Gillian Anderson Reveals Why She Almost Gave Up Acting 24 Years Ago


  • Gillian Anderson reveals how she almost quit acting due to a “horrendous” review in 2000.
  • Anderson’s upcoming projects include portraying journalist Emily Maitlis in the Netflix film
    , and editing a book of sexual fantasies.
  • Despite industry challenges, Gillian Anderson’s resilience shines as she gears up for new films and a provocative book release.

Gillian Anderson continues to be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, but the actress revealed in a recent interview that she almost quit acting over 20 years ago following one “horrendous” movie review.


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Anderson has been a TV and cinema icon for more than three decades. From her role as Agent Scully in The X Files to playing frisky therapist Jean Milburn in the Netflix comedy-drama Sex Education, the star has been a constant presence on the big and small screen for a whole generation. However, that could have been much different if she had followed through on her thoughts of giving it all up due to a bad review received for her performance in the film The House of Mirth. Speaking to The Guardian, Anderson said:

“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!”

“One particularly horrendous review about my performance [in The House of Mirth] 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.”

Although Anderson was not happy with that review, The House of Mirth was much better received by the majority of critics, and currently holds an 82% Rotten Tomatoes score. However, the film made back only half of its $10 million budget, making it a box office bomb. The film also stars Dan Aykroyd and Laura Linney.

Gillian Anderson’s Next Projects Cover Royals and Sex

Composite of characters from Netflix’s Scoop

Having already appeared in Netflix’s Royal drama The Crown, playing the formidable British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Anderson is about to jump into another role that circles the British Royal family in Scoop. The film is based on the infamous 2019 Newsnight interview between British journalist Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew, in which the Prince was scrutinized over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, among other things. Anderson plays journalist Maitlis, who the actress accidentally bumped into during a charity event after months of studying her. Recalling the meeting, Anderson said:

“I had literally driven in from the country, having spent a week in mud with kids on the side of some hill. I didn’t have any makeup with me, didn’t even have a brush to go through my hair. And then, all of a sudden, there’s Emily Maitlis, and she looks like a movie star.”

Anderson went on to note that she was overcome meeting the broadcaster, that she immediately went in to hug her, which seemingly was not completely appreciated. She added:

“She was very sweet, but very boundaried. Very boundaried.”


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Away from her screen work, Anderson is also set to delve into an area that her Sex Education character Jean would be very much in tune with – editing a book of sexual fantasies, including a secret one of her own. After asking women to send her their wildest fantasies, the actress has spent time reading and collating 174 of them into a book, as well as sharing her own views on them. However, Anderson says that being the subject of scrutiny thanks to her star status has influenced exactly how much of herself she has put into the book.

“If I weren’t in the public eye, as I am, I’d be able to be much more frank when writing about how the fantasies relate to my own experience. And there have been versions of intros that I’ve done where I’ve shut myself down because I could see that
Daily Mail
headline, you know?”

Outside of this, the book has challenged Anderson and taught her something at the same time. She added:

“I need to focus my mind. What’s the message? What’s the moral? What are you left with at the end of the day? What do women want? And – do they have to stay in fantasy? There’s a lot of yearning, for what women don’t have, or feel afraid to ask for. You know, everything is politics, particularly when you steer into the subject of women.”

You can check out the trailer for Anderson’s new movie, Scoop, below.

is released on Netflix from April 5. Anderson’s book, entitled
, is released on September 5, and is available for pre-order from usual outlets.
The House of Mirth
is streaming on Paramount+.


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