"THE SMOKING MAN IS BACK WITH HIS MEMOIR!" said an email touting the book "Where There's Smoke" by William B. Davis, who played the Cigarette Smoking Man on "The X-Files." The book came out in October, but publicists never give up.
Added the note: "While the name William B. Davis may not be a household name, Davis certainly has a face that is instantly recognizable to millions of people worldwide as the Cigarette Smoking Man or 'Cancerman' in the hit television series The X-Files. His legions of fans worldwide continue to enjoy his guest appearances on shows such as Human Target, Capricia, and Supernatural. In his revealing memoir, WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (December 2001, ECW), David details his life events leading up to his late in life success on THE X-Files and recounts how his character evolved over the course of the series of the show. He also provides plenty of humorous anecdotes and insider stories from the set, and dishes candidly about the show's famous co-stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny."
Which reminded me of a visit Davis paid to Kent State in 1998. The lead: "If the truth is out there, the Cigarette-Smoking Man isn't telling." You can read more of that story after the jump.
Continuing my story:
William B. Davis, who appears on The X-Files as the mysterious, dangerous, recurring character -- also known as Cancer Man and CSM -- spoke to about 1,000 people in Kent State University's Student Center Ballroom last night.
He made clear at the beginning of his speech that he would try to avoid revealing any secrets about the Fox show or the X-Files movie to be released this summer.
At a news conference, Davis did confirm that he's in the movie and that, as The X-Files creator Chris Carter said, it will answer some questions about the shadowy conspiracies FBI agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have investigated.
Beyond that, he said, "you're welcome to ask me questions about the movie, but I won't answer them."
When it comes to the series, or even all the details about CSM, Davis said, "I know what you know."
He's rarely privy to any details beyond a given script -- the producers did kindly tell him that CSM's apparent death earlier this season was not real -- and watches episodes he's not in to keep up on plot developments.
As to whether CSM is Mulder's father, or the father of Mulder's sister Samantha, or even the father of another agent, Jeffrey Spender, he will only speculate. (Mulder's a possible, Samantha a probable, and "it seems like I'm Jeffrey Spender's father.")
Of course, he doesn't think anyone will ever know all the answers to all The X-Files questions. "It will never tie up like a Hollywood movie," he said. "Answer questions and you open a whole series of new questions."
Davis doesn't find the mysteries surrounding CSM a problem in playing the character. A director and acting teacher, he used to think you had to know a character's background to play a part but realized that "you don't have to have the right back-story at all, so long as it gets you into the character."
In his speech, he argued that CSM is a hero, not Mulder, whom he called "a chicken-livered pup." The argument was whimsical but important to playing the character, he said, because "villains don't think of themselves as villains."
Still, he enjoys being known as one of the nastiest characters in TV, as well as one at the center of grand schemes. "They're having a conference on who really killed Martin Luther King," he said, "and they haven't invited me. We all know I did."
One of the reasons for The X-Files' popularity, according to Davis, is that society is shifting from the print era to an electronic one, and the change somehow fuels distrust and fear in people. The X-Files, though fictional, plays on those fears.
Does he then get a little shiver of recognition when, for example, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton claims there is a vast conspiracy