Gillian Leigh Anderson was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 9, 1968. Soon after her birth, the family relocated to Puerto Rico for 15 months and then moved to England. Gillian spent the next 9 years of her childhood growing up in London's North End - first in Stamford Hill and later in Crouch End - while her father Edward studied film production at the London School of Film Technique in Covent Garden for 2 years. Eventually the family moved back to the U.S.A. and settled in Grand Rapids where her father ran a film post-production company and her mother worked as a computer analyst.
Gillian's love for acting began when she decided to audition for a community play while attending City High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"Somehow, I have no idea how the transition was made from wanting to be an archeologist or a marine biologist, to wanting to be an actress, but it just kind of happened," says Gillian.
As a child, Gillian showed a flair for drama but was more of a tomboy who harbored dreams of becoming a Marine Biologist rather than those of movie stardom. "I loved digging up worms and cutting them up into little pieces. In the interests of science, of course!"
Her mother Rosemary recalls, "From the start Gillian had a real flair for the dramatic. That has simply always been her personality. But the first time I knew something was really up with her and acting was when she was 14 and a teacher assigned her the "Romeo And Juliet" balcony scene. Gillian had no background in Shakespeare, acting or anything remotely like it. Nobody on either side of our family had any experience with acting. Her father was interested in film production, but that had mostly been connected with industrial training films and commercials. But she studied that scene and mastered it with no effort whatever. When she performed it for me my jaw just dropped."
Before the acting bug hit, Gillian dabbled in the punk rocker scene. "I fainted when it was inserted. My father was furious about it," Gillian tells of her and her father's reactions regarding her nose ring.
"I was confused," is how Gillian puts her somewhat wild teen years. "I was arrested on graduation night for breaking and entering into the high school," she confessed in an interview for TV Guide.
Of course, growing up in England and then moving back to the U.S.A. was not a simple thing, as her mother recalls: "The contrast was just incredible. Plus she missed all the friends she had grown up with in London. And her classmates all thought she talked funny because she didn't have an American accent. Gillian had to learn to speak like an American for the first time in her life, just to fit in."
Gillian herself admits: "I was angry and it was my way of keeping people at a distance." In a different interview, Gillian remembers, "I was always off in my own little world or being sent to the principal's office for talking back." When the acting bug hit, "My outlook changed, my grades went up and I was voted 'most improved student'."
After graduating from City High School in 1986, Gillian studied acting at the prestigious DePaul University's Goodman Theater and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. In the summer after her freshman year, Gillian was selected to attend a three-week workshop run by the National Theatre of Great Britain at Cornell in Ithaca, NY. Upon obtaining her degree, Gillian headed to New York at the age of 22 to pursue a career in acting.
Gillian's first big break came when she landed a role in the off Broadway play "Absent Friends." She won a Theater World Award in 1991 for her performance in this production.
She did one more play, "The Philanthropist," at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, CT and a low budget film starring Tess Harper and Karen Allen called "The Turning" before relocating to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film.
"First of all, I swore I'd never move to Los Angeles, and once I did, I swore I'd never do television. It was only after being out of work for almost a year that I began going in [to auditions] on some stuff that I would pray that I wouldn't get because I didn't want to be involved in it." Nevertheless, she landed a guest appearance in the short lived TV series "Class of 96." The title of the episode was "The Accused" (episode No. 8).
In 1993, Gillian auditioned for a TV pilot of a newly formed Fox Network show called "The X-Files." It was for the role of Special Agent Dana Scully. "I couldn't put the script down," Gillian remembers. During the auditions, there was a bit of 'behind the scenes' action. The executives at Fox wanted someone with less radiance and more sex-appeal cast in the role of Scully, but writer-director Chris Carter insisted that Gillian had the no-nonsense integrity that the role required. "I sort of staked my pilot and my career at the time on Gillian. I feel vindicated everyday now," says Chris Carter about his decision to stand firm on his choice for Scully.
As luck would have it, on the day Gillian's last unemployment check arrived, she found out that she had won the role of Agent Scully and immediately flew to Vancouver to begin shooting the pilot. "I didn't foresee at all that it was going to become as popular as it has. I often thought, 'What have I gotten myself into?' The first year was the hardest in terms of getting into the grueling hours and sleep deprivation and having to perform constantly, day in and day out," Gillian recalled of the first season.
On set, Gillian met Clyde Klotz, the series assistant art director at the time. "It wasn't quite love at first sight," Gillian says of their three-month affair. "It was Clyde's smile that first attracted me. He was very quiet, rugged and cool, but I soon realized he had a lot to say and that he was a very intelligent man." On New Year's Day of 1994, Gillian and Clyde flew to Hawaii and got married on the 17th hole of a golf course. The only other person present was the Buddhist Monk that performed the ceremony. "We sent a letter to my Mum and Dad, with a strict instruction not to open it until New Year's Day. Mum had already met Clyde and my Dad was in a good mood that day, so they were happy."
Gillian was back on the set of "The X-Files" two days later. A few months later came the news that she was pregnant. She already knew what she wanted to do, but conceded to "not completely thinking ahead about the consequences of that decision." The first person she told on the set was co-star David Duchovny.
