later, in January 2018, she finally got her own star.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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