Where there's smoke-- : musings of a cigarette smoking man : a memoir /
by William B. Davis.
Toronto : ECW Press, c2011.
vii, 279 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), ports. ; 23 cm.
177041052X, 9781770410527
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Toronto : ECW Press, c2011.
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A Look Inside
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First Chapter
I’m standing beside a filing cabinet. To my right is the actor Charles Cioffi, and to his right is Ken Camroux, the actor playing the Senior FBI Agent, the part I read for and didn’t get. I got this weird part with no lines. All I do is smoke. On the other side of the desk is a young unknown actress with red hair. We are doing a low budget pilot for an obscure science fiction show about alien abduction, if you can believe it. Well, a gig is a gig. I’m getting paid. Scale, I think.

I’m feeling pretty dumb, just standing there like a statue listening to the red–haired actress talk about someone called “Spooky Mulder.” I look at the cabinet beside me, the top just below my shoulder. I think, ‘If this were really me, would I stand here as if I were part of the scenery?’ which of course I was. ‘What’s to lose,’ I think. So I stretch my elbow across the top of the cabinet, cross my feet, and watch the action from this new position, a praying mantis with a cigarette. An icon was born. You can buy the trading card if you want.

At that moment my career went up in smoke. Well, perhaps it had been smouldering for some time. Once a boy wonder, I had failed in my major ambition. I was not the Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival at the age of twenty–nine, unlike my idol, Peter Hall, who headed the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK at that age. Still, always torn between directing and teaching, I was getting along, making a good living, until that fateful day when everything changed.

At the time, of course, I had no idea anything had changed. I had played a non–speaking role in a pilot for a television show whose chances of being picked up were about as good as the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series. It would be another year or two before the show and then this character became household names. At age fifty–three, I would become a full–time actor, a star even, dealing with fan mail to this day.

One of my pet peeves are workshops conducted by successful people in the film business. Do what I did and you too can be a success. What did I do to become a successful actor and minor celebrity? I auditioned for a small role, didn’t get it, and got an even smaller one with no lines. If you do that, you too can become a television star. Life is random. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson became stars by chance. That is not to say they weren’t and aren’t worthy. They are talented actors and I wish them the best. But there are hundreds of other talented actors who were not so lucky. I’m waiting for the workshop where a lottery winner tells her story and inspires us to follow in her footsteps. It’s all a question of where and when you buy the ticket, the 7–Eleven on Main Street on the second Monday of the month.

It may be that life is really a series of random events. But being biologically human, I am going to make a story out of them. The story will be a lie, of course. But then so are the best stories. Richard III was actually a good king and Macbeth ruled for years. I don’t promise a story of Shakespearean scope, but hopefully it will be entertaining and occasionally enlightening.

I may even open a window into my soul — well, not my soul actually, I don’t have one of those, but I will let you inside, as far as I dare.

Should the story be lineal? Should I start at the beginning and finally arrive at now? I am a product of the print generation and for us, according to Marshall McLuhan, lineality is natural. But many readers will be younger and will have grown up in the electronic age. When did you last see a movie where the story started at the beginning? In fact, when did you last see a movie where you could follow the story? Well, perhaps that’s another issue. Suspense in a movie used to be about how the movie was going to end. Now it seems to be about how the story is going to come together. I could weave a tapestry of events and you could be on the edge of your proverbial seat wondering how it will all come together. And then, the joke would be on you. It doesn’t come together.

It may feel like one life, but is it really? They say that every seven years each cell in our body has changed. Am I the same person that I was seven years ago, or in my case, seventy years ago? Bill Davis has had many lives, many loves. These stories may weave together into a coherent whole or they may not. There will be stories of life in wartime Ontario, of early Canadian theatre and radio, of university life in the late fifties, of Britain and British theatre in the sixties, of the National Theatre School of Canada and Festival Lennoxville, and finally, The X–Files. But is Bill Davis an actor, a teacher, a director, a skier, a water skier, a lover? Wasn’t he once a birdwatcher and a bridge player? Who is he, really? It’s all very well for Polonius to say, “To thine own self be true,” but who the hell is thine own self?

