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Friday, April 28, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Scully, Mulder go Hollywood in Duchovny's `X-Files' tale

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - After seven seasons, David Duchovny may not find much to mine creatively in Fox Mulder, his character on "The X-Files." But the series - its future in limbo - does still offer its star a training ground for what he really wants to do.

It's that old Hollywood cliche of wanting to direct.

This week's episode (9 p.m., Sunday, KCPQ) gave Duchovny his second chance at writing and directing for "The X-Files." The hour, titled "Hollywood A.D.," combines zombies and serious discussion of resurrection themes, religious fanatics and filmmaking zealot Ed Wood, and some of the most self-deprecating humor the series has ever featured.

In other words, for "X-Files" fans, this one has it all, including appearances by Duchovny's wife, Tea Leoni, and his buddy Garry Shandling as Hollywood incarnations of agents Scully and Mulder.

In the episode, a producer shadows Mulder and Scully to research a studio film that winds up being based on an X-file.

Duchovny said he wanted to explore "realness and fakeness on all different levels. You've got a movie of the real case, and you've got the real case, but the real case is actually in a TV show."

Duchovny's - and Mulder's - dry wit is apparent throughout the script.

As Mulder and Scully blunder about, the producer says: "I like the way you guys work. No warrants, no permission, no research. You're like studio executives with guns."

Mulder and Scully investigate a bombing in a church crypt, where they find forged religious texts and a freshly deceased body among the bones. Framing the case, at the episode's beginning and end, is a screening of the movie based on the case, with Mulder and Scully in the audience alongside celebrities who include "X-Files" creator Chris Carter and Minnie Driver, Duchovny's co-star in his current film "Return to Me."

As Mulder, Shandling spews bad Hollywood action-flick dialogue at a fiery pontiff and his army of resurrected zombies.

There's amusing interplay between the "real" Mulder and Scully and the Hollywood versions, including a twist on the apparent come-ons that Duchovny, playing himself, made to Shandling's character on "The Larry Sanders Show."

For all the episode's humor, Duchovny said he views it as one of the weightiest "X-Files": "I see it as funny, but at the heart of the case is a much more serious discussion of life than ever takes place on our show. This is probably darker than just about any show we've ever done, if you think about it."

The episode effectively works in scenes from cult director Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space," which Mulder views for the 42nd time.

"It's like a really bad `X-File,' " Duchovny said, "but told with the best of a storyteller's heart from a guy who was totally committed to what he was doing."

As for Duchovny's commitment to an eighth season of "The X-Files," the ball is in Fox's court. He wants more money, though he would not say how much he's asking. He also is seeking a less-grueling work schedule and wants Fox to settle up on his lawsuit, which claims the network underpaid him on the series' profits.

The cast and crew are working on the season finale, not knowing whether it also will put the wraps on the series.

"I definitely could do another year, but I really don't know if it'll happen," Duchovny said. "I'm kind of happy that decision's been taken away from me. I've made my terms clear."

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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