Five minutes and 18 seconds. That’s what you get of Gillian Anderson — a fraction of that in some stage of undress — in The Turning, a 1992 thriller that gave the X-Files star her first film role. Before she mastered sober Dana Scully, Anderson played the bit part of April Cavanaugh, a mousy Appalachian girl who pours coffee for locals and gets hot and heavy on the kitchen floor when her estranged boyfriend, The Turning’s true focus, comes home from his sojourn with white supremacists. But without that glimpse of the girl in the flowered frock, The Turning wouldn’t be turning up on video Sept. 16.
”The movie is not very good,” says Michael Dolan, who played Anderson’s Aryan floor mate. ”My agent saw [it] and wouldn’t talk to me for months. I thought I’d be the next coming of Sean Penn. I was highly disappointed.”
Director Lou Puopolo, whose previous credits included the 1970s ”I Love New York” TV ad campaign, offers that ”I was ahead of the curve in terms of the American independent film,” but doesn’t object to the video packaging that features Anderson unbuttoning her blouse, the 23-year-old wearing the look of an actor unsure whether her career is about to be made or broken. ”I know it’s being sold as a sex film,” he says. ”There’s nothing on that box that’s a lie.”
But Anderson sees no truth in the packaging, dismissing The Turning by saying, through her manager, Connie Freiberg, ”I would not count that as my first film.” London’s Sunday Mirror reported before the video’s U.K. rerelease in December that Anderson had lawyers try to lock up rights to the film, something Freiberg denies. Still, no one would have blamed her if she had. The kitchen scene, in which Anderson is naked from the waist up, clearly shows her discomfort. ”She wasn’t blase about nudity,” says Puopolo. ”She felt nervous about her body being exposed.” Dolan, who says he’s still a close pal of Anderson’s, remembers the 3 a.m. shoot distinctly: ”We both felt crummy afterwards. She came to my house, and we ate popcorn and watched some stupid movie.”
Which is exactly what many Anderson devotees probably won’t be able to resist.