I will leave it to you to decide about meaning; all I can tell you for certain is that it’s been quite a ride and it’s not done yet.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2011-08-08:
A professional actor from age 12, Davis, now 73, is best known in the U.S. for his role as the "Cigarette Smoking Man" (or CSM, or "Cancer Man"), a villainous alien-conspirator in the television show The X Files, one of the touchstones of 1990s pop culture. But what audiences didn't know was that the Canadian-born Davis was bringing a lifetime of theater experience to his role. In this amiable if overlong memoir, Davis spends most of his time describing a career spent "being close to the American theatre in the fifties, living in Britain in the first half of the sixties... and being in Canada in the late sixties and early seventies," including fascinating encounters with such theater legends as Albert Finney, Maggie Smith, Peter Schaffer, and Kenneth Tynan. He also presents a vivid portrait of the developments-and often disarray-in Canadian theater education during the same period. Davis doesn't really discuss The X-Files until the book's last quarter, although he provides a nice backstage look at the episodes in which he starred. His most notable observation is that series creator Chris Carter and his producers and writers-as suspected by hardcore fans-"flew by the seat of their pants" in developing a conspiracy mythology "so convoluted" that Davis is "still trying to grasp it years later." (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Review Quotes
"Thoroughly enjoyable. One gets a very clear sense of the enormous devotion and commitment it took in choosing such an elusive lifestyle." --Tom Braidwood, actor, director, producer, The X-Files, Millennium, Da Vinci's Inquest
"Bill Davis's memoir is a lively personal story and a document in the history of theatre. . . . His account of his life is thoughtful, amusing, even mildly scandalous." --David Helwig, essayist, poet, novelist, The Names of Things
"Bill Davis's remarkable career in the performing arts makes for a vivid memoir and a valuable cultural history. . . . An entertaining and addictive read." --Jerry Wasserman, actor, critic, and head of the Department of Theatre and Film, University of British Columbia
"Candid and measuredall mirrors, no smoke." UC Magazine (April 2012)
"Davis dishes candidly about the [ X-Files ] famous co-stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in his memoir Where There's Smoke while revealing the character of his undergraduate colleague Donald Sutherland and recalling his own work at the National Theatre in London with Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Maggie Smith and Albert Finney." BC Bookworld (April 2012)
"His life before The X-Files makes for book enough. . . Meet him today, in his 70s, and he's courtly and charming, with a certain reserve. But read his book and, Holy Doodle, Bill we hardly knew you." The Province (March 3, 2012)
"Readers in general will enjoy William B. Davis' unforgettable memoir, written with wit, verve, humor, and poignancy, a page turner every bit as intriguing as the man himself."
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, August 2011
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Bowker Data Service Summary
This is a unique and engaging memoir from the man best known as the 'Cigarette Smoking Man' or 'Cancerman' from the hit 90s TV series 'The X-Files'. William B. Davis looks at his loves, losses, hopes, fears and accomplishments over a career spanning 60 years.
Main Description
One of the most iconic villains in the history of television, the enigmatic Cigarette Smoking Man fascinated legions of fans of the 1990s hit TV series, The X-Files. Best known as 'Cancerman', the readers of TV Guide voted William B. Davis 'Television's Favourite Villain'. The man himself is a Canadian actor and director, whose revelations in this memoir will entertain and intrigue the millions of worldwide X-Files aficionados.
Main Description
Chronicling his own life and times, William B. Davis, the actor who played the notorious villain Cancerman on The X-Files , discusses his loves, losses, hopes, fears, and accomplishments in this unique and engaging autobiography. An all-access look into the life of a versatile actor, this life story includes anecdotes, recollections, and gossip from roles with such greats as Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Martin Sheen, Brian Dennehy, and Donald Sutherland. From the University of Toronto and theater school in Britain to Hollywood and appearances on Smallville and Stargate SG-1 , this memoir recalls one actor's journey from the main stage to the mainstream.
Table of Contents
Prefacep. v
Beforep. 3
What's in Your Basement?p. 12
A Lost Worldp. 16
To Live in Interesting Timesp. 23
Who's at Your Cottage?p. 26
U of T and Summer Stockp. 35
New Frontiersp. 52
Moving Aheadp. 56
New Challengesp. 65
What's Next?p. 75
The Worst Line - Everp. 87
Lamdap. 93
The Last Seasonp. 107
British Repp. 111
Dundeep. 123
Londonp. 135
The National Theatre of Great Britainp. 142
A Fork in the Roadp. 148
Canada Reduxp. 153
The National Theatre School of Canadap. 156
Moving Onp. 172
Lennoxvillep. 176
Romance in the Seventiesp. 187
Toronto Reduxp. 197
Go West, Young Manp. 209
From the Ashesp. 212
The X-Filesp. 218
Breakupsp. 223
The Cigarette Smoking Manp. 228
Virtual Realityp. 231
Conspiracy and Compromisep. 235
Celebrityp. 244
Big Timep. 252
Heading Southp. 263
Final Daysp. 269
And Yetp. 275
Acknowledgementsp. 279
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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