Her pregnancy came as shocking news to the Fox executives but Chris Carter once again stuck by Gillian and refused to have Scully recast. "Part of the show's success is the audience's investment in these characters," he said.
Gillian said, "It was a bit of a bombshell for them [the Fox executives]. It wasn't in my contract not to get pregnant, but it is now."
Chris Carter then created an alien abduction storyline that kept Gillian off-camera long enough for labor, delivery, and a 10-day maternity leave. "My feet were swelling and I was exhausted, sleeping between scenes," Gillian remembers. Her daughter, Piper, was born on September 25, 1994. Gillian had to undergo an unexpected cesarean section that required her to spend the next six days in the hospital. Four days later, Gillian was back on set shooting scenes for the episode "One Breath."
Of the experience, Gillian said, "During the first season, I didn't know who the hell I was, let alone who this character was. I feel stronger as a person in the world now. I remember, after going through the birthing process, feeling that no cut, no abrasions, no knock on the head will make me whine again."
The proud new Mom happily declared, "I can't imagine not having Piper." She chose Chris Carter to be her daughter's godfather.
For the next several years, Gillian continued to play the enigmatic Special Agent Dana Scully and "The X-Files" received numerous awards and nominations through the course of the series.
1998 was one of the most eventful years of her career. "The X-Files" made a leap to the big screen with the release of the summer blockbuster, "The X-Files: Fight the Future." In autumn of that same year, Gillian had supporting roles in two more films: "Hellcab" and "The Mighty." She demonstrated her extensive acting range by playing characters that had absolutely no resemblance to Agent Scully.
Of these two films, she commented, "What I've done so far has been very different. I played kind of a Southside Chicago chick, early 20s, in a movie called Chicago Cab and then a middle-aged vintage biker-alcoholic in a movie called The Mighty. I tend to steer away from those that are similar to Scully at all and, hopefully, will pull it off."
In 1999, Gillian continued to seek different and challenging roles by playing Meredith in the ensemble film "Playing By Heart" and voicing the character of the Wolf God Moro in the English version of the critically acclaimed award-winning Japanese animation film "Princess Mononoke."
Gillian made "The X-Files" history in 2000 by becoming the first woman to write and direct an episode of the series entitled "all things" (first broadcast on April 9). "It was an amazing experience," she said. "I didn't realize how much I was going to enjoy it. It was a process of doing something that you've never done before, that you are both exhilarated by and terrified by at the same time."
The House of Mirth directed by Terence Davies, was released in December 2000 and marked Gillian's first starring role (Lily Bart) in a project unrelated to "The X-Files." The film was listed among the top 10 films of the year 2000 by critics from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Film Comment, Newsday, the New York Daily News, the Village Voice, and the New York Press. For her portrayal of Lily Bart, Gillian won the British Independent Film Award for Best Actress and the Best Performance Award from the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll.
Gillian said, "[What fascinates me most about Lily Bart is] the journey that she goes on. No matter how many times I read the script, tears came to my eyes. There was just something about it that was so tragic. The way that Terence was able to transfer the novel to film, I think he did it very, very well. I honestly believe that our focus back then and today, is in the wrong place in this Western world. As long as we continue to put our focus [on material wealth] and not on the heart and in compassion for others and in the wealth of love and giving and understanding, we will continue to be faced with the same dilemmas that Lily is."
"The X-Files" finished its ninth and final season in May 2002 marking the end of a large chapter in Gillian's life: "The fact of the matter is that I grew up during the course of the show. I started when I was 24 and ended at almost 34. That's almost a third of my life. There's a time for everything to end and I think this is the right time. I think everybody in their own way is excited about moving on to other things."
For a complete change of pace, Gillian moved to London where, from November 2002 through February 9, 2003, she starred in the Michael Weller play "What the Night is For" in London's West End. Gillian had been yearning for the opportunity to return to the stage. "I loved being in London. But what I loved the most, I think, and what I learned from the most, was about the 'moment to moment' focus that takes place in live theater."
Later that year, she lent her support to South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in a demo in London. "The South African government can't just sweep Aids under the carpet," she said.
In a message to her fans, she wrote: "I do not really have that much to say except that perhaps everyone who reads this could spare a few more minutes of their time and visit an AIDS related website to fill themselves in a bit more about what's going on with AIDS in Africa at the moment cause it's a real real problem right now and everyone and their cat should know the seriousness of the catastrophe. Oh my God, no pun intended."
November 2003 was a very busy month for Gillian. She participated in the Theatre Royal's Masterclass Autumn 2003 season to talk about the different disciplines of film, theatre, and television acting.
As a campaigner with aid organisation Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), which works with and raises funds for people living with HIV/Aids, she appeared on BBC's special two-hour edition of Talking Point, a worldwide phone-in programme.
Gillian also presented the award for the Radio Story of the Year to Kylie Morris of the BBC World Service at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards in London.
