More Goat Man: David Duchovny on Goats and X-Files 3

Playing the classic stoner archetype, working with goats, and why the next X-Files movie has to have aliens, and has to be big.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


The elite SoHo House club in Hollywood seemed like the sort of place Hank Moody would hang out. David Duchovny lounged in a room filled with modern art, the location for his interviews about the new movie Goats. Duchovny stars as Goat Man, a local stoner who raises goats, and makes a difference in the life of a teenager, Ellis (Graham Phillips). Goat Man also hangs around Ellis’s hippie mom (Vera Farmiga) when Ellis goes off to prep school. If you’re not instantly sold on “David Duchovny IS Goat Man,” then he’s here to share some Goat Man wisdom to convince you. And yeah we talked about a third X-Files movie. Of course we did.


CraveOnline: When you have such great writing on TV, what does it take for a film script to impress you?

David Duchovny: It’s harder for a film script because in the marketplace now, TV has so much more creative license, or cable television has so much more creative license than studio filmmaking, a big film that has to reach such a wide and watered down audience at this point in order to recoup, so it’s hard. It really usually is going to end up being an independent film that doesn’t have the pressure of trying to open on 3000 screens in the first weekend. It’s not like I have a criteria. I’ll read it and something’ll happen, I’ll go, “Oh,” I’ll get excited. I won’t even know why really but it’ll just happen.


Goat Man turns out to be more than you may think he is. Were you worried about the initial description of him?

No, because I knew that I wanted him to be more. I knew that he was a cultural stereotype, Cheech and Chong, go back to there all the way through Spicoli. There’s always that bearded – well, Spicoli didn’t have a beard – but the stoner guy. The stoner dude is an archetype that we have, since the ‘60s anyway. I knew that I could play that and subvert it at the same time and that was exciting to me to appear to be a cliché and then surprise, I’m an actual person.


It’s also in the script, so did you find that out as you read it the first time?

I read the book. Chris sent me the book. No, actually, I would’ve read the script first and then Chris sent me the book. We always talked about him as he was a complicated full human being, never as a type. That’s more the game I wanted to play in my head was play to type and against type at the same time, but I think to Chris it was always a very specific, human individual. I think mostly because he actually grew up with it and had a Goat Man in his life, so it was very personal to him, never like a joke on television or in the movies.


Who was his Goat Man?

I don't know, some guy who actually was involved with goats, who was not his parent but was on the property and was influential in his upbringing.


So he knew a Goat Man and he read the book Goats by Mark Jude Poirier?

I know. That’s why he stayed with it for eight years. This guy was not going to let this movie go.


Another archetype in movies is that wisdom comes from unlikely places like Goat Man.

Yeah, that’s true.


Do you find that true in real life, that wisdom comes from unlikely places?

I do. I do find that’s true in real life but what I also liked is that this movie also subverts that a little because he also gives crappy advice at the same time. So he’s not just the wise man, the wise stoner who figures it all out for you. He also f***s it all up for you so I like that he was more complicated than that type as well. Yeah, wisdom comes, you never know. Events, people, it’s scary when you look back and you realize who influenced you and you’re like well, it wasn’t really my teacher. It was that guy that I talked to on 36th street for five minutes. I just made that up. I didn’t talk to anyone.


But sometimes the bad advice might be part of the plan, to get you to fail and go through that.

Sure. You have to make mistakes.


Was the beard fake?

Yeah. Yeah. I wanted to grow a beard but it became clear. Well, I did grow a beard the first time around we were going to make it, two years ago. That fell apart. I was afraid that the fake beard would look terrible and I really didn’t want you to be looking at a fake beard thinking, “Oh, there’s David in a fake beard” the whole movie. But I’m so happy with the way the beard came out, I think hair and makeup did a great job.


I sort of clued into it once Goat Man shaves, because I figured you wouldn’t have been able to shoot in sequence so you couldn’t have grown a real beard.

You couldn’t, exactly. Especially on this budget, you couldn’t shoot in sequence.


You’ve also worked with a lot of first time directors. Is that something you seek, that fuels you?

