Actor, writer and director David Duchovny reveals the mixed emotions at work in his film Bucky F****** Dent and how Scotland plays an inspirational role

His new film is a tearjerker about making up for lost time and squandered love. On celluloid, it is in America. But its essence, says David Duchovny, reaches thousands of miles east across 
The Pond. “All the sweetness is bitter,” says the actor, writer and director behind soft-boiled indie father-and-son flick Bucky F****** Dent. “And because my mum was Scottish, I love that. It’s sentimental but I don’t think it’s unrealistic. Things kind of work out but they also don’t. People keep missing each other.

“I think my mum was sentimental in that way. She was very aware life isn’t about happy endings. There’s a line in the film: ‘Life belongs to the losers, because we’re all losers in the end.’. And there’s a beauty and brotherhood, a connection in that. It heals that thing I think of as almost like an erotic attachment to winning. I think the Scots have a good sense of that in their history, or what it’s like to not be winning all the time.”

Some might say Duchovny’s words carry on the sporting field, the political sphere or the weather forecast. Others might dismiss them as romanticised stereotype. Either way, the New Yorker’s Scottish ancestry – courtesy of his mother Margaret coming from Aberdeen – is something he’s proud of, at least long enough to do promo for Bucky’s unveiling as one of the gems in this year’s GFF schedule. “My mum was raising kids in New York in the 1960s,” says the 63 year old. “As much as she was proud of her heritage and taught us about Burns and the stories of the Highlands and played records with Highland music, we lived in New York, so we weren’t inundated with that stuff. She was proud of being Scottish, although it wasn’t what we were looking at. But the first two flights I took as a kid were both from New York to Prestwick.”

Duchovny has become a creative polymath over the course of a varied career that saw him score global superstar status opposite Gillian Anderson in 90s sci-fi mega-hit The X Files. He’s written five books, tours the world in rock band Weather (they were in Edinburgh and Glasgow in November) and acts and directs. Bucky Dent, to give the film its Sunday name, started life as a screenplay he originally couldn’t get funding to make, before adapting it as a novel, which finally found its way to the screen. In it, he plays a curmudgeonly father to an estranged slacker son, brilliantly portrayed by Logan Marshall-Green.

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The pair are forced together by his father’s cancer diagnosis and what follows is a gentle rebuilding of a neglected father-son dynamic full of breath-catchingly deft touches. It’s adapted from Duchovny’s novel of the same name, inspired by the near-loss of his baby daughter, and the New York Yankees baseball player Bucky Dent, whose name has been poison to Bostonians ever since he hit a three-run home run against the Boston Red Sox in 1978.

“The guy who wasn’t expected to come through came through,” says Duchovny. “I’d spent time in New England where he had dashed their hopes and became known as Bucky F****** Dent. I’m not into the American college obsession of winning. I am a fan of what you gain from losing.” Duchovny came close to losing something bigger than any competition when he became a father, in his 30s, when his baby daughter West became critically ill and was left fighting for her life in hospital. The impact of a sick child on a parent’s psyche is one of the film’s satisfyingly gradual unfoldings.

“I was a young man, we were new parents, and I had never confronted that kind of feeling before. That fear and hurt was stunning to me and it was something I wanted to explore. And that’s the heart of the autobiographical part of the story. The rest just kind of came from the compost heap of my mind.”

Does the film reflect anything of his own relationship with his late father?
“Absolutely not,” he says. “Nor is there any of my relationship with my daughter. It was really just about using the depths of that feeling of near loss and trying to build a story around it. I wouldn’t want people to think my dad was the character I play. That wouldn’t be true. He was actually very, very different from Marty.”

The flick’s gentle pace and wry humour don’t cloud the flex of its emotional punch, especially so when it comes to anyone whose father-son dynamic might now be added to by loss. Duchovny makes no apologies. “I love movies that have devastated me as a guy,” he says. “It’s like a bloodletting, you know? There’s a great release, if you can cry at those father-son stories. When I watched it with an audience the most gratifying part of it was I could actually feel that in the audience, the depths people get to with it.”

With a new album coming out later in the year and a TV series in the offing (Malice, with Jack Whitehall) Duchovny has plenty to fill his time. Bucky has been more than just that emotional bloodletting, though – it has brought things full circle. “If I don’t get lazy and keep my eye on the ball, the best place to be is directing the stuff I write and maybe acting in stuff I write, “he says. “I’m most fulfilled when I’m trying to express something in my own voice. Things like Bucky rattle around in your head for a while and before you know it you have a plot and a journey to go on.”

Bucky F****** Dent, Glasgow Film Festival, from March 6, GFT.