NEW YORK — Gillian Anderson is barely noticeable in her beige-on-beige hotel suite at The Regency. Her blonde hair, tasteful buff manicure and whispery taupe dress blend seamlessly into the couch with an ease usually reserved for Madagascan chameleons. No surprise. Though in town to fulfill her promotional duties for her new film, “Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story,” Anderson has willingly let herself fade into the background since leaving TV land three years ago.
Sure, the former “X-Files” star has done a couple of small independent films, stints on the West End stage and a BBC miniseries adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House,” which started airing on PBS Sunday. But for the most part, she seems to shun the spotlight, a trait that has much in common with fellow Anglophile Gwyneth Paltrow. In fact, in “Tristram Shandy,” the film’s fictitious directors are shocked when the well-known actress (who plays herself) agrees to leave Los Angeles to star in their movie.
In reality, director Michael Winterbottom said it was easy to get her on board — and for very little cash. Who knew Anderson was such an easygoing gal on the set? Well-publicized rumors of a clash between her and “X-Files” co-star David Duchovony made her seem as tough and humorless as her character, Agent Scully. “[Scully] was pretty similar to me … in terms of her seriousness,” she says, digging into a pile of M&Ms in a Dylan’s Candy Bar dish.
Rarely seen yukking it up in interviews or press junkets — “I hate them so much,” she says directly — Anderson makes a point of differentiating herself from the current crop of overly styled, media-savvy actresses who have self-promoted on this very same couch before her. A former teenage punk with a penchant for black clothes, combat boots and sky-high hairstyles, Anderson has since “mellowed out,” but says her rebellious, outsider streak “most definitely” runs strong and deep. Sickened by Los Angeles’ “materialism, obsession with outward appearance and all of the posing on the side of the street,” Anderson said she made a conscious decision to pull herself out of that scene, declining most photo opportunities and party invitations.
“Every single time I went to the opening of a shoe store, I felt so awful afterward,” she says, though she admits to RSVP-ing yes to a recent Louis Vuitton party in Paris. “It was a battle of conscience,” she says with an air of guilt about her. “Everyone keeps on saying, ‘Yeah, but you’ll get this free purse’ or ‘You’ll get a free dress.’ I just don’t pay attention to what’s hot: the new look, the new hairstyle, the new lip color, the new purse. I can’t imagine putting energy into that kind of stuff,” she says, quipping, “There goes the endorsement check.”