On December 2003, she headed for Africa. "Christmas is normally my favorite holiday for all the cozy reasons and this year I will be driving across Africa in a very uncozy, unwintery vehicle with no room for presents or appropriate holiday cheer. It's not that I'm complaining! It's going to be fantastic - and I asked for it!"
After her return, she wrote, "I can remember very little and, on the other hand, what I do remember will forever stick out in my mind. The withering tortured bodies of AIDS orphans. The immediate change in energy from one African country to the next as one crosses the border. The terrifying and exhilarating rafting trip down the white waters of the Zambezi River. The friends along the way. The cards played anywhere and everywhere. And that landscape that fills a hole somewhere deep down in one's history."
By March 2004, she was back in the USA as a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show after which she returned to the London stage to star in The Sweetest Swing in Baseball which ran from March 25 to May 15, 2004. She garnered rave reviews for her performance as Dana Fielding.
Soon afterwards, she completed filming The Mighty Celt in Ireland alongside Robert Carlyle and newcomer Tyrone McKenna. The film, written and directed by Pearse Elliott is a contemporary coming of age tale story set in the world of Greyhound Racing. Gillian said, "It was a fantastic experience all around. I loved the director, producers, actors and crew and I loved Belfast and I think the whole movie is really special and I can't wait to see it. Oh, and everyone on the planet is going to fall in love with the boy who plays my son." This film is scheduled to be released on October 2005 in Ireland and the UK.
On July 10, 2004 Gillian participated in the Dumisani fundraiser to benefit NfA and Buskaid.
By the end of 2004, she had completed work on Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which garnered rave reviews and nominations.
On December 29, 2004, Gillian quietly married former journalist and documentary filmmaker Julian Ozanne. The low-key affair took place on Lamu's Shella island, off Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. The event was attended only by her immediate family and a handful of close friends.
In October 2005, she appeared as Lady Dedlock in a BBC production of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. This adaptation was very favorably received worldwide and won many prestigious nominations and awards. Gillian said that this project had been tremendously rewarding and made her fall in love with the craft of acting all over again.
She separated from Julian in April 2006. "Gillian Anderson and her husband, Julian Ozanne, are saddened to announce that their marriage is at an end and they are in the process of separating. At this difficult time they request that their privacy is respected. There will be no further comment." said a statement released by their lawyers at Schillings law firm.
In July 2006, her manager Connie Freiberg said, "Gillian is happy to announce that she is expecting her second child, due at the end of the year, with businessman Mark Griffiths." A few days later, in a message to her fans, Gillian wrote, "Oh by the way, I am pregnant; which I have no doubt many of you know from the ridiculous tabloids around the globe but it so happens to be the one thing out of so much of nonsense, that is true. And I am very excited. And I am very fat."
What's next for Gillian? Back in 2001, she optioned the novel "The Speed of Light," by Elizabeth Rosner. She has been polishing the screenplay she's written and is now close to letting it see the light of day. She also plans to direct this film: "Directing was a transformative experience for me, one that I really enjoyed. When I picked up this book and started reading the poetry of her words, I found myself trying to visualize where the camera should be, the colors of the characters, the texture of the shots. It felt so intimate and natural, like I wrote it myself. I took the steps to option it, something I'd never done before. It's a beautiful piece that needs to see the light of day and hopefully I can do it justice."
Soon to be seen in movie theatres everywhere is The Last King of Scotland which was filmed in Uganda and possibly by February 2007 (to be confirmed), Straightheads.
She is looking forward to start working on the black comedy No One Gets Off In This Town which is currently in pre-production.
Gillian also has the rights to Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life" by Caroline Moorehead and plans to make a feature film (not a biopic) focusing on the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Sharman Macdonald will write the screenplay and Gillian will play the role of Martha Gellhorn.
And as far as the next X-Files movie, Gillian says, "I have no f****** clue. I think there's still a law suit, as far as I know the script has not been written, and as much as we all want it to take place as soon as possible, AND YES THAT INCLUDES ME, AND ALWAYS HAS, SO STOP WITH THE NONSENSE! It is out of my hands. Completely. Write to Fox guys, tell them to make it happen!"
As always, Gillian the Activist continues to promote awareness for many charitable causes such as Neurofibromatosis, Inc., the Neurofibromatosis Association (UK), Buskaid, South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), ACTSA, PETA, and the Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation.
Her most recent project will benefit the Alinyiikira Junior School in Kampala, Uganda. While filming The Last King of Scotland, a friend of her's invited her to visit the school. In a letter to her fans, Gillian wrote, "The school has been open for almost two years and has about 120 students in one of the poorer parts of the city. They have no electricity and hardly any books and have filled up their exercise books I don't know how many months ago, and some of the kids cannot afford the uniforms, etc. etc. etc. And yet the children are incredibly bright and disciplined and so ready and willing to learn." If you would like to help Gillian with this cause and learn more about the school, please read the letter from the Headmaster and check out the Wish List and How to Donate web pages.
Gillian thanks all her fans for their continued support of both her work and other endeavors and encourages everyone to remain involved in helping others.
* Biography text from The Official Gillian Anderson Website
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