Not once does David Duchovny get to step into a pair of sassy stilettos in ''Connie and Carla'' (opens April 16), which is really a shame. After all, before he hunted aliens on ''The X-Files,'' the 43-year-old actor was kinda cute as a transvestite DEA agent on three episodes of ''Twin Peaks.'' Okay, cute may be overstating it. ''I had good legs, but that's about it,'' he says in his trademark deadpan. ''As Bill Murray said in 'Tootsie,' Don't play hard to get. That's what I'd probably be told.''
Which is not to say the happily married (to actress Téa Leoni) father of two -- who admits to ''hating musical theater'' -- wasn't itching to slap on a layer of lipstick and foundation during filming. Surrounded by the film's cavalcade of dancing transvestites and stars Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette, who pose as cabaret-singing drag queens to escape the Mob, inspired him: ''I wanted a chance to dress up and dance and sing, but they wouldn't let me. It's been 15 years, and my ass isn't as good as it used to be.''
Even without a dress, Duchovny's character may be hard for ''X-Files'' fans to recognize. He plays a sensitive yuppie who finds himself falling for Vardalos' character, i.e., the Love Interest. But Duchovny accepts that much of America is stubbornly attached to a vision of him as a driven FBI agent. ''It's just part of the baggage of the show, and it doesn't make any sense to run from it or deny it,'' he says. ''I'm proud of 'The X-Files.' It brings these other barriers, but if you look at them in the right way, they can be fun to overcome because you can surprise people. I'm always joking with my manager about how people say to me, 'I didn't know you were funny!'''
Vardalos learned about Duchovny's sense of humor the hard way. ''I seem to remember that I gave Nia a Polaroid of my ass, but I can't remember why or how I took it. Nia had done something to my trailer, and I had to avenge it. I Saran-Wrapped her toilet seat, but she never said anything about that, which leads me to believe that, as we all know, she's doesn't have to go -- she's perfect.''
But seriously, Duchovny, who left ''The X-Files'' in 2001, acknowledges that he hasn't always been so carefree about the dour persona that has trailed him since. ''One of the things I didn't like about myself as the 'X-Files' got older was that I stopped really enjoying being there,'' he says. ''It was old for me. But one of the things I learned fighting for the last three or four years of the show, trying to change Mulder or give him a French accent one day, is that he's set, and he's a great character, and I eventually learned to love that about him.''
Good thing, since, despite the show having sailed into syndication sunset in 2002, Mulder may soon be back: ''[Executive producers] Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz have an idea that they like for another 'X-Files' film, and they're starting to write it now. We'll be doing it in the next year.'' Any hints? ''They keep threatening to tell me the story, but my feeling is it has to be like a great stand-alone show with a really great part for a guest star, another actor who's not part of the show. I hope that takes the show towards the old fans but also towards new fans at the same time.''
Oh, and one more thing, Duchovny adds with a playful smirk, ''Mulder will wear a dress.''