Gillian Anderson Almost Quit Acting After “Horrendous” Review

Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images

If there is any role we remember Gillian Anderson for, it’s playing Dana Scully in ‘The X Files.’ However, she has a far more illustrious career starring in several films over the years. Unfortunately, not all of her roles positively served her career, and one in particular almost caused her to quit acting following a rather scathing review.

The X Files was her biggest role

In the early years of her career, Anderson starred in a few short films, voiced a few characters on animated television series, and even voiced parts for video games. However, none of these would even hold a candle to the role that became her most recognizable and skyrocketed her to fame: playing Agent Dana Scully on ‘The X Files.’

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson star in “The X-Files.” (Photo Credit: FOX / Liaison / Getty Images)

The television series aired for nine seasons from 1993 to 2002 during its original run. The show focuses on FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) investigating unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena, known as “X-files.” The show was a major success, with both the show and its actors winning several awards for their efforts. It was such a success, in fact, that even after the show’s close, it was rebooted for a 10th season 14 years later in 2016. The reboot was so well-received that the show returned for an 11th season in 2018.

Her playing Scully was originally questioned

Despite the show’s success, it wasn’t smooth sailing right from the get-go. The X-Files creator Chris Carter recently revealed that during the early days of the sci-fi series, he was questioned about his casting choices. Specifically, he recalled the time when he was asked about casting Gillian Anderson as Agent Dana Scully. “I wanted to take her before the studio and the network,” he said. However, the network was picturing someone more alluring.  Gillian Anderson as Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files. (Photo Credit: FOX Image Collection / Getty Images)

They wanted a more Pamela Anderson-type actress, and after seeing this Anderson, executives asked Carter, “Where’s the sex appeal?” He had to fight with the network to sign her on. “Even though Gillian’s beautiful, she wasn’t their idea of sexy. First, because they didn’t understand what I was trying to do with the show. And she was an unknown, so that never helps,” Carter explained. In the end, Anderson did get the role, and we couldn’t imagine anybody else as Dana Scully.

Starring in The House of Mirth

During her time as Dana Scully, Anderson also took on several other roles, one of which included playing the “ravishing socialite” Lily Bart in the 2000 film adaption of the 1905 novel of the same name, The House of Mirth. Also starring Dan Aykroyd and Eric Stoltz, the film centers on Bart and her slow decline from a life of privilege to being forced to the margins of society during the late 19th century.

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Anderson played the New York socialite Lily Bart in the film. (Photo Credit: Showtime / Sony Pictures Classics / michaella92 / MovieStillsDB)

As per a synopsis of the film, “She seeks a wealthy husband and, in trying to conform to social expectations, she misses her chance for real love with Lawrence Selden. Her quest for a husband comes to a scandalous end when she is falsely accused of having an affair with a married man and is rejected by society and her friends.” Unfortunately, the film was not well-received at the time of its release.

Anderson received a “horrendous” review

While the film was nominated for several awards, it only grossed $48,770 in its opening weekend in the US. The chaotic reception of the film made Anderson realize that the industry truly is “bonkers.”

Anderson considered quitting acting following a bad review. (Photo Credit: Showtime / Sony Pictures Classics / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB)

“I thought about this recently, going to the Baftas and the Golden Globes. All of these artists who have put everything into the work: blood, sweat, tears, money. Put their families second to this singular vision and then… it doesn’t get nominated. I wish there was an award for effort. For even, actually, getting the thing made at all!” she said.

Anderson herself was the victim of a pretty scathing review, and while it is unclear exactly which review she is referring to, she explained how it almost made her quit acting altogether. “One particularly horrendous review about my performance almost made me quit acting. The mixture of that and the bland reception was a real eye-opener for me, a rude awakening to the fickleness of the industry,” she explained.

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In the end, Anderson continued to act, which we are grateful for, and it seems as though the film has gotten better with age, as it now boasts a positive 82 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.