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David Duchovny and Danny Ducovny
September 30, 2001
The television and film actor David Duchovny and his brother, the commercials director Danny Ducovny. Interviews by Tony Horkins. Photograph: Alastair Thain
David Duchovny, 40, is best known as Fox Mulder in the cult drama series The X Files, for which he won a Golden Globe award in 1997. After eight years in the show, he left this year to pursue a career in both screenplay writing and film work, and recently starred in the alien comedy Evolution. David, Danny and their baby sister, Laurie, were born and brought up in New York. David now lives in Malibu with his wife, the actress Téa Leoni, their two-year-old daughter, Madelaine, and their dog, Blue. Danny Ducovny, 44 (who followed his father's example and dropped the H from the family name), is one of the foremost directors of commercials in Los Angeles. His clients include Coca-Cola, Reebok, Adidas and BMW. He is single, and lives in Malibu with his dogs, Joxer and Bear.
DANNY: I take a lot of pride from being David's brother: we look alike, walk alike, talk alike. Back then, though, it was a bit of a nuisance to have a younger brother.
I remember he had to wear these weird little braces on his legs to straighten his feet when he was born. Now he has a perfectly aligned step, but I remember seeing him in the crib and he was really disgruntled. I think they had them on him for six months, but aside from that I think he was kind of a happy guy.
David would always talk a lot, and my dad says that apparently at one point I asked: 'How much would it cost to give him back?' I would always call him an idiot, but he retorted young. He showed his wonderful passive-aggressive humour even as young as four. I said, 'You're an idiot,' and he said: 'Well, you're an idiot's brother.' And that's pretty much him in a nutshell. He's really untouchable like that. I guess in therapy later I felt a little guilt, because I know I was hard on him as a kid. But it's the older brother's job to torture and secure the younger brother into his position. I didn't beat him, but I learnt things from other older brothers like making him hit himself with his own hands because I wasn't allowed to hit him myself. Harmless things that left deep psychological scars on the lad!
I wish I could look back and say I was the older brother that took him everywhere. But I wasn't - it was a pain in the ass to have him around. But at the same time he did get to play baseball and football with me and my dad, and I think one of the reasons David's a classic overachiever is the fact that he had an egomaniacal older brother. Because I really wanted to do well at everything, he too was forced to do well at everything at a really young age. And David has always been God's gift to women - he's never needed my advice in that category. In fact, I wish I had asked for his. Apart from that, though, David kind of lived in the shadow up until his stardom - though he'd always been this success story waiting to happen.
When he moved to LA, I would see him around. After he started his show I'd visit him in Canada, but we still weren't that close. It wasn't until the last couple of years, after he married and had West [his daughter's nickname], that we have more of an understanding of the fact that each other's company is an important thing.
When David directed his first X Files, he asked me to help him plan the technical side. Then he writes me a couple of lines in it, playing a baseball coach - and I choked. I was really bad at it. My review of myself was: 'Ebony, mahogany, Ducovny.' Though I've now received several thousand dollars in residual cheques, which I keep in a drawer. I have such glee about them; they are free money - I didn't work for it.
Lately for me there's been Sunday dinners and hanging with the niece, and I see that family life has really had an effect on him and he's happier. If there were one thing I would be jealous of, it would be that he pulled this whole family thing together. It's made me realise I'm looking for a wife now - though a girlfriend would do.
As for the stardom and movies and millions and all that, he can keep that part. Though when he really hit famous, that was a tough couple of years for me. It hit my ego. At four years old I wrote the words 'Danny the Great' on my baseball mitt - I've always wanted to be head of the class. My little lorded castle was really rocked by people suddenly asking me if I'm David Duchovny's brother, when it had always been the opposite, as I was the hot commercials director. It took me a couple of years to remember I wasn't a tollbooth operator and I'm my own entity. Celebrity is the American version of royalty, and he's the Prince of Wales. And I'm not. I felt like a failure.
I think it forced me to work harder at work, and eventually it forced me to appreciate my own talent and work. And now I even get a kick out of it. Plus I can always get into any restaurant I want: D Ducovny - it works like a charm.
DAVID: I think Danny may be under the impression that he looks exactly like me. That to me is weird, because he doesn't. He has, however, always seemed very sorted - he used to call himself Danny the Great, so he had a pretty healthy self-image. Either that or the opposite. I just thought: 'Danny the Great? Sure...'
I remember struggling to horn in on his thing, as you do with older brothers. But I'm sure there was some resistance to me joining in with anything. He'd had four years alone, so it was quite nice until I came along. But I wanted to do everything he did. We kind of shared a room, but there was a poster-board wall in between, a few inches thick. I drilled a hole in it so I could look at him. It was like one of those old paintings in bad horror movies, with the eyes following you. I'm sure I was a pain in the ass.
Meanwhile, he'd be doing the older-brother stuff. He'd punch me with my own hands. That was a good one. Like: 'Why are you hitting yourself?' I just thought it was a dumb question - it was obvious he was hitting me.
I remember Danny getting plenty of girlfriends, and I definitely looked at him to learn it was possible to be a member of our family and actually get a woman - like, we weren't so physically deformed or socially maladjusted that we couldn't. Though I don't remember being much of a hit with the ladies myself. I remember being very tongue-tied and shy.
Then Danny started working and I just remember him having money. I didn't really benefit from that until I came out to LA when I was about 28. Then he'd let me stay at his house when he was out of town, and he'd loan me money.
I wanted to write screenplays and I thought I should learn about acting. Then I just did a movie and went off in that direction. I used to audition for Danny's commercials and generally failed to book them. I did get one for motor oil, but he ended up shooting me in silhouette and I ended up not getting my money as I wasn't recognisable. I blamed him personally, of course - that's what brothers are for.
As for me getting The X Files, it had to be difficult for Danny. He's a guy that's extremely confident - yet the kind of fame acting brings is so overblown that it's probably difficult to make it square up with your self-esteem. You probably want to go: 'Hey, I'm good too.' But I hope he'd realise it's just crap anyway.
I got Danny involved in The X Files occasionally - he played a baseball player in one episode that I wrote and directed, and he wasÉ okay. He'd never done it before, and it was really nerve-racking for him to come into that situation where your brother's the star of the show. I'm surprised he could get the words out. But he did - though he was kind of going like this [moves from side to side]. I had to tell him to stop bouncing. It was kind of like Rain Man - hey, maybe it was a character choice. He was being an idiot savant. But he tells me he still gets residual cheques, so maybe we just got even.
I'd love to work with Danny more, because I think he's such a talented DP [director of photography] - plus it would be great to have a DP that works cheap. I'm sure he'd be an excellent director, but unfortunately I guess we both want to direct. I think me getting married and having my daughter makes him want to have a family - now he can see that somebody can do it in our particular family. I think he'd be good at it. I hope so, but you never know until it happens. I'm just figuring it out myself every day.
I think I see more of Danny now. We've lived within a couple of miles of each other for six of the last 10 years. There's just that familial tie which is undeniable: the history, the shorthand. You don't have that with anyone else. I've been watching him through the wall for a long time.