No, it’s just a coincidence or random. It’s also a function of doing independent films. A lot of times passion projects or films are difficult to make because they don’t have proven directors attached to them. Somebody who’s written something is holding onto it until they get a chance to make it, but that doesn’t scare me. I just sat down with Chris and it was obvious to me that he knew this material so well, had lived it basically. Even though he didn’t write it [the book], he lived it. There was never any hesitation in his response to what should happen or what’s real or what’s the next move. The only conflict that he and I had was over shaving the beard when we shaved it. In the script originally it was to be shaved at Thanksgiving which is maybe 20 minutes into the film. I was saying, “That’s not enough, that’s not enough.” He was saying, “No, this is the way it goes.” “I think if it’s Goat Man, it’s got to be more Goat Man than the other guy. Now it’s Goat Man for a taste and then it’s the other guy.” Then when I came out in the hair and the makeup, he was like, “Yeah, we need more of that guy.”


And you need to get enough production stills of Goat Man in full beard for publicity.

[Laughs] Yeah, to me the cleaning up is funny and it’s good, but I love the whole thing. I would’ve been happy being Goat Man all the way through.


Are goats pettable?

Yeah, oh yeah. They don’t care. It’s not like a dog who’s really enjoying being pet. They’ll take it or leave it I think.


But they’re not hostile?

No, they’re not hostile. They’re pretty neutral. I’m sure there are hostile goats and there are probably times when they get hostile like anything. They were fairly uninterested in what people were doing.


Were there main hero goats you worked with mostly?

Yeah, yeah. There was two or three that were our go-to goats. That’s pretty good, go-to goats.


Frank Spotnitz was at the TCAs last week.

Someone just mentioned Frank to me so he must be saying things.


He is saying things about X-Files 3. Has he talked to you?

No, but I talk to Chris [Carter.] Chris is the main driving force behind anything we’ll ever do with that show, with those characters. I actually live right next to Chris when I’m here so we’re close. We’re still good friends and we talk about it all the time. It’s just a matter of getting the script and then trying to get Fox interested.


Would there be an aspect of having to make up ground since I Want to Believe underperformed?

Well, the expectations are odd if I were to be totally honest with you, because that movie cost $28 million to make. It probably made worldwide $80-90 million so that’s actually pretty damn good. So it only underperformed if it was an $80 million movie, which it probably should’ve been in order to perform better than it did. It was a small, dark, somber, not effect-driven movie because there was no money to do that the way it was done. I thought maybe that was a mistake, but that was not a mistake that we made. That was a mistake that producers made. Yeah, the next one I think should be big.


Big, and another standalone or more of a conclusion?

No, I think it should have to do with aliens and I think it should go back, not necessarily something that you need to have understood the show to do, but I think it has to open up. The last movie kind of closed down. This one has to open up, has to have the wonder that it used to have rather than this kind of dark lessening possibility. It has to have a greatening possibility.


What’s coming up for Hank Moody?

We just wrapped yesterday. The previous year I was involved in the rap world with RZA. This year I’m rock n’ roll with a guy named Tim Minchin. He’s Australian. He’s an amazing talent, musical comedian. I don’t know what you call him. There’s really nobody in America that does what he does. He sings funny songs. That makes it sound ridiculous but political funny smart songs. If you’ve never seen him you should YouTube him. He’s really talented. Anyway, he plays a crazy rock n’ roller who wants to make a rock opera out of one of my books. So much like last year, I had to please RZA, now I’ve got to please this crazy rock n’ roller who’s way more out of control than Hank’s ever been.


How many more seasons do you see Californication going?

I don’t know. That could’ve been the last. We never know. It’s tough in cable because they don’t tell you. They don’t know. They probably won’t make a decision until the show airs in January so every year, the last episode has got to be able also to stand as the end of the series. That’s why every year there’s an ending that could be an ending.


Were you glad that it moved away from the outrageous sexual exploits?

Yeah, that was never that interesting to me. I like it because it was funny and smart and I like the heart of it. I like the romance of Karen and Hank and I like the father-daughter relationship between Hank and Becky. I even like the friendship between Charlie and Hank, Evan [Handler] and myself. So that was never something that I love about the show but it’s not my show. I don’